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Discredited claims

image: Letters headerP. M. Giraldi and J. K. Taylor argue from the premise that "the Holocaust is hardly unique in the 20th century" to the conclusion that "most invocations of the Holocaust are cynical and bogus" attempts to "justif[y] special breaks not only for its survivors, but also for their descendants and co-religionists" and "to intensify the collective guilt...of America's Christian majority." However, the Holocaust was unique in one crucial respect: it was carried out in the heart of Christian Europe, with the help or acquiescence of most Christians worldwide, and in spite of the resistance of the rest. Many Christians believe that the truth of Christianity licenses them to evangelize and otherwise meddle in other people's lives. The Holocaust is unique in the archive of brutality because it invalidated that specific belief, just as the purges of Stalin and the Cultural Revolution invalidated the moral presumptions of communism.

Much good has been done in the names of Christianity and communism, but even more evil, and both failed definitively when history put them to the test. Understandably, they failed for the same reason, since Christianity is the prototype of all modern totalitarian ideologies: They both put ultimate authority over infidels in the hands of the faithful. The world was once so sparsely populated and technologically primitive that the damage periodically caused by such religious foolishness was at least limited if not always endurable, but today a single misstep can lead literally to global annihilation. Either we grow up and abandon totalist ideologies categorically or humankind shall perish. It is only a matter of time. Western civilization, at least, provides no "safety net." That is the true lesson of the Holocaust.

Is this not the real reason Giraldi and Taylor decry "the Holocaust industry in academia" so loudly? They do not resent being made to feel guilty; they obviously don't feel guilty at all. They simply resent the way the Holocaust preemptively discredits traditional Christian claims to universal authority.

James M. Unger, AB'69, AM'71
Columbus, Ohio

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  DECEMBER 1999

  > > Volume 92, Number 2


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