Iran Hosts Anti-Semitic Hatefest in Tehran
About The Conference
The Iranian Holocaust denial conference, "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision" convened by the Iranian Foreign Ministry in Tehran December 11-12, 2006, brought together a diverse group of anti-Semites, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis, radical anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian activists, and Islamic fundamentalists. The gathering included racists such as David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and notorious Western anti-Semites and known Holocaust deniers, as well as members of Neturei Karta, a fringe anti-Israel Jewish group that advocates the "dismantling" of the Jewish state of Israel.
Though the organizers insisted that their aim was only to scientifically investigate the history of World War II, the guests and speeches were universally devoted to either denying that Jews were the victims of genocide under the Nazis or to de-legitimizing the State of Israel. Not a single scholar of the mainstream field of Holocaust Studies was present. And no Israelis were permitted to attend. Sessions on "Holocaust demography" were interspersed with invectives against "Jewish supremacism" and "apartheid Zionism."
The conference shows that Iran is intent both on embracing the hateful ideology of Holocaust denial and giving credibility to the deniers themselves. Iran is sending signals that it aims to position itself as the new nexus of Holocaust denial in the Muslim world. This is happening in a neighborhood that not only lends it support, but gives aid and comfort to Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites.
In Tehran, Holocaust Denial Comes of Age
With the conference in Tehran, Holocaust denial has come of age.
No longer does it appeal only to neo-Nazis, who have traditionally denied the Holocaust in order to whitewash Hitler and rehabilitate fascism. It is now the overarching anti-Semitic conspiracy theory of the new century, a common language linking diverse groups of anti-Semites.
Until recently, Jew-haters of different stripes each had their own anti-Semitic ideas. Islamic fundamentalists believed that Jews betrayed the Prophet, while neo-Nazis claimed that Jews were intent on race-mixing and corrupting the Aryan genome. Traditionalist Catholics insisted that Jews were responsible for killing Christ, and crazed conspiracy theorists argued that Jews were behind everything from the French Revolution to the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the decline of the dollar. Differing vocabularies and interests, and the lack of a shared social network made it difficult for these groups of anti-Semites to work together.
The growth of the Internet in the 1990s made it suddenly possible for diverse anti-Semites to interact, and Holocaust denial became the universal anti-Jewish idea to which they came to subscribe. This is most dramatically demonstrated in the Iranian-sponsored conference devoted to Holocaust denial, which drew anti-Semites of various stripes from all over the world.
These disparate groups of Jew-haters are able to agree on Holocaust denial because at its core, Holocaust denial is an anti-Jewish conspiracy theory that contains in itself all of the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes that have afflicted the world.
Any theory of Holocaust denial is based on characterizations of Jews as greedy liars who devised a monstrous tale of their own destruction in order to obtain monetary or political benefits. To a Holocaust denier, Jews have proven themselves to be the ultimate forgers of documents, manipulators of the media, and controllers of governments. Caring only about themselves, they are alleged to have swindled the entire world, demonized the entire German nation, stolen a land and displaced its native inhabitants.
Holocaust denial truly is the latest version of the World Jewish Conspiracy, a modern-day retelling of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Holocaust Denial in Iran
The 2006 Holocaust denial conference
in Tehran is not the first time that Western Holocaust deniers have been brought to Iran to promulgate their hatred.
Since his election in August 2005, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made no secret of his desire to wipe Israel from the map. Not coincidentally, he has also repeatedly denied the Holocaust.
In a despicable sequel to the Mohammed cartoon controversy, in which thousands of Muslims took to the streets in early 2006 in protest of cartoons in a Danish newspaper depicting the prophet Mohammed, the Iranian government sponsored a Holocaust cartoon "contest" that sought entries deriding Jews and mocking the Holocaust. First prize in the contest went to a Moroccan cartoonist for an image showing the Israelis building a wall around the Al Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem. Superimposed on the panels was an image of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.
Holocaust denial is founded on attempts to distort the documentary record of World War II, and although it has been spreading throughout the Middle East since the 1980s, the main producers of Holocaust denial continue to be Westerners. For this reason, Ahmadinejad's effort to promote Holocaust denial has relied heavily on importing deniers from outside the Middle East. In late 2005 and early 2006, the semi-official Iranian Mehr News agency ran a series of interviews with Western Holocaust deniers. In March 2006, Australian Holocaust deniers Fredrick Töben and Richard Krege traveled to Iran to lecture on the Holocaust at three Iranian universities, and gave interviews to the Iranian radio network IRIB.
Ignoring the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the long history of Zionism, and the principle of Jewish self-determination, Ahmadinejad believes that Israel owes its continued existence to the guilt and sympathy the Holocaust invokes among the nations of the world. He believes that if he can prove that the Holocaust is a historical fiction, then not only will Israel's legitimacy disappear, but it will be revealed that Jews are frauds and imposters who tricked the world into giving them a state they did not 'deserve.'
Responses from World Leaders
In response to the Holocaust denial
conference hosted by the Iranian Foreign Ministry December 11-12, 2006, a number of world leaders from the United States, the U.N. and Western nations spoke out against the conference and its goals to spread Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. The following is a selection of comments from world leaders on the conference, which featured dozens of speakers questioning the historical fact of the Holocaust.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan (via Spokesman Stephane Dujarric): "…any attempt to cast doubt on the reality of this unique and undeniable horror must be firmly resisted by all people of goodwill and of whatever faith… The secretary general would deeply deplore any conference whose purpose is to question or deny the reality of the Holocaust."
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura: "In the face of the attempts to re-write history that are currently at work, I can but recall in the most emphatic manner that it is our moral duty to analyze the past and to pass it on without falsification, alteration or omission… Any attempt to call into question or to deny the reality of the Holocaust or of any other crime against humanity is to be deeply regretted… I fully share the conviction of the United Nations Secretary-General [Kofi Annan], who recently denounced all attempts to cast doubt on the reality of the Holocaust, which he qualifies as 'a unique and undeniable horror.'"
Incoming U.N. Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon: "Denying historical facts especially on such an important subject as the Holocaust is just not acceptable… Nor is it acceptable to call for the elimination of states or people… I would like to see this fundamental principle respected in both rhetoric and practice by all the members of the international community."
President George W. Bush (via Press Secretary Tony Snow): The conference is "an affront to the entire civilized world as well as to the traditional Iranian values of tolerance and respect… The Iranian regime perversely seeks to call the historical fact of those atrocities into question and provide a platform for hatred."
State Department (official statement): The conference is "just awful."
Senator John McCain: Iran is a "possibly deranged and surely dangerous regime." It is the world's "chief state sponsor of international terrorism… It is simply tragic that millennia of proud Persian history have culminated in a government that today cannot be counted among the world's most civilized nations." Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is "an unacceptable risk… [Iran] must understand that it cannot win a showdown with the world."
Richard Jones, Ambassador to Israel: "For those people to say that the genocide did not occur is a real blow to humanity, a blow to civilization… It is all part of his goal of creating a smoke screen to divert world attention away from what Iran is trying to do in pursuing nuclear weapons."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper: "On behalf of the government of Canada, I want to condemn, in the strongest terms, this latest example of anti-Israeli and racist statements from the president of Iran… In addition, the conference hosted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with the sole purpose of denying the Holocaust is an offence to all Canadians."
Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter MacKay: "This conference was in fact an outrage. It was an insult to Holocaust victims. It was an insult to their descendants… Canada's new government and I am sure many others in this House and around the globe condemn this conference, just as we have previously condemned the Iranian president's comments about the Holocaust as hateful… Canada would never take part in such a sham of a conference. However, we would highlight the work of the task force for international cooperation on Holocaust education, remembrance, and research. Canada participated there as a special guest in Hungary last week. We commend this ongoing work that actually serves humanity while this despicable, provocative conference is taking place in Tehran."
Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration (via statement): "The Republic of Croatia condemns the conference, as well as any attempt to deny…the tragedy of the Holocaust, primarily inappropriate statements and events which insult the victims and their descendants. As a country which suffered the horrors of World War II and as a victim of the recent aggression, Croatia considers as unacceptable statements questioning or denying the right of states or nations to existence, as well as statements negating historical facts and the position of the international community on the Holocaust."
European Union President Finland (official statement): "The Presidency of the European Union is deeply concerned about the Conference on the Holocaust, which was held in Tehran… The Presidency regards the holding of the conference as detrimental to efforts aimed at furthering the dialogue among civilisations, cultures and religions… The Presidency condemns in the strongest of terms any politically or racially motivated attempts and the use of pseudo-scholarship to deny or question the Holocaust and is disturbed by the continuous efforts of the Iranian government to question or trivialize the undeniable historical facts of the Holocaust and its horrors."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair: The conference is "shocking beyond belief… I think it is such a symbol of sectarianism and hatred toward people of another religion. I find it just unbelievable, really… I mean to go and invite the former head of the Ku Klux Klan to a conference in Tehran which disputes the millions of people who died in the Holocaust...what further evidence do you need that this regime is extreme?... I look around the region at the moment, and everything Iran is doing is negative."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "I would like to make clear that we reject with all our strength the conference taking place in Iran about the supposed non-existence of the Holocaust… We absolutely reject this. Germany will never accept this and will act against it with all the means that we have… [The conference] shows the danger of the situation Israel is in and in particular the threat that Israel lives under."
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy: The conference represents a resurgence of "revisionist" theories "which are quite simply not acceptable."
European Union Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini: "I want to state my firm condemnation of any attempt to deny, trivialize or minimize the Shoah, war crimes and crimes against humanity… Anti-Semitism has no place in Europe; nor should it in any other part of the world." The conference shows an "utter disregard of historically established facts" and is "an unacceptable affront not only to the victims of that tragedy and their descendants, but also to the whole democratic world." It elicits "shock and indignation."
Vatican (official statement): "The memory of those horrible events must remain as a warning for people's consciences." The Holocaust is "immense tragedy before which we cannot remain indifferent… With reference to the conference taking place in Tehran, the Holy See re-states its own position, already expressed in the document of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews: 'We remember, a reflection on the Shoah.' … Last century witnessed the attempt to exterminate the Jewish people, with the consequent killing of millions of Jews of all ages and social categories, simply for the fact of belonging to that people. The Shoah was an immense tragedy to which no one can remain indifferent… The Church approaches with deep respect and great compassion the experience suffered by the Jewish people during the Second World War. The memory of those terrible events must remain as a warning to consciences, in order to eliminate conflicts, respect the legitimate rights of all peoples, and press for peace in truth and in justice… This position was affirmed by Pope John Paul II at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem on March 23, 2000, and repeated by His Holiness Benedict XVI on his visit to the concentration camp of Auschwitz on May 28, 2006."
Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik: "Any attempt at abetting intolerance and anti-Semitism must be sharply and emphatically rejected by the entire community of states… The information that already emerged during the preparation of this event gives rise to deepest concern. We explicitly made the denial and belittling of the national-socialist genocide a criminal offence in Austria in 1992, and we did so for important reasons… Austria and the European Union want a dialogue with Iran. This conference, however, completely contradicts the constant efforts for an open and serious dialogue between cultures which has to be based on respect for common values as well as on respect for one another. I call upon all those responsible in Iran to participate in this dialogue in a constructive manner instead of obstructing and undermining it with a conference of this kind."
Former French Ambassador to Iran Francois Nicoullaud (2001-2005): "[Ahmadinejad is] trying to scientifically justify the unjustifiable…"
Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) President Pier Ferdinando Casini: Speaking about "the reality of the Holocaust," the President said, "To deny the existence of the Holocaust is an insult to our conscience as human beings… [There is] a moral obligation to combat racism. Any intention to deny the existence of the Holocaust - which would in any case be bound to fail - is an insult to our conscience as human beings… All of us have a moral obligation to combat discrimination and crimes against humanity."
Swiss Foreign Ministry (via statement by spokesman): "The Shoah is a historical fact. It is unacceptable to call this into question."
Russian Foreign Ministry (via statement by spokesman Mikhail Kamynin): Russia opposes "the distortion of historic events, the concealment of the truth about the monstrous crimes of the Nazis, and revision of results of humanity's most difficult struggle against Nazism… Russia shares the determination of the UN general assembly not to allow the denial of the Holocaust."
Slovak Foreign Minister Jan Kubis: "Slovakia resolutely rejects any efforts at questioning the Holocaust."
Belgium Ambassador to Israel Danielle del Marmol: "Ahmadinejad's declarations are absolutely despicable and unacceptable. I find it amazing that a politician could go this far in his absurd statements. All European states, all the states that realize these despicable statement must react."
Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Feim Chaushev: "The Holocaust is an undisputed historical fact and one of the greatest tragedies in human history, which can move anyone and can by no means be called into question… Bulgaria considers totally unacceptable any calls to wipe a nation off the face of the earth. Such calls inspire intolerance and hatred and can lead to unnecessary brutality and violence."
Cameroon Ambassador to Israel Henri Etoundi Essomba: "The world must oppose the message coming from Tehran whose goal is clearly to wipe out the state of Israel. We condemn it… I would like to express our solidarity with Israel in its legitimate fight against the dangerous ideologies expressed by the Teheran leadership."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: The conference is "unacceptable," a "sick phenomenon," and a "danger" to the Western world.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni: The conference is "falsifying and disgracing the Jewish past… The problem is that this conference is being dignified by a handful of people. This is a disgrace… The Iranian problem is not just a problem for the State of Israel, it's a problem for anyone who values democracy and the free world." In a statement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry called the conference a "shameless initiative" and said that Iranian President Ahmadinejad "seeks to create legitimacy for his declared intention to destroy Israel and to spread his extremist doctrine, which contravenes the values of the free world… By denying or questioning the Holocaust, the most extreme form of genocide to date, he is challenging the essence of the notion of universal human rights, which was developed by the international community after -- and because of -- the Holocaust."
Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik (Kadima): In letters sent to 145 parliaments, he asked them to "send a clear and urgent message that such behavior can no longer be tolerated by the family of nations."
Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor): "[Ahmadinejad] should meet the survivors who have numbers tattooed on their wrists… All over the world, the survivors' words, their writings, should be passed on from father to son and in every classroom… For the first time since World War II, a member of the United Nations has called for the extermination of another member. That says it all."
Knesset Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud): Ahmadinejad is "the evil of our time…[He] supports all the terror organizations that are fighting Israel… By denying the Holocaust he persecutes not only the living Zionist state, but the Jewish dead."
Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Authority (official statement): The conference is an attempt to "paint [an] extremist agenda with a scholarly brush… The Iranian government's pseudo-academic conference, 'Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision,' is an effort to mainstream Holocaust denial and must be unequivocally rejected."
The Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Authority in Israel hosted a conference entitled, "Holocaust Denial: Paving the Way to Genocide" days after the Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran. Meant to highlight the danger in Holocaust denial and the threat posed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the conference attracted ambassadors and representatives from 40 countries including the United States, Uzbekistan, Austria, Uruguay, Ireland, El Salvador, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Bosnia, Belgium, Belarus, Hungary, Greece, Moldova, Norway, Czech Republic, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cameroon, Croatia, Sweden, Italy, Angola, Georgia, Germany, the EU, Ivory Coast, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Slovakia, Spain, Poland, Portugal, Panama, France, Romania and Russia.
A Who's Who of Hate
The Iranian Foreign ministry extended invitations to Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites from around the world in convening their Holocaust denial conference, "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision." The following is a sampling of those haters and others who accepted the invitation to present their views during the December 11 – 12 sessions in Tehran .
Jan Bernhoff (Sweden) : By his own description, after his Masters Thesis on the Holocaust was "met with suspicion and hostility" by his examiners at the University of Lund, Sweden, Jay Berhnoff decided to teach computers at Aso Community College in Stockholm. He entered a cartoon into Iran's controversial Holocaust cartoon contest.
David Duke (USA): Perhaps America's best-known racist, David Duke was instrumental in the Klan resurgence of the 1970s. He has since continued to propagandize white supremacist views as a frequent political candidate, with a variety of fringe organizations and, in recent years, in Russia, Ukraine, other parts of Europe and the Middle East. At the Tehran conference, Duke's institutional affiliation was given as MAUP, a private Ukrainian university with close links to the Iranian regime and the main publisher of anti-Semitic material in Ukraine. Duke's messages typically include conspiratorial depictions of Jewish power and Jewish hatred for non-Jews, a combination he refers to as "Jewish supremacism."
Robert Faurisson (France): A former literature professor, Robert Faurisson is one of the most famous Holocaust deniers in Europe. Not content to deny the existence of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz, Faurisson also claims that the Diary of Anne Frank is a "fraud," that it is "incoherent" and "absurd."
Wolfgang Fröhlich (Austria): A neo-Nazi and former member of Austrian Joerg Haider's far-right Freedom Party, Wolfgang Fröhlich was convicted of inciting racial hatred and defaming the memory of the dead by an Austrian court in 2003 after he wrote and widely disseminated a book called "The Gas Chamber Fraud," in which he argued that Jews had devised the Holocaust story as a means of establishing a "new world order."
Mohammed Hegazi (Australia): An associate of Fredrick Toben who demeans what he calls the "Holohoax" and presents himself as a champion of the Palestinians, Mohammed Hegazi has called the removal of "Zionist squatters" from the entire land of Israel, and has predicted that if they do not leave they will eventually be killed. He describes suicide bombings as "the noblest form of self-sacrifice" and claims that Australia is controlled by "Jewish supremacists in New York."
George Kadar (USA / Hungary): Originally from Hungary but a longtime resident of the U.S., George Kadar is an associate of David Duke and a reporter for the anti-Semitic newspaper, American Free Press. He is an active participant in the white supremacist Stormfront electronic forum, and in the late 1990s was a member of "American Spring," a white supremacist, anti-immigrant group.
Richard Krege (Australia): An associate of Fredrick Töben, Richard Krege claims that his investigation with ground-penetrating radar showed that thousands of Jews were not killed at the notorious Treblinka concentration camp. He spoke at the 2006 Holocaust denial conference sponsored by the U.S.-based anti-Semitic publications, American Free Press and The Barnes Review. He also traveled to Iran in late 2005, where he promoted Holocaust denial at three universities.
Patrick McNally (Japan): An outspoken believer in a "world Jewish conspiracy" and denier of the Holocaust, Patrick McNally claims to teach at a University in Tokyo. In the past year McNally has claimed that "elite Jewry" planned and executed a "poisonous genocide" against the Iraqi people, "traitorous Jews in high places throughout the White world" provoked the Danish cartoon controversy in late 2005.
Neturei Karta: This miniscule group on the farthest fringes of Judaism advocates the "dismantling" of the State of Israel until their messiah comes. Members of Neturei Karta have a long record of extremist statements and support for anti-Semites and Islamic extremists.
Michael Collins Piper (USA): A reporter for the American Free Press, a conspiracy-oriented, anti-Semitic publication published by Willis Carto, Michael Collins Piper has written several books promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, including claims that the Mossad was involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination, and that Israel and the American pro-Israel lobby control U.S. foreign policy. He also claims Israel was implicated in the events of 9/11. In 2003, he lectured on anti-Israel and anti-Semitic themes (including the alleged truth of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion) in the United Arab Emirates at the invitation of the now-defunct Zayed Center.
Michele Renouf (UK): An Australia-born socialite who became a believer in Holocaust denial and a major supporter of disgraced historian David Irving, Michele Renouf, an avowed atheist, nevertheless abhors Judaism. In a 2003 interview she said, "People act as though Judaism is just another religion like Christianity or Islam. It's not. It's a creed of domination and racial superiority."
Bradley Smith (USA): Though he often tries to present himself as a free speech activist, Bradley Smith has functioned as a propagandist for the Holocaust denial movement since 1983. He achieved his greatest notoriety as the director of the now-defunct Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, whose mission was to disseminate Holocaust denial to students on college campuses. In April 2004 he spoke at a conference organized by the Institute for Historical Review and the neo-Nazi National Alliance.
Georges Theil (France): An apologist for Hitler, Georges Theil claimed in a 2002 pamphlet that the Nazis never had a genocidal agenda against Jews, and that any repression of Jews under Nazi rule was merely a reaction to "the Jewish takeover of the Germany economy after the first World War" and a Jewish "declaration of war" against Germany.
Serge Thion (France): A French sociologist and associate of Robert Faurisson, Serge Thion has described the Holocaust as a "religion" that was "pushed by Zionists to attract capital, as well as political and military protection."
Fredrick Töben (Australia): Originally from Germany, Fredrick Töben now lives in Australia where he promotes Holocaust denial and hatred of Jews through his "Adelaide Institute." Töben claims that the Holocaust is a lie devised by Jews but perpetuated by Western nations intent on subjugating Germany and "eliminating Germans as an ethnic group."
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.
... clashed with his boss at the Age, Michael Gawenda, over the now-infamous Auschwitz cartoon.
MICHAEL Leunig's infamous Auschwitz cartoon, which effectively compared Jews in Auschwitz in 1942 with Palestinians in the West Bank in 2002, was akin to illustrations that were "de rigeur in Europe".
That's the verdict of Michael Gawenda, Leunig's former boss at the Age.
Gawenda, editor-in-chief of the Melbourne newspaper for seven years, made his comments in his memoir, American Notebook: A Personal and Political Journey, to be launched on August 1.
A former associate editor of the Australian Jewish News, Gawenda refused to publish a now-infamous cartoon drawn by the celebrated Australian at the height of the intifada in 2002.
But it subsequently appeared in Fairfax’s Good Weekend magazine in a feature about cartoons.
Leunig, who was declared an Australian living treasure by the National Trust in 1999, has denied charges of antisemitism.
In May 2006, Leunig told Andrew Denton on ABC TV’s Enough Rope: “I’m not antisemitic and the cartoon’s not antisemitic.”
Leunig has previously told the AJN his visit to Auschwitz in the early 1990s years ago sparked his “great interest in this persecution of the Jewish people in World War II”.
He said the cartoon was intended as “anti-war”.
“It was a particularly bad time [in the Middle East] when I drew this cartoon ... It’s like there was a new emblem over Israel saying ‘War brings peace’, and I thought this was as pernicious a lie as that first one, ‘Work brings freedom’ and I wanted to make that comparison, that Israel was a land surrounded by barbed wire.”
Gawenda spent the last two years as Fairfax's Washington correspondent, which he writes about in his memoir.
NATIONAL (MAY 12, 2006)
Leunig: ‘I’m not antisemitic’
FAIRFAX cartoonist Michael Leunig has again denied that his controversial 2002 drawing that appeared to parallel the Israeli military’s treatment of Palestinians and the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust was antisemitic.
“I’m not antisemitic and the cartoon’s not antisemitic,” Leunig told Andrew Denton, the host of ABC TV’s Enough Rope this week.
Leunig, who told Denton he has an “obsession with telling the truth about life”, defended the cartoon, saying his visit to Auschwitz 15 years ago sparked his “great interest in this persecution of the Jewish people in World War II”.
He said he never intended the cartoon to be antisemitic, but rather “anti-war”.
“It was a particularly bad time [in the Middle East] when I drew this cartoon ... It’s like there was a new emblem over Israel saying ‘War brings peace’, and I thought this was as pernicious a lie as that first one, ‘Work brings freedom’ and I wanted to make that comparison, that Israel was a land surrounded by barbed wire.”
Claiming he has received death threats over his more controversial work, Leunig said he had been “targeted” when the drawing was fraudulently entered in a Holocaust-cartoon competition run by Iranian newspaper Hamshahri earlier this year.
“If [the cartoon’s] a criticism of Israeli policy and the Iranians want to see it as supportive of them, well of course they’re going to [accept it],” he said.
Federal Member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby expressed his dismay at Leunig’s apparent “incomprehension at why his cartoon ... shows why he is detested by anyone who understands the significance of the Shoah”.
The cartoon was initially censored from publication in 2002 by then Age editor-in-chief Michael Gawenda, but it subsequently appeared in Fairfax’s Good Weekend magazine in a story about cartoons.
In February this year, Gawenda, a former associate editor of the AJN and now Fairfax’s United States correspondent, slammed Leunig for not condemning the Iranian competition and its organisers.
Convicted terrorism supporter David Hicks might have sunk from public view as he serves out his sentence in an Adelaide jail, but the Law Council's final report into his treatment at US prison Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is taking on new resonance in light of the case of Gold Coast-based doctor Mohamed Haneef.
The Law Council has just released the report in Melbourne, and its contents are likely to widen the growing divide that has opened between the Federal Government and the legal fraternity over the treatment of terror suspects.
It is nothing that has not been said before. But in his new report, Melbourne barrister Lex Lasry QC puts on the permanent record the criticisms he has made all along of the proceedings brought against David Hicks.
"The idea of the report is to provide some kind of public record of the detail of what happened," he said.
"But the conclusions that I think I announced a couple of times during interviews at the time - that the process was flawed and that the Australian Government was to be criticised for supporting it - remain."
Mr Lasry describes Hicks's trial and sentencing before the US military commission as a charade that only served to corrode the rule of law.
He says the Australian Government has never explained why it accepted the commission process as "full and fair".
And Mr Lasry suggests the Government might be hoping the pressure to do so will subside now that Hicks is back in Australia and will soon be a free man.
"I don't imagine the Government will take much notice of my criticisms because there seem to be a number of them," he said.
"But I'm not really worried about what they think; I'm more concerned about what the community thinks about the Government having supported this process when it was so obviously unfair, as at one stage in the process the US Supreme Court concluded."
Mr Lasry went to Guantanamo Bay in March this year as an independent observer for the Law Council of Australia.
The Law Council's president, Tim Bugg, says the report is a salient reminder.
"The report is very important because it's a reminder of the Australian Government's failure to protect one of its citizens' fundamental rights," he said.
Mr Bugg says the Hicks case is even more important in light of the Haneef case, which he says is an echo of what happened to Hicks.
"Clearly Dr Haneef is going to be subjected to a far better process because he's in the Australian justice system," he said.
"But nonetheless the Hicks case highlighted that a citizen's rights were simply jettisoned because of political considerations, rather than considerations of principle.
"The Law Council is very concerned that there is more than a hint of the same occurring in relation to Dr Haneef."
Labor's 'weak stance'
Today Mr Lasry not only criticised the Federal Government, but also said the Federal Opposition has failed to play a strong enough role in scrutinising the Government.
"We presently have a Federal Opposition that is not prepared to get involved in these discussions, it would seem, on issues of national security," he said.
"I know they say they'll debate Iraq, but they don't seem to be willing to debate important principles that can affect ordinary people caught up in a suspected terrorism situation."
Mr Lasry says lawyers have had to step in to provide some balance in the public debate.
"What lawyers are doing is not trying to promote themselves at their clients' expense but rather let people know what's at stake, and I think that's an important thing to be doing," he said.
"So of course we're criticised, because it's the opposite of what the Government would want to happen, I suspect."
Mr Lasry was once a member of the Labor Party but says is dismayed at the party's weak stance on the Haneef case.
"The principle is too important to just say, 'Well, we take the Government at its word,'" he said.
"I just think in the present circumstances you wouldn't do that - I don't.
"People should be asking the kinds of questions that I suspect the Premier of Queensland is asking, and of course he's now seen as the agent of Kevin Rudd."
He says the important thing is that the public is now paying close attention to the way anti-terrorism laws are applied.
"My perception, which is probably not an objective assessment, is that people watching on in the Haneef case are really starting to wonder about this taking the Government at face value on issues of terrorism," he said.
"So I think we're making some progress; I think people are asking the questions and that's the important thing to be happening.
Troops in training at Fromelles, including Private Thomas McMahon, extreme left, who is commemorated on the honour roll at VC Corner. Photo: Australian War Memorial: ID No. A03042
AN EXPERT panel in Canberra will consider a report tomorrow that several mass graves have been discovered holding the bodies of about 400 Australian and British soldiers killed in the Battle of Fromelles, in what might have been the most calamitous day in Australian history.
The battle, in July 1916, was a bloody introduction for Australians to the horrors of the Western Front. Fred Kelly, one of the last Gallipoli veterans, said Gallipoli was a picnic compared with Fromelles, where he also fought.
In 27 hours an estimated 5533 Australians were killed, wounded, taken prisoner or went missing. Of these, at least 1719 were killed. The casualties equalled the number of Australian casualties of the Boer, Korean and Vietnam wars combined.
Pompey Elliott, who commanded the 15th Brigade on the Western Front and opposed the engagement at Fromelles ordered by British officers, wrote home to his wife Kate on the battle eve. "I have taken every precaution … to help my boys along, and am now awaiting the signal which will launch so many of my poor boys to their death. They are all eagerly awaiting the signal … I am going up to watch the assault from our front line … My will is in the safe at the office."
The historian Charles Bean recalled Elliott, the tearful commander, shaking hands with survivors who struggled back. Bean said Elliott resembled "a man who had lost his wife".
Historians believe this might be the largest mass grave found in western Europe since World War II. Of the estimated 400 remains, about 160 are thought to be from the Australian 5th Division and the rest from the British 61st Division.
Australian Army historian Roger Lee said yesterday that the Australians were likely to have been from the 15th Brigade. He thought the figure of 1719 dead was conservative.
The battle was designed to drain the Germans away from the Somme, 80 kilometres to the south, but historian Michael McKernan said: "You wouldn't be surprised at the discovery. It was an awful slaughter, useless, stupid, pointless.
"The Australians were sent out in the face of the German machine-guns and many of the bodies were never recovered. It was all over so quickly and largely forgotten."
The 400 troops were known to be among the dead because their bodies were recovered by the Germans and their names and personal belongings passed to their families via the Red Cross. However, their final resting place remained a mystery.
Thanks to media attention, a very large number of people throughout the world know that William Bligh's first chance to bring breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies and to map the Torres Straits failed. It ended in 1789 with the mutiny on the Bounty. Just two years later the British government gave Bligh a second chance and this time he succeeded. What's more, he did so safely and in record time. Unfortunately for Bligh, by the time he returned to England in 1793, a highly effective publicity campaign run by the families of leading Bounty mutineers had destroyed his reputation. No one who mattered spoke about his latest accomplishments. They just seemed to vanish.
Fortunately for us, they've come back into sight. Ink and watercolour sketches of the second voyage are currently on display at the State Library of New South Wales. A memoir by the artist is also now in print for the first time. Just who is the source of this artistic revival? Surprisingly it's a professional naval officer named George Tobin, the young third lieutenant of the successful voyage.
He wasn't a typical naval officer of his era. Even leaving his artistic talents to one side, the memoir shows an amazingly well-read person, especially for someone who became a professional sailor at age eleven. Another oddity - Tobin proved amazingly relaxed about moving up in the naval ranks. It's not that he lacked backers. He had a hard push from his well-to-do West Country father. Using money he'd made from a West Indian sugar plantation, his father wasn't shy about offering it about on his son's behalf. Then there's Horatio Nelson. He's a distant relative.
In the end they made no difference. Finding entertaining company, either male or female, observing nature, reading, doing his sketches, that's what most concerned Tobin. True, by the time he died in 1838 at age 70, he'd become admiral. But he'd only had the rank for one year, and he'd been in the navy for nearly sixty. The irony is, when he put his mind to it, he really was a first class sailor.
On this second breadfruit voyage Tobin looked up at the world from the bottom of the top rank. This expedition is his first assignment as a British naval officer. When he writes about the other people on the voyage, the more experienced officers get most of his attention. But even here, his off-beat tastes show. Tobin became particularly friendly with the chief naval surgeon, Edward Harwood. Besides his medical skills, the doctor had a wicked sense of humour. That doesn't stop Tobin from recording it, even when he's the target.
As for Bligh, Tobin admires him for his seamanship. The young lieutenant knew full well about his captain's reputation: the harsh taskmaster whose cutting remarks bit into a man like a cat-o'-nine-tails whip. Tobin took this aspect of Bligh's personality as a challenge. He wanted to earn his captain's good opinion, and he did. That's not to say they didn't clash. Going through the Torres Straits, while commanding a small cutter away from the two major vessels, Tobin fired on islanders. He thought they were going to attack. Bligh disagreed and he said so, forcefully.
From this one incident it would be a mistake to conclude that Tobin always saw the islanders as a threat. Actually this clash is evidence Tobin treated the people he found living in the South Pacific as individuals. Some he admired; some he didn't. When he makes observations about their cultures, he tends to see the best in them. That's why he greatly feared that European culture would overwhelm theirs. He especially worried about the Tahitians. As Tobin put it:
What the exact creed of the Tahitians is, it is not in my power to explain. Yet it is charitable to believe it a good one. If faith and good works travel in amity with each other, in the latter, these islanders are 'eminent beyond compare.' They encourage a lesson of morality and good will among others that puts civilised religion to blush... The Tahitian needs no conversion; he divides what he has with strangers, as with neighbours... Can he be taught more, and still retain these amiable and generous qualities?
Tobin thinks not. Seeing Bligh's second chance through this young gentleman's eyes is a most educational and entertaining way to see the eighteenth century world.
This story was first broadcast on 9 May 2007 - http://www.abc.net.au/rn/perspective/stories/2007/1977763.htm
Roy Schreiber, editor: Captain Bligh's Second Chance: An Eyewitness Account of his Return to the South Seas by Lt George Tobin, UNSW Press, ISBN 978 0 86840 0
Investigators link ex-Halliburton subsidiary to bribery network; Iraq war vets file class-action lawsuit against Department of Veterans Affairs; "human fingerprints" found all over changes in rain patterns; could new lake help end conflict in Darfur?; Greece declares war on weather; consumer changes spell trouble for Ford workers; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org
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Ex-Halliburton Unit Named in Massive Profiteering Scheme
James Glanz of The New York Times writes: "Federal investigators have uncovered what they describe as a sweeping network of kickbacks, bribes and fraud involving at least eight employees and subcontractors of KBR, the former Halliburton subsidiary, in a scheme to inflate charges for flying freight into Iraq in support of the war, according to court papers unsealed yesterday."
Injured Iraq War Veterans Sue VA Head
Hope Yen, The Associated Press, reports: "Frustrated by delays in health care, a coalition of injured Iraq war veterans is accusing VA Secretary Jim Nicholson of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment."
Jimmy Breslin | Impeach George Bush to Stop War Lies, Deaths
Writing for Newsday.com, Jimmy Breslin says, "I am walking in Rosedale on this day early in the week while I wait for the funeral of Army soldier Le Ron Wilson, who died at age 18 in Iraq. He graduated from Thomas Edison High School at noon one day in May. He left right away for basic training. He came home in a box last weekend. He had a fast war. The war was there to take his life because George Bush started it with bold-faced lies."
Peace Activist Sheehan Arrested at Congress
Cindy Sheehan was arrested Monday along with about two dozen fellow antiwar activists for refusing to vacate the office of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, whom she met with earlier in the day in an attempt to get the congressman to support a plan for impeaching President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, Reuters reported.
Study: Humans to Blame for Changes in Rain
Reuters reports that "Human activities that spur global warming are largely to blame for changes in rainfall patterns over the last century."
A Godsend for Darfur, or a Curse?
The New York Times's Lydia Polgreen says, "The announcement by researchers at Boston University last week that a vast underground lake the size of Lake Erie had been discovered beneath the barren soil of northern Darfur, a blood-soaked but otherwise parched land racked by war for the past four years, was greeted by rapturous hopes. Could this, at last, bring deliverance from a cataclysmic conflict that has killed at least 200,000 people and pushed more than 2.5 million from their homes?"
Warnings Sounded as Mediterranean Melts in Heat
The New Zealand Herald says, "Greece is now on a war footing against weather phenomena 'the likes of which we have never seen,' warns the country's Public Order Minister Byron Polydoras."
Court Blocks Shell Drilling in Arctic Waters
Reuters reports that "A US federal appeals court has ordered Royal Dutch Shell to suspend oil exploration operations in the Beaufort Sea off the north coast of Alaska pending a legal challenge being brought by environmental activists and Alaska native groups."
US Autoworker Faces Changed Industry
Tom Krisher, The Associated Press, writes: "As he walks along a row of partially built sport utility vehicles, Curtis Giles is watching the overhead signs, hoping for green but looking for red letters that could spell trouble. Things have changed dramatically for the worse at Ford since the early part of the century when demand for profitable SUVs was almost insatiable."
Sharon Astyk | Talking Population With the Old Men
Sharon Astyk, writing for Casaubon's Book, says, "Today is World Population Day, and again, the laments from my fellows on the ecological left are singing out in semi-unison 'But no one is talking about population.' I always smile when I hear this, because if you are a woman in the environmental movement with four kids, it does tend to seem as though we ARE talking about population, and not just on World Population Day. About 1/4 of my mail is about population - mostly about my personal contribution to it. And every time this subject comes up on the blog I get my ass toasted by all the flames."
Pelosi Takes Heat for OK of Farm Bill
The San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead reports: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed off Friday on a five-year farm bill that would keep multibillion-dollar subsidies flowing to cotton, corn and a handful of other crops, deeply disappointing Bay Area food and environmental activists who had hoped that Congress might shift federal farm policy this year to combat obesity, air and water pollution and industrial farming."
VIDEO | Progressive Democrats Defend Party Leaders
By Geoffey Millard, Lance Page and Scott Galindez
At this years Take Back America Conference Congressman Keith Ellison took aim at a debate that is dividing Progressives when he told them not to allow their frustrations with Congress' inability to stop the war in Iraq divide them. "You might be mad at the Congress because they didn't end the war in six months but I'm here to ask you for us to not fall out over tactics and strategies," Ellison said that it is right that Progressives should be impatient with the pace of change, particularly when it comes to Iraq, "but don't turn your dissatisfaction into a cannibalistic enterprise." Go directly to our issues page:
A British researcher claims to have located Rommel's elusive sunken treasure just weeks after a team of German divers scouring the Mediterranean failed to find the hoard. Terry Hodgkinson is on the trail of the loot stolen by the Nazis. The famed treasure has long been reputed to have been dumped somewhere off the coast of Corsica by fleeing SS men, who planned to recover it after the war. However, Terry Hodgkinson, who has been researching the missing gold for 15 years, told The Daily Telegraph that he was now "confident" he knew its exact location in waters less than a nautical mile from the town of Bastia. Mr Hodgkinson, who is also a television scriptwriter, has teamed up with Corsican experts and won permission from the French authorities to enter the race to find six steel cases said to contain 440lb of gold bullion plus other precious objects pillaged from the Jewish community in Tunisia during the war. "We are confident of the location, but it will require the latest techniques to retrieve it, as the cases, which were once soldered, have no doubt separated and sunk deep into the sand," he said.
The only way to reach the loot would be to "hoover" up the seabed – a costly and time-consuming method. Now the main obstacle is funding. After months of research in Tunisia, he believes he has uncovered the truth not just about the treasure spot, but also previously unknown aspects of the story behind its arrival in Corsican waters. Accounts suggest that it was not Field Marshal Erwin Rommel but the ruthless SS colonel Walter Rauff who stripped Tunisian Jews of their wealth.
Rauff, who created the Nazis' notorious "gas vans" - mobile gas chambers - commanded a special Middle East extermination unit called in a month after Rommel's victory against the British at Tobruk in June 1942. However, his mission came to an abrupt halt after the British overcame Rommel, also known as "the Desert Fox", at El Alamein in October 1942. The Nazis left North Africa and are believed to have deliberately sunk the treasure as they later fled Corsica under heavy British and American bombardment. There have since been several attempts to find it, inspiring films and even a Goon Show episode.
In February, French maritime police came across a German television crew hunting the treasure without authorisation. They were fined but later resumed their search after receiving the go-ahead to shoot a "cultural film". Under French law, the proceeds from the treasure would be split between the state and those who found it. However, in this case, the state would seemingly also try to find any surviving relatives of those stripped of their gold.
German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler, by Henry Ashby Turner, Oxford, 504 pp. £25, 23 May 1985, 0 19 503492 9
Hitler: Memoirs of a Confidant, edited by Henry Ashby Turner, translated by Ruth Hein. Yale University Press, 333 pp., £25, 26 September 1985, 0 300 03294 3.
Blood and Soil: Walther Darré and Hitler’s ‘Green Party’, by Anna Bramwell. Kensal Press, 288 pp., £12.95, 24 October 1985, 0 946041 33 4.
Industry and Politics in the Third Reich: Ruhr Coal, Hitler and Europe, by John Gillingham. Methuen, 183 pp., 17 October 1985, £15.95, 0 416 39370 8
Geschichte der Deutschen Kriegswirtschaft, 1939-1945. Vol. II: 1941-1943, by Dietrich Eichholz. Akademie Verlag, 713 pp., DM 50, January.
In the early summer of 1931, as the storm centre of the century’s worst depression roared back towards a Germany where already 4.5 million people were out of work, the Nazi Party for the first time faced the fact that it might be elected to government. >Finance capitalism<, which they had been lambasting for 12 years, had got the country into just the mess they had predicted. How to get out of it?
In two years two million jobs had been lost. Promising to >do something about unemployment< - to use the stirring language of Her Majesty’s Opposition – was an electoral necessity for all parties. Genuinely doing something about it was a real necessity for Hitler and the Nazis if they were to attain their first goals of getting power and restoring moral confidence to the nation.
There are two things for which almost everyone has been obliged to give some credit to the Nazi regime: recovery and full employment. In the 1930s really up-to-date economists hinted coyly that the Nazi government was a visible demonstration that Keynesian theory worked. How did it actually come about that a party could in three years transform an almost universal economic and social despair into high growth rates and full employment? How did Germany escape from a depression which makes the two which the British economy had recently traversed look like mild cyclical wobbles, and turn an unemployment rate which Mrs Thatcher has probably envisaged only in her worst nightmare unto full employment? Where did jobs and self-respect come from?
Not, it must be said, from accepting the advice of businessmen and bankers. Depression and recovery took place against the background of a monotonous litany, familiar now to British ears, intoned by the world of big business: that wages and social security costs were too high, that the law should be changed to >de-bureaucratise< the labour contract, that corporate taxation should be lower, and that temporary financial help was needed for industries which were part of the >national fabric<. The present British government has, of course, invested considerable effort in putting some of these suggestions into practice.
In 1931, the mismatch between the Nazi and the world of business was almost total. The really big businessmen, the heads of the major German corporations, moved in high circles – from which, as Henry Ashby Turner showed in his excellent study, they looked down on the Nazis with shuddering distaste and mounting alarm. For their part, Hitler’s economic advisers regarded the world of big business with something between deep suspicion and open enmity. All their cures for unemployment started from the assumption, now frequently made in this country, that businessmen, and bankers had misinvested capital and couldn’t, without some change in the capitalist system, be trusted to invest it in the interest of the whole community.
Both Hitler’s >confidant< Otto Wagener, a managing director in the plywood industry and head of the economic policy section of the Party’s national executive, and Gottfried Feder, the author in earlier days of what sometimes still passed for the Party’s manifesto, insisted that a change of this kind involved drawing distinctions between different types of capital. Some capital was >speculative< and some >productive<. For Feder this amounted to little more than an equation between >speculative< capital and foreign investment: only German capital, and only when it was invested in Germany for German purposes, would be >productive<.
The state, he said, should therefore nationalise the banks and remove the restrictions which the central bank was allowed to impose on the money supply independently of the Government. The way to create, Thatcher-like, a swarm of dynamic new enterprises which would regenerate the economy was to make low-interest loans through state intervention in the capital market. State intervention was necessary in order to re-create >individualism<.
But with the markets closing and business confidence plunging, Feder decided that this would not be enough. The Government should build hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hydro-electric plants, even on the smallest rovers, and sell the current at less than cost price. This would have the further advantage of promoting industrial relocations away from the doomed industrial cities with their crumbling infrastructure and their riotous mobs. To encourage the workers in the new enterprises to develop a different sensibility they would be allowed to keep pigs. >I sense the dawn,< said Otto Strasser when he heard this - so Wagener tells us.
>A god,< Hitler said, >should take a mighty hammer and smash all the industrial centres.<
For Wagener, whose conversations with Hitler were written as a prisoner-of-war in Glamorgan, full employment depended on eliminating the tendency of capital to degenerate into >finance< capital.
Every year a corporate body of entrepreneurs, workers and white-collar employees should supervise the confiscation of about 5 per cent of the capital stock of each industrial enterprise. These holdings would then be gradually resold in the form of special shares to the owner (provided he was working and not fooling about in Monte Carlo instead) and to his employees (provided they were industrious and loyal).
This constant re-acquisition of the capital was >productive<. On hearing this Hitler proclaimed >the birth-date of a completely new economic theory<.
Interestingly enough Wagener and Feder, like many of Mrs Thatcher’s critics, equated >productive< investment with manufacturing industry. Yet the fall in investment in German manufacturing industry had not been greater than it was in countries where unemployment was less. In so far as unemployment was related to a decline in investment, the reason the German experience was so catastrophic was that there had been a much steeper decline in central and local government investment in construction, public utilities and services.
There still were serious questions to be faced once lack of investment had been identified as the root cause of unemployment. Why should people move to a higher rate of savings in order to acquire the capital stock of firms operating in a bankrupt economy? And Feder’s remedy, if it was applied, would constitute an attack on reparations and the peace settlement, given that the Reichsbank had deliberately been given independence of the government in order to maintain the value of the German currency. It would also mean exchange controls and probably other forms of protection too. Would this lead to further job losses of exports or to job creation by the process of import substitution? Industrialists, as always, were divided on this question according to what they sold.
And the Nazis, although they did not care a fig for the existing international arrangements if getting rid of them would mean more jobs, feared with reason that doing so would lead to retaliation and perhaps to a collapse of the currency. After their further electoral successes in 1931 it was clear that the Nazi Party like everyone else hadn’t the foggiest idea of how to get back to full employment.
The man who actually brought in the votes that year was Walther Darré, and agronomist who had joined the party organization in 1930 and energetically propagated the cause of guaranteed higher income for farmers. His idea was, on the one hand to protect the farmers against imports sand, on the other, to set up a national food marketing and distribution corporation which would defend them against price fluctuations on the domestic market.
As in certain areas of the United Sates, this produced a powerful electoral swing. It also saddled the Nazi Party with a policy of high food prices, an even more protectionist stance and a commitment to subsidise a low productivity sector. Raising rural incomes in one step produced a brief though vigorous upward movement in consumer goods output, but that in itself was not enough to counteract the severe fall in output and employment which Germany was experiencing.
Darré, in any case, like Wagener and Feder, was not interested in productivity, because economic regeneration depended – this again is something we hear all the time – on changing people’s deepest attitudes and that depended on changing the socio-economic structure. For Darré, this meant an end to land subdivision, and end to the foreclosure and sale of peasant farms, and the establishment of inalienable, hereditary titles to farms of an adequate size for >the new nobility< which would preserve the remnants of true Nordic stock and morality.
He believed he had located those in Lower Saxony. The fate of Germany’s industrial masses in this static peasant world was wholly unclear and there was certainly no question of resettling these unemployed mongrels on the land. For the schemes of the urban intellectuals, Darré had supreme contempt, classifying them as back-to-the-landers, supporters of the allotment movement, vegetarians and nudists.
Small wonder that Hitler sought new advice. Something had to be done to stop the world of big business using its influence to try to prevent the Nazis coming to power and a way had to be found of co-operating with businessmen to cure unemployment. Wilhelm Keppler, whom Hitler charged with getting a regular circle of business advisers together, favoured devaluation – another remedy much talked about in Britain now. This was a justifiable step after the British devaluation in the autumn of 1931 had left Germany’s manufactured exports dependent on the Soviet Five-Year Plan, and it gradually became internationally more acceptable.
By the end of 1932, however, manufactured exports had sunk so low as to make their return to pre-depression levels look more than doubtful in a world where new exchange controls, quotas and tariffs were appearing every day. Devaluation, in any case, was a weak move if it was to be accompanied by protection.
Walter Funk, an economic journalist for the Berliner Börsen-Zeitung, the German Financial Times of the day, whom Hitler appointed at roughly the same time, believed, in common with many nationalistic businessmen, that Germany should seek to dominate the European economy within some form of common market. It would thus serve as a manufacturing core to a less industrialized periphery. This was open to the same objections as Keppler’s proposals.
Pro-business advisers, like business itself, had nothing to offer except some faith that costs would fall to the point where exports would have a competitive advantage, while trying to persuade the Government either to get rid of at least some of the proliferating barriers to international trade or to use its power to create a different framework for international trade in which raw material costs might be kept low and markets assured. When the Brüning Government was discovered late in 1931 to be negotiating a customs union with Austria, this was regarded as so hostile an act that the flight of capital from Germany was even greater than at the time of the Wall Street crash. In any case, until the British left the gold standard exports had been doing better than any other sector of the German economy and hardly seemed the main problem.
The Nazis would have to do something else. Would the outside world allow this without massive retaliation? It was this conundrum which brought Hjalmar Schacht back to office. Schacht was a former president of the central bank who had been struggling from 1930 to make contact with the Nazis and engineer a return to high office, which spattering letters in all directions to his business acquaintances, explaining that he was the man who could make these cranks see sense.
Hitler asked: >What would happen if we – or rather, a National Socialist Reichsbank president – were to begin with our way of financing employment to moment we take over the government?<
>The international financial world would stand on its head an attack our currency with all the means at its command.<
So Schacht got his old job back in return for accepting >our way<. At the time this didn’t mean anything more than continuing the existing policy of financi9ng on a restricted scale public works and job-creation programmes – the remedies most frequently proposed to Mrs Thatcher by her opponents. The Reichsbank was not obliged to do anything more unorthodox than it had already been doing by the end of 1932: with 5.5 million out of work even central bankers must bow to electoral realities.
How well did >our way< work and what lessons could we draw from it? The origins of the German plight were so different from those of the contemporary British economic situation that the historical lessons are suggestive but of little real use. The collapse of employment in Germany was tied to two closely-linked phenomena: the endemic shortage of capital after 1924 and the cyclical instability of an economy which since 1914 had suffered a series of savage shocks to the pattern of investment and savings.
This decline didn’t start in manufacturing, but in the government and service sector. It started before the Wall Street crash and was so precipitate as to lead many to argue that the depression started in Germany and not on Wall Street. Levels of employment and welfare fell steeply before either industrial or inventory investment declined. By concentrating investment in the public sector, Nazi policy, by a mixture of energy, ambition, unorthodoxy and good luck, re-created the links between capital markets, infrastructural investment and employment levels.
Public investment in railways, utilities, roads, telephones, radio, together with investment in house construction and repairs, combined with the upturn in the trade cycle to create 2.3 million jobs in two years. This is a far more rapid rate of job creation than any current forecasts for such programmes suggest is feasible.
It was done by singling out certain areas where the national infrastructure could be modernized, but also by spending in a large number of other directions and by using tax incentives to encourage others to do so. The remarkable success in terms of new jobs meant that tax revenues increased very rapidly and the increase in the public debt was perfectly manageable. The story thus gives support to some of the arguments used by the critics of the present British government.
It is, however, necessary to define the exact criteria for judging public sector investment to have been successful.
It was not the building of the famous motorway system which had the biggest impact over the first two years, for example, but conventional, old-fashioned railway investment. The railways absorbed 14 per cent of the total of public investment in 1933 and 1934 – three times what went into motorway building. If the solution was to select projects which could stimulate the rest of the economy through the multiplier effect, as Keynes had begun to argue, motorways were an excellent choice because of their impact in creating a new and higher demand for steel, cement, bricks and cars. Of course, this solution depends on motorways themselves being new.
Hitler declined to read Keynes on the grounds that he would not understand it. His own criterion would have been the number of jobs created, in which case railways showed a remarkable capacity to absorb unskilled labour.
If the criterion is cost-effectiveness, tax concessions for house construction, conversion and repair were by far the best policy. In terms of the employment – and therefore the increase in tax revenue – which they generated, the initial outlay on subsidized house repair schemes was extremely small. Why have the present and previous Conservative governments not tried that? It meets all their economic and political criteria, yet they have actually made house repair more difficult by their changes in taxation.
The whole policy should be judged against the rising relative costs of public investment programmes as employment levels return to something near to pre-depression levels, mainly because the rate of increase in tax revenue from increasing employment diminished. And Mrs Thatcher could argue perfectly correctly that the outcome of all this was – to pour money into low-productivity, low-income sectors, thus condemning the German economy to a lower level of labour productivity than its rival and to acute foreign trade problems in the years to come. Her critics could reply that the much-needed increase in consumer purchasing power could only come from re-employing the unskilled, which is essentially what all this public investment did.
This argument can be assessed in relation to the increase in income in the agricultural sector. Darre’s policies when put into effect increased the flow of money income to German farmers more than threefold in the first two years. This affected ten million incomes. Yet in spite of the rapid increase in employment elsewhere, output in the consumer goods sector began to fall again after two years, and with the exception of this brief experience economic recovery was based on capital goods industries. Thus the >dynamic new industries< which emerged turned out not to be back-street businesses operating in cheap loans, but gigantic factories drinking up capital.
It must also be said that most of this investment took at least a year before it was translated into employment. For politicians this was a serious weakness: the cosmetic effect on the statistics was too slow. A whole series of much more publicized grand-scale job-creation programmes and job-training schemes were therefore devised. Then, as now, they were largely a waste of money.
Why did businessmen put up with a programme so different from what they had advocated? Patriotism counted for something and fear probably counted for more, but profit and influence were the most persuasive reasons. In spite of the managerial problems of full employment, their capital and profits were regarded as >productive<, provided they did what the Government wanted. In this story the coal industry was central, because coal remained the basic fuel for more than 80 per cent of manufacturing industry. People do not like working down coal mines in periods of full employment and Gillingham suggests that the coal industry was the >worst case of industry-regime relationship<. The companies refused to play a rational role in energy planning or even to extend underground operations. The outcome was acute fuel shortages and the appointment of a >Coal Commissar<, while output was kept us only because by the use of what amounted to slave labour, no substitute for the missing investment. Productivity dropped steadily. Lack of managerial dynamism in the industry led to Party intervention at several different levels. Nevertheless the Nazi Party, Gillingham concludes, gave business, including the coal business, the political conditions necessary for survival, growth and domination of the European economy. In this sense, the relationship was >mutually satisfactory< and business as a whole became >powerful and privileged< once more.
Of course, if you write history in the DDR the fascinating variety of policy standpoints in the Nazi Party is a minor historical consideration. Professor Eichholtz’s book, much weightier than his first volume on the same theme, is indispensable. It is by far the most comprehensive book on the German war economy and its bias is so huge as to disturb nobody. >Finance capital<, as Eichholtz, like the Nazis in 1931, calls it, manipulated its political arm, the Nazi Party, for straight-forward purposes. It wanted to maximize its profits by extending its political dominion at home and abroad and subjecting the working classes to its own absolute rule. Full employment was presumably a small price to pay for a government which held down real wage increases by dictatorial powers while the share of national income going to dividends increased at an unprecedented rate. War, which was what it was all about, was good business, Eichholtz argues. He estimates the total profit of German companies during the war at roughly 100,000 million Reichsmarks: but this must be too high, because if he is even roughly right it would be about the same sum as the German national income in 1938.
Nevertheless, >business confidence< is a curious affair. It soared under a government the arbitrariness and brutality of whose actions remain without parallel and which, when it needed to, was perfectly ready to act against businessmen in a similar way. It soared, too, in spite of the imposition of a set of priorities by central government which relegated international trade to the last place in an economy where so much business depended on it, where its revival had been the basis of most business programmes for recovery. It soared in a system where private capital markets were virtually non-existent and businessmen were not allowed to make the crucial investment decisions. It turns out that in creating employment businessmen are less important than governments and that provided they make money, they will accept a great deal.
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