Quiz - Holocaust historian Norman
http://news.bbc.co.uk/, July 20,
Jewish American historian Norman Finkelstein
argues in his explosive new book, "The Holocaust Industry:
Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering" that
Holocaust remembrance has been exploited by the Jewish establishment.
In his book he contends that a greater threat to the memory of
the Holocaust than Holocaust deniers is what he calls 'The Holocaust
He accuses those who exploit the Holocaust of telling lies and
of naked greed. He argues that the ruthless industrialisation
of the Holocaust has encouraged the rebirth of anti-semitism in
Europe and the United States
The son of survivors of the Warsaw ghetto and concentration camps,
he says, "I do care about the memory of my family's persecution.
The current campaign of the Holocaust industry to extort money
from Europe in the name of "needy Holocaust victims"
has shrunk the moral stature of their martyrdom to that of a Monte
We put a selection of your questions to Norman Finkelstein who
answered them in a live video forum.
Ian Sullory, UK: Why, what made you do
it why have you decided to make these claims?
Norman Finkelstein: I think I would say that my motivation was
personal. My parents had fairly recently passed away in 1995 and
I felt that it was time to settle accounts of the Holocaust Industry,
in my view, both as a perversion and falsification of my parents'
experience. Secondly, as a corruption of my parents' experience
by turning it into a shakedown industry, ruthlessly extorting
huge sums of money from European countries in the name of what
they call the "Holocaust Victims". When they actually
manage to get the monies, the victims never see any of it.
Alex Laidlaw, UK: Why are you attacking
Holocaust survivors for wanting compensation for what the Nazis
did? The Nazis stole untold millions of people's money. They have
every right to demand compensation. Instead of attacking the "Holocaust
Industry" as you call it, why don't you attack the German
industrialists that made a very big profit from exploiting the
Norman Finkelstein: I think that both are fair questions. Firstly,
I am absolutely for the victims of Nazi persecution receiving
compensation; it's never been an issue for me. Secondly, it's
impossible to assign dollar value to the kinds of suffering the
Jews and other groups endured under the Nazi regime. However,
one has to be honest about these things and the record of the
German Government as compared to other governments in the world,
regarding compensation, has been relatively good. They have paid
out roughly 50-60 billion Dollars in compensation. Compared to
the Americans, we have to say that the German record is good.
Jamil Farah, France: : I attended the
TARI conference in Boston earlier this year and was very impressed
by your contribution. I would like to know if you consider the
state of Israel an important actor in the "Holocaust industry"?
Norman Finkelstein: If we're going to establish the principal
that property wrongly expropriated should be returned, we have
to ask why Israel is not applying the same standards. Why aren't
they applying the same standards that we insist on for Swiss banks,
the German industrialists and the Eastern European governments?
Adrian, undergraduate at Cambridge, and
son of Holocaust survivor: Is it at all possible that your comments
have been made in the pursuit of fame and fortune, or perhaps
some sort of rebellion against your parents? In addition what
makes you an authority on the number of survivors, which have
been verified by numerous academics of greater calibre than yourself?
So far you have only damaged the cause for Holocaust remembrance.
Norman Finkelstein: First of all, it's impossible for anybody
to be the best judge of his or her motives. I would say, at the
risk of sounding immodest, I think that I have a reasonably decent
track record of trying as best I can, to preserve the historical
record of many issues - the Israel/ Palestine conflict, the question
of the Nazi Holocaust - at considerable personal sacrifice. There
are easier ways to gain fame and fortune in this world. As for
my expertise, I freely admit I don't claim to be an expert on
this topic. What I do in the book is exactly what your questioner
would want me to do - I cite the authoritative figures.
David T, UK: What is worrying is that
an internet search for "Norman Finkelstein" shows that
you are quoted with approval by organisations and individuals
as diverse as Odin's Lounge, David Irving, and by the National
Journal whose website boasts: "Why are anti-Semites "dangerous"?
- Answer: ... "because they are in the right" Does it
worry you that you have become a totem for the extremist racist
Norman Finkelstein: I think that problem arises but I would want
to add two points. Firstly, I have enlisted the support of authenticates
of Nazi persecution who are grateful to me for bringing this issue
to the public domain. Secondly, if you search my web site, you'll
find contributions from a large number of mainstream figures who
have very generously reviewed my last few books.
Adam McIntosh, United States: I deeply
appreciate your efforts to restore the Holocaust to its rightful,
but still horrific, place in history. What was the starting point
in your intellectual journey that eventually brought you to the
idea of the "Holocaust Industry"?
Norman Finkelstein: I think the starting point is a very simple
one. My parents looked on with growing repugnance at the way the
experience they passed through was being depicted in the mainstream
media and in Holocaust scholarship. In fact when they referred
to the Holocaust, it was as if it was another event - a spectacle.
It was that scepticism and disgust with the way the matter was
being depicted, that finally inspired me to sit down and settle
the accounts of this nonsense.
Pepita Diamand-Levy, United Kingdom: I
agree that people should not profit from the suffering of others.
Have you considered giving your book's proceeds to Peace Now,
the UNHCR or the United Negro College Fund?
Norman Finkelstein: I very much doubt this. I work for a very
small publisher, I received a $5,000 advance, and given that I'm
self-employed about a third to half of this will go to taxes.
I have a very marginal income - it's not as if I'm raking in huge
profits from my parents' misery and suffering.
Kenneth Little, United Kingdom: Do you
believe that too much emphasis is put upon making people feel
guilty when the Holocaust is discussed? I was born twelve years
after the camps were liberated. Can I be responsible for events
that took place when I was not even alive? Do you believe that
my real responsibility is not to be guilty but to work towards
a society where bigotry and prejudice are marginalised?
Norman Finkelstein: You can't be responsible and I wouldn't hold
you responsible. I really do make a major effort to reach out
to German young people for whom I have a very high regard. On
the other hand, I think we should be sensitive to the crimes committed
in the name of our country.
Nader Hashemi, Canada: Unlike in North
America your new book has been reviewed widely in the European
press and generated a storm of mostly hostile letters. What are
some of the biggest distortions and misrepresentations of your
thesis that you would like to correct?
Norman Finkelstein: I am not averse to scholarly attacks. I try
my best to preserve the integrity of historical records and if
I've made an error, I want to exchange error for truth. In England,
the critical remarks have been along the lines that the book is
shrill, strident and a rant. You can't engage in a scholarly discussion
with that kind of criticism.
Bill from Paris in France: I have heard
that American law firms are sending people to Europe to find Holocaust
survivors or their family members to sign them up for class action
suits which these US law firms are running. A report yesterday
mentioned the $5 billion suit against a long list of German firms.
How much are these law firms keeping for themselves as payment
for these cash settlements? The usual 35%?
Norman Finkelstein: Some of these law firms will be sending their
teams to Mars and Venus looking for Holocaust survivors - the
whole thing has become a grotesque joke. These people are grave
B. Lewis, UK Should your main contribution
not be to show that the Holocaust did take place, and highlight
the need for people to be conscious of racism in whatever form
it may take and oppose it by all means.
Norman Finkelstein: I totally agree and I think that a rational
discussion of the Nazi Holocaust, in my view, would lead us to
conclude that we have to be sensitive to, be careful of and fight
against all forms of racism. The problem is the way the Nazi Holocaust
is depicted by the Holocaust Industry. They claim that the Nazi
Holocaust was unique and nothing can compare to it.
Babs, USA: Isn't it possible that your
basic tenet of victimisation to justify breast-beating and Jewish
racism will fractionalise the Jewish communities?
Norman Finkelstein: I think that there is a problem in the United
States. It's clearly a problem arising among those who are not
Jewish becoming sick and tired of hearing of the Holocaust. I
feel that it's time for the Jewish community to open their hearts
to the rest of humanity - there are other people suffering out