Professor Jacobs on air at Azeri.Today
With the assistance of B'nei B'rith, world's one of the most authoritative and influential public organizations, Azeri.Today information and analytical website continues the section "Anti-Semitism: a global challenge to all faiths". The section publishes interviews with heads of B'nei B'rith's regional offices, scientists, professors, academicians, internationally recognized experts on the history, causes of anti-Semitism, the origins of hatred towards Jews, the current aspects of modern anti-Semitism, the life of Jews in Azerbaijan.
The first guest of the project was the Canadian academician, founder and director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy (ISGAP) Charles Asher Small.
The second guest was an American scientist, professor of English studies and Judaism at the Indiana University in Bloomington, founder and director of the Institute for the Study of Modern Anti-Semitism (ISCA) at the Indian University, Alvin Rosenfeld.
Today's guest of Azeri.Today is Dr. Steven Leonard Jacobs, DHL, DD Professor of Religious Studies & Aaron Aronov Endowed Chair of Judaic Studies, The University of Alabama.
- Why did Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) hate the Jews so much? Why did he go on to kill six million plus Jews in Europe?
- One must begin to answer this question—and the horribly tragic and murderous events known to us as the Holocaust (English) or Shoah (Hebrew)—by placing them in the overall contexts of 2,000 + years of antisemitic thought and action throughout Europe, religious as well as secular. Hitler, as a master politician, truly believed that the Jewish people were the root and responsibility for all the ills of Western and world civilization and “a cancer on the body politic”. (His own messianic pretension led him to conclude that only he could solve these problems and return Germany to its supposed rightful greatness.) These tropes would also serve him well as unifying factors in a dispirited, defeated, economically depressed (and somewhat victimized because of the Versailles Treaty of 1919) Germany in the aftermath of World War I. Thus, he found all-too-easily willing participants, not only in Germany but in other easily-conquered nation-states, many of whom were either already antisemitic or inclined to be so, given the power and opportunity to implement their hatred of Jews and Judaism, to bring to realization the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”. It must also be kept further in mind that he demonstrated no detailed plan whatsoever for this destruction, but left it up to Reichführer-SS Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945) to construct and implement the Final Solution.
- What can you say about Joseph Stalin’s (1879-1953) plan for a “final solution” to the Jewish question but was prevented from doing so due to his sudden death?
- As both a researcher and historian of genocides, Stalin’s own questionably-intended “final solution” remains an enduring myth of Russian, and, to a lesser degree, Jewish history. There is no factual—documentary or other—evidence of such a plan yet to be found in any Communist and/or Russian archives whatsoever. Without psychoanalyzing or psych-historicizing Stalin, villain that he was, one cannot never know what he thoughts and intentions might ultimately have been, but one must rely on the evidence presented and/or lack of such concrete data. Even the so-called pamphlet (supposed 1,000,000 copies printed) outlining the population transfers to Jews to remote regions, many of whom would be worked to death, has never been found, if it even existed at all. That Jews believed such a myth, given their vulnerable status in his regime, is understandable to the point where some scholars have accepted its truth without verifying its accuracy, which is unfortunate.
- In your opinion, was there an active alliance between Hitler and Stalin in the matter of the murder and the deportation of Jews?
- From 1939-1941, the Nazis and the Soviets signed a non-aggression pact known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement; both sides were wary of the other. The so-called “Secret Agreement” appended to it gave both parties political and military power over other nations (e.g. Poland and Lithuania) under their hegemony and control. In 1941, with “Operation Barbarossa”, the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union thus nullifying their former agreements and relationship. Again, there is no evidence—factual and/or documentary—that the murder and deportation of Jews was understood to be part of those agreements or part of their negotiations. That both Hitler and Stalin were avowed antisemites is accurate; that both would have preferred a world without Jews is equally supported. But that is a far different assessment from collaboration in deportation, extermination, and annihilation.
- What is the attitude towards Jews in Germany and Russia today? Has the attitude towards Jews changed in these countries?
- In the aftermath of the Second World War, both countries have made major steps forward in their relationships with their own Jewish communities, the State of Israel, and through the world. The fastest growing Jewish community on the European continent is, somewhat ironically, that of Germany. Even Vladimir Putin has distanced himself and his government from antisemitic activities and has instructed those under him to fully prosecute those responsible for such activities. Whether these changes will be sustained throughout this century and on into the next remains, however, an open question.
- Does the US government support Jews?
- The laws of the United States are designed to protect all its citizens. Jews and others are fully equal members of the country, and, most importantly, have access to the legal system when they have been wronged. Jews also occupy positions of respect and authority in many governmental circles and have made major contributions to the culture life of the United States. So, on balance, one would say, “Yes”, Jews are supported by the United States and its various institutions. This is not to say that antisemitism—hated of the Jews and Judaism—is non-existent as the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, have dramatically revealed. But, overall, Jews remain a group which has successfully integrated itself in the very fabric of the country, has benefitted from that integration, and has contributed much to American life as a result of that integration.
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