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Quick News Hit to File Under: You have got to be fucking kidding me

Content note: the Holocaust; anti-immigrant sentiment

So, apparently some German authorities have had a brilliant idea!  What to do with all these asylum seekers?  Where can we house them?  What to do, what to do…

Oh, hey, look, we have these empty barracks over here?  They haven’t been used since 1945!  (Do you have a sinking feeling yet?)  Why don’t we just put these people in a former satellite camp for Buchenwald, which used to house–by which I mean imprison–around 700 people the Nazis used for slave labor?  What could possibly go horribly wrong?

I personally cannot leave aside the utter disrespect for genocidal suffering that was not even a full lifetime ago.  And in light of Germany’s increasing racist anti-immigration sentiment, this is a horrible idea.

I have little more to say except this: some history can’t be rehabilitated.  Some structures cannot be repurposed.  Slave quarters.  Concentration camps.  Some things either have to serve as memorials or be obliterated and replaced.  But storing people–actual human beings with hearts and souls and imaginations–in a place of immense suffering while other people decide if they have rights is unacceptable.  How could they possible feel with those echoes all around them?


73 thoughts on Quick News Hit to File Under: You have got to be fucking kidding me

  1. There might be structures worse in terms of infrastructure, but I can’t possibly imagine one (that doesn’t involve another part of the concentration camp) worse in terms of image.

    I mean, unless you want to appeal to the extreme nativists/anti-immigration folks who want to kill immigrants. But, most people think those people are assholes.

  2. The German officials claim the structure was never used to house forced labor and most recently was used as a kindergarten. I’d be interested in someone finding proof if it was but if someone put a school there I’m hoping it wasn’t.

    That said, I’ve very confused as to why the entire structure was torn down and replaced decades ago. I would have thought there would have been political pressure from the local community to destroy physical reminders of it at least.

    1. In answer to Asia’s question, I think there’s probably a very good reason that buildings like this (let alone buildings more closely associated with the Holocaust) weren’t torn down if they were still in existence by the early 1950’s, whatever the local populace might have desired: the more physical evidence of what happened, the better, and the less ammunition for those who would deny what happened.

      Also, remember that East Germany was under the administrative control of the Soviets for quite some time after the war ended, and that it wasn’t up to the local population to make that sort of decision.

      For example, Buchenwald itself, although it was the first camp liberated by the U.S. military, was re-used by the Soviets themselves, between 1945 and 1950, as a local NKVD outpost of the Gulag (they weren’t all in Siberia!) As explained in the Wikipedia article:

      On January 6, 1950, Soviet Minister of Internal Affairs Kruglov ordered all special camps, including Buchenwald, to be handed over to the East German Ministry of Internal Affairs.

      In October 1950, it was decreed that the camp would be demolished. The main gate, the crematorium, the hospital block, and two guard towers were spared. All prisoner barracks and other buildings were razed. Foundations of some still exist and many others have been rebuilt. According to the Buchenwald Memorial website, “the combination of obliteration and preservation was dictated by a specific concept for interpreting the history of Buchenwald Concentration Camp.”

  3. According to the article at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/11343119/Buchenwald-concentration-camp-immigration-plan-criticised.html, the barracks were used by SS guards at this outpost of Buchenwald (i.e., not part of the actual camp), where 700 Polish slave laborers worked. Since the War, it was used as “accommodation for disabled veterans, and as an artist’s studio.”

    Why they can’t build a new barracks I can’t imagine. But I suppose on the grand scale, it’s less morally objectionable than putting immigrants at an actual surviving barracks where prisoners were held. And if we’re going to parse things further, then I suppose an outpost of Buchenwald is better than Buchenwald, which was itself “only” a concentration camp, not an extermination camp, and had “only” about a 24% death rate (approx. 56,000 of 240,000) from starvation, disease, beatings, and executions, compared to a place like Treblinka where 700,000-900,000 Jews were murdered and 70 (not a typo) survived the war.

    So hey, it could have been worse!

    The bottom line for me, though, is that given the current anti-immigrant sentiments in Germany, the “optics” (one of those Washington, D.C. doublespeak words) of housing immigrants at any building remotely associated with a KZ are not great. It’s a bad look, as they say.

    1. There’s not really an anti-immigrant sentiment, and certainly not an anti-refugee sentiment in Germany. There’s *one* larger demonstration that everyone freaks out about in *one* eastern German city that apparently demonstrates against “islamification” but that’s really mostly people feeling disconnected and scared about what’s going on in the world. No where else have these people been able to gather more than a few hundred demonstrators and were easily outnumberd by counter demonstrations, sometimes 10:1. When the “anti-Islamification”, kind of tea-party, people tried to demonstrate in Cologne, both the Catholic and the Protestant Cathedral switched off their illumination, so the couple hundred demonstrators basically stood in the dark, claiming to speak for “Christian Europe”. Even in Dresden, the only town where they draw a crowd, for very specific contextual reasons, these confused protesters were outnumbered 2:1 by people telling them that refugees are welcome. When you look at Germany, you still have to differentiate the East from the West, as in East Germany, there was no real immigration to speak of until *very* recently, after the unification.

      Germany is now, after the US, the world’s most popular immigration destination, and per capita immigration is higher than in the US. That’s a blessing, given German birthrates, but it’s also bound to cause some people to feel that the country is changing too fast for their comfort. But that’s a far cry from any real “anti-immigrant” sentiment, in my opinion.

      1. I kind of find that hard to believe, because there’s anti-immigrant sentiment everywhere there’s immigrants, generally, and why would Germany be any different, and in particular because I’ve known a couple of immigrants to Germany in my time and they say different.

      2. A Person, you’re speaking at cross-purposes. You say there’s no anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany, using the singular to imply that there is no single overall sentiment against immigrants — no zeitgeist, as it were — representing the predominant strain of popular beliefs.

        That may or may not be so. But it’s not what I said, is it? I specifically referred to anti-immigrant “sentiments,” plural, which means that such sentiments exist in Germany. Which you yourself concede to be the case.

        See the difference?

        1. Sure. Some people are more vocal now than they were before. And they force others to become more vocal and position themselves. I don’t think the distribution of sentiments in the population has changed due to those demonstrations, that’s my point.

      3. I’m currently in Germany, and I find the claim that there’s nearly no anti-immigrant sentiment, and no anti-refugee sentiment, here absolutely baffling.

        I think A Person’s figures for the Dresden demonstrations are wrong: it’s my understanding that the Pegida (brand-new anti-islamisation group which is acting as an umbrella attracting various kinds of people holding any of islamophobic, xenophobic, racist, pro-traditional-Christian, or concerned-about-any-social-change views) demonstrations there have been much, much larger than the counter-demonstrations. I would agree that – at least from my eye-view – overall anti-immigrant attitudes in the country are less than in some other places, and less socially and officially sanctioned. A Person correctly points out the lights switch-off in Cologne and that the counter-demonstrations everywhere but Dresden have far outnumbered the Pegida ones. Too, major political leaders have condemned the Pegida demonstrations and asked people not to attend.

        But the positives don’t equate to “no anti-immigrant/refugee” sentiment! Twenty or thirty thousand people in Dresden, and a few thousand people elsewhere, is some. Asylum seekers have a hard time, often locked up in detention centres in unpleasant conditions, or otherwise in poverty. The largest ethnic immigrant group (I think) is people of Turkish origin, and there is anti-Turkish discrimination and prejudice. There are neo-Nazis, and while they are thankfully a tiny minority, they matter because they sometimes attack people and homes, and that isn’t small stuff. When neo-Nazis gang up and threaten or attack asylum seekers or asylum seekers’ homes, the whole populace and officialdom does not swoop in and make sure those people can go somewhere safe and live without fear. Authorities sometimes assume that attacks on and murders of asylum seekers and/or people of Turkish origin are intra-community violence rather than considering racist violence.

        So, while anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments may be at a lower level in Germany than some other places, they’re here, within individual people and within the structure of society.

      4. Also, I’m not on board with A Person’s casual brushing off of the Dresden demonstrations. I’m against “freaking out” generally due to its lack of usefulness, but that apart, how is it not reasonable to be concerned when twenty or thirty thousand people use an anti-islamisation umbrella to express their confused concerns? When people turn their dissatisfactions and worries about life and society generally into an issue about islam-or-immigrants-or-something? How is it not reasonable to wonder if one’s immigrant self would be safe and comfortable living in that city, and to hope that, in the general atmosphere around these demonstrations, nobody does something horrible to any of the non-white, immigrant or refugee people currently there? (They may already have.)

        1. Unless something really bad happens and the small populist right wing party AfD manages to not self-destroy and instead becomes a vessel for those people, these demonstrations are not going to be a permanent feature of German politics. Counter demonstrations have made it clear that these people aren’t speaking for anyone but themselves – if that. And they realize that, too, which limits the motivation to participate. It’ll be over soon, even in East Germany.

      5. Also, from the article:

        Dresden, where a local hotel owner has reportedly pulled out of a deal with the authorities to put up more than 90 asylum seekers.

        German media say the owner had received threats via social media and anti-asylum slogans were sprayed on the hotel’s walls.

        That suggests that anti-immigrant sentiment has some force to me.

    1. I think I see this story as resulting more from obliviousness and insensitivity (towards both the immigrants and what Buchenwald — even an outpost of Buchenwald — represents) than from active anti-immigrant sentiments. God knows, they probably think they’re being helpful.

  4. This is a classic case where the local administration wasn’t thinking about the global PR shitstorm that they were ordering from people who are only looking at the headlines without any real understanding of what’s going on.

    So, yes, exceedingly stupid from that point of view. But a) there are currently so many mostly Syrian refugees coming to Germany so fast that even container housing is becoming difficult because these containers have to be fitted first. Tents aren’t an option at this point of the year. Apparently the only short-term alternative was using schools’ gyms which would offer less privacy to the refugees and interefere much more with local life b) The barracks aren’t part of the main Concentration Camp but were part of an external housing area that belonged to a factory and housed the camp commander. 20 years ago refugees from Yugoslavia had already been housed there without a problem, and yes, most recently the building was used as a kindergarten.

    So, yes, this is a problem professional PR experts may have seen coming, but honestly, I’m kind of relieved that local administrations don’t think about PR first when they’re deciding what’s the best way to help these refugees with limited short term alternatives.

    The headlines, of course, will lead to more funding and containers being rerouted to this town Schwerte, which will probably mean shortages at other refugee camps.

    1. I disagree. It isn’t just about PR. It’s about respect for genocidal history. The factories you refer to were run by slave labor. They weren’t just innocent manufacturing sites.

      1. No, they weren’t, and of course it’s not a good solution in any way. I’m just not sure it’s not the least bad solution until something else can be worked out. There’s something I find much more bizarre – are you in NYC? There’s a wonderful film about genocidal history by a young female Israeli director called Yael Reuveny who now lives in Berlin that was just released last week, it’s called “Farewell Herr Schwarz” and I’ve never seen anything like it. She weaves three generations stories into an amazing documentary. Interestingly, and much more shocking than short-term emergency housing for refugees was the fact that in a small town in East Germany (where, of course, resources were much scarcer than in the West after the war, a couple of people *still* live in refurbished Concentration Camp barracks. They apparently bought them from the communist government which was likely too happy to get the Nazi reminder off its hand. And they turned the barracks into small houses, now equipped with satellite dishes and everything. It’s one of the weirdest things I’ve seen in my life. If you get a chance, have a look at that film. It’ll change how you look at something presumably as simply as “genocidal remembrance”.

        1. I’ll check out the movie when it hits DVD–I’m afraid my going out is sharply curtailed these days. But it does sound fascinating.

    1. I bet you would also be on board with Ani Difranco’s planned (but now cancelled) artist retreat at a former slave plantation, right? The history of a site of genocide can’t just be dismissed without massive disrespect for the people who suffered there.

      Also, every time you come here you seem to be trying to be as racist and dismissive as possible. What’s your deal?

      1. She’s the Unique Feminist. Yanno…Not like those other feminists. She posts so men know she’s the cool chick, not a bitchy man hater.

  5. I obviously would never tell anyone else how to feel, but this one leaves me (personally, individually) nonplussed. The houses have bedrooms and bathrooms, they have heating, why does the fact they were used for something terrible a century ago matter?

    If they were intentionally being used to hold immigrants as part of an anti-immigrant campaign (i.e. the government was satisfying right-wingers with this as a sort of dog whistle) I’d get the outrage. But to me (again, not silencing anyone else) this just seems practical. The facility exists, it’s empty, people need somewhere to stay.

    I wonder how much the asylum seekers care?

      1. A century ago? The first world war was a century ago, not the Holocaust.

        The Holocaust ended in 1945, give or take, and it’s 2015. 70 years is close enough I felt comfortable with rounding.

        But is that really central to the point of my post?

        1. The difference is that it’s still within living memory. At a century, it wouldn’t be.

          But even if it weren’t within living memory, and even aside from the particular use of this barracks or its particular location, I suppose your statement means that you’d be OK with doing this even if it actually were at a concentration camp or extermination camp, and actually had been a prisoner’s barracks? If that’s the case, then I suppose you don’t agree with all the people who object to renting out former slave plantations for conferences, tourism, etc.?

        2. But even if it weren’t within living memory, and even aside from the particular use of this barracks or its particular location, I suppose your statement means that you’d be OK with doing this even if it actually were at a concentration camp or extermination camp, and actually had been a prisoner’s barracks? If that’s the case, then I suppose you don’t agree with all the people who object to renting out former slave plantations for conferences, tourism, etc.?

          I’m speaking only for myself, and I’m certainly not telling other people they’re wrong to voice their objections. I just don’t see it personally.

          Basically, I have a hard time- again, personally- giving weight to intangibles like ‘something bad once happened here.’ If there are four walls and a roof and an average temperature higher than the outside, that makes it useful. Now, if the history of the place is being used to make a racist point in the present, I have a problem with that because it could affect real people in the here and now. But why should we care otherwise, if nobody is being hurt and some people are actually being helped?

          This sort of reminds me of the unending arguments I have with my friend who works at an art gallery about the value of original pieces of art. I can’t understand why, if you could duplicate a piece perfectly (and sometimes you could), it should be worth any less. Same atoms, same aesthetic effect if put on your wall, what else is there to it? She thinks that’s unbelievably stupid. So maybe there’s a fundamental blind spot here, with how I see the world.

          RE: plantations, I guess it depends. Is it just the same area/house that was once used for a plantation, coincidentally, or is the plantation-history part of the marketing/aesthetic/appeal for tourists? If it just happens to be the same land that was once used for something abhorrent, I don’t get the outrage. It seems wasteful or at least impractical to require that any land or infrastructure that once served an evil purpose must be forever untouched (especially since basically every square inch of the US was developed after being stolen from Native Americans in a clearly genocidal manner). If, on the other hand, the fact that it was a plantation is part of the marketing/conscious presentation/intended ‘feature’ of the destination, and people are having fun pretending to be slaveowners, I think that’s disgusting and glorifies slavery (I would make an exception for former plantations that stay open for educational purposes, since it’s important that we don’t forget our history).

          Not sure I’m articulating the distinction well but hopefully that makes sense.

        3. Given that I have more than one friend who is the actual child of a Holocaust survivor, and in one case the parent is still living, yes, the difference between 70 years and 100 is pretty fucking big. This isn’t ancient history. It isn’t even a lifetime ago.

        4. That doesn’t really change my argument much.

          To respond to your post, though: are your friends upset that there are immigrants living in what was once a camp? And if so, do we care more about that than about quickly providing asylum seekers shelter?

          Not sure I know the answers, but I don’t think they’re simple questions.

    1. It’s true that the second world war ended only seventy years ago and not a hundred, but I agree with Ludlow. In response to this:

      How could they possible feel with those echoes all around them?

      They would feel warm, at least. They might not feel good about the history of the building – I haven’t read any refugees interviewed – but it’s better than a gym or a temporary structure. Without knowing what the alternatives in Schwerte are, I can’t really commend the local authorities, but I can’t condemn them either.

      1. Re: “They would feel warm, at least”:

        I have to agree. No building will ever convince a Holocaust denier that it happened; they take selfies in front of Auschwitz. If those barracks are the best, safest, and most private alternative, I cannot imagine telling refugees, “No, go live in a tent instead” “Go be colder” “Go where your every action will be observable.” What could be better than using this wretched infrastructure for something concretely good? I would rather improve the world. If the smallest artifact of the Holocaust can be turned on its head to help the destitute or societal fringes, then I’m more than okay with it, I advocate it.

        1. I would rather improve the world. If the smallest artifact of the Holocaust can be turned on its head to help the destitute or societal fringes, then I’m more than okay with it, I advocate it.

          Another great point.

        2. I can’t agree with you at all, in terms of your general statement. In this case, I sort of feel that using a former SS barracks at a Buchenwald outpost to house refugees from Syria is a thumb in the nose — a big retrospective fuck you — to the SS.

          But if it were actually at concentration camp or death camp? And actually involved using a surviving barracks where those who were murdered had been held? As far as I’m concerned, nobody has the retrospective moral right to condone that use except those who were murdered. And they’re dead.

          After all, the logical conclusion to your general statement about the smallest artifact of the Holocaust is that it’s AOL to take all the eyeglasses from that heap of thousands of victims’ eyeglasses at Auschwitz and give them away to the poor or to refugees. Hey, free glasses for the poor!

          Nope. I get your position, but your statement goes way too far.

        3. But if it were actually at concentration camp or death camp? And actually involved using a surviving barracks where those who were murdered had been held? As far as I’m concerned, nobody has the retrospective moral right to condone that use except those who were murdered. And they’re dead.

          But they’re dead, so they don’t care. They literally cannot be harmed or helped in any way. The world should accord exactly zero moral weight to their (theoretical) preferences, because according any weight to their preferences would result in according less weight to the preferences of the living, creating less total utility (since dead people can generate zero utility) and violating the basic principles of humanism.

          Just as a hypothetical, how do you feel about houses where someone was murdered or abused or tortured? Seventy years later, should people be allowed to live there? If so, exactly where do you draw the line in terms of how monstrous a place’s history must be, before it has to be burned to the ground and never again utilized?

          I hope this doesn’t come across as confrontational- I genuinely don’t understand your views, but I don’t want to give the impression I don’t respect them or you.

        4. OK, I’ll gratefully amend my statement to be that not everything should be used to help the needy. But these absolutely should be. Worth restating as well that these were not used to forcibly house prisoners, but were actually guard barracks. The need of the refugees is urgent and physical. If the locality gets more funding to build decent shelters for them because of this scandal, so that they do not need to use this site, all the better, but at the time of the original decision it was the moral thing to do.

        5. using a former SS barracks at a Buchenwald outpost to house refugees from Syria is a thumb in the nose — a big retrospective fuck you — to the SS.

          I like this interpretation.

        6. But they’re dead, so they don’t care

          Then let’s tear up all the cemeteries around the world — some of it’s prime land, after all — and build housing developments. Use the old tombstones to build foundations and pave streets. Why not?

          After all, that’s what happened all over Eastern Europe, during and after the War, to Jewish cemeteries (whether or not the Nazis had wrecked them). There are streets in some towns where you can still see the Hebrew inscriptions under your feet. But the dead were dead, and their family members were all dead and gone too, so they didn’t care. Why not? No utility to those crumbling pieces of stone, after all. Nothing new, you know. Old Jewish tombstones have been found in the foundations of cathedrals in England (where the Jews were expelled in 1290) and several other places in Europe.

          I have no interest in trying to explain to you why I feel as I do about your views, which obviously go well beyond the issue of using old SS barracks to house refugees (which doesn’t bother me so much), and make clear your own views on things like the Ani DeFranco controversy about using old slave plantations.

        7. (continued)

          Utility to the living is not my only value. Obviously when I said that only the victims had the right to condone the re-use for other purposes of the instruments and evidence of their destruction, and that they’re dead, I meant that nobody can condone it.

          It’s analogous to how I feel when Gentiles say things like “it’s been 70 years! Why can’t you people forgive and forget? Why do you still advocate hunting down 95- year old Nazi fugitives? Hate and anger are bad for you.” And so on. We’ve had the discussion here before about how people like EG and I feel about buying into the Christian fetishization of forgiveness, so I won’t repeat all that. But my answer is usually that only the dead can forgive. And because they’re dead, nobody can.

          PS: I’m one of the friends EG mentions. And I’ve made my feeling, in particular and in general, fairly clear.

        8. I forgot to mention the other part of my response to Gentiles who talk about forgiveness: “You people still haven’t forgiven us for something we didn’t even do to one man 2,000 years ago, but you expect us to forgive what was done to six million of us within living memory?”

        9. I have no interest in trying to explain to you why I feel as I do about your views, which obviously go well beyond the issue of using old SS barracks to house refugees (which doesn’t bother me so much), and make clear your own views on things like the Ani DeFranco controversy about using old slave plantations.

          I actually posted about that above, though you might have missed it. Speaking of which, still curious:

          how do you feel about houses where someone was murdered or abused or tortured? Seventy years later, should people be allowed to live there? If so, exactly where do you draw the line in terms of how monstrous a place’s history must be, before it has to be burned to the ground and never again utilized?

          I’m not white or a Christian, by the way, so your response feels a little off target.

          Then let’s tear up all the cemeteries around the world — some of it’s prime land, after all — and build housing developments. Use the old tombstones to build foundations and pave streets. Why not?

          I mean, I get that it would infuriate people, but it wouldn’t bother me. Honestly I think it’s ridiculous that we use so much land on dead people when overcrowding is such an issue. Cremation makes more sense.

          But the dead were dead, and their family members were all dead and gone too, so they didn’t care. Why not? No utility to those crumbling pieces of stone, after all. Nothing new, you know. Old Jewish tombstones have been found in the foundations of cathedrals in England (where the Jews were expelled in 1290) and several other places in Europe.

          I mean, obviously I oppose specifically targeting Jewish graves. That’s fucked up (and I didn’t know that, so thank you for teaching me something new).

        10. things like the Ani DeFranco controversy about using old slave plantations.

          I had no idea who Ani DeFranco was until I just googled her, but she seems racist as fuck. The “Nottoway Plantation and Resort” also seems like a disgusting institution. If you actually care about good-faith discussion, you’ll note that I posted above:

          If, on the other hand, the fact that it was a plantation is part of the marketing/conscious presentation/intended ‘feature’ of the destination, and people are having fun pretending to be slaveowners, I think that’s disgusting and glorifies slavery (I would make an exception for former plantations that stay open for educational purposes, since it’s important that we don’t forget our history).

          That fact that ‘plantation’ is still in its name makes it pretty clear that it’s not an institution I’d support. It really does feel like you’re purposefully ignoring the key parts of my argument to score points. I apologize if that’s not the case, though.

        11. I think it’s a big mistake to think that memorialization and honoring the dead do not serve real and valuable purposes for the living.

        12. Utility to the living is not my only value.

          That’s the same as saying utility is not your only value, which inevitably leads to monstrous moral decisions. We’re probably never going to agree on that particular issue.

        13. I think it’s a big mistake to think that memorialization and honoring the dead do not serve real and valuable purposes for the living.

          I absolutely agree, but I didn’t think that was what was at stake. There are some really beautiful park-like cemeteries that are some of the only green spaces near where I live, and I’d be deeply saddened to see them go. I just wouldn’t base that on a sense of obligation to the dead.

          Basically, I respect the value people derive from paying respects to their loved ones who’ve died, but I don’t particularly care about what hypothetical now-dead people would want if they were still alive.

        14. Look, Ludlow22, I’ve made my position clear; you’ve made yours. If you are unable to understand mine, then there’s nothing more I can do for you. It doesn’t really surprise me, given how completely foreign your views on this are to mine. I’m not interested in an academic debate, or reaching some sort of agreement, and if you don’t consider that a good faith discussion, so be it.

        15. I also question the idea that the alternative to this is “go be physically miserable elsewhere.” I buy that this is the most convenient option for the local government, but my admittedly imperfect insomnia-fueled reading of that article does not reveal to me the suggestion that the only other option for the asylum-seekers is tents.

          In Dresden, for instance, there was a hotel deal until anti-immigrant threats persuaded the hotel-owner to pull out (another strike against the notion that there is no anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany).

          Parks and green spaces are rarely about memorialization of atrocities and honoring the dead, so I’m not sure why you’re mentioning them, and if you think people haven’t made monstrous moral decisions in the name of “utility” you’re deluding yourself.

        16. Look, Ludlow22, I’ve made my position clear; you’ve made

          yours. If you are unable to understand mine, then there’s nothing more I can do for you. It doesn’t really surprise me, given how completely foreign your views on this are to mine. I’m not interested in an academic debate, or reaching some sort of agreement, and if you don’t consider that a good faith discussion, so be it.

          That’s fine, but to be clear, what I didn’t consider good-faith discussion was when you ignored something I said to make up a bigoted position, on my behalf, regarding a controversy I didn’t know about until 10 minutes ago.

          I’ve tried very hard to be respectful, to emphasize that I understood that there my opinions aren’t the only ones, and to avoid attacking you personally. It’s frustrating to feel like you’re manipulating my words, ignoring parts of what I’m saying when it’s inconvenient, and mischaracterizing my beliefs in order to ‘win.’

          Anyways, I’m happy to move on.

        17. Actually, one more thing- my family has lived (mostly) through pogroms too, and within the last two decades (and fifty years, and century, and two centuries). So don’t talk to me like I’m some detached outsider pontificating about matters I have no stake in. We might disagree, but you don’t get to lecture me about tragedy. And you certainly don’t get to lecture me about racism.

          Parks and green spaces are rarely about memorialization of atrocities and honoring the dead, so I’m not sure why you’re mentioning them

          Some of the only parks and green spaces where I live are cemeteries, which is one reason I’d be sorry if they were removed. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

          If you think people haven’t made monstrous moral decisions in the name of “utility” you’re deluding yourself.

          Of course they have. People have done monstrous things in the name of just about any given ethical/moral code. That’s obviously not a reason to abandon ethics entirely. Hell, people have committed horrible crimes in the name of social justice, and we’re still here.

        18. You’re assuming incorrectly that my omission of something you had said was deliberate. I didn’t read every single thing you said in this thread before I wrote what I did. I was speaking from your general position that the fact that something terrible happened in a particular place is no reason not to reuse that place. The logical conclusion of which seemed to me to be that it’s OK to reuse old slave plantations, and it’s OK to reuse not only old SS barracks but also actual barracks where victims were held. Or make a bed-and-breakfast out of an old gas chamber, or anything else one could think of. If that is not in fact your position, I’m sorry. But it seems to me — and I could be wrong — that your problem with the plantations is not that they’re reused at all as hotels or conference centers, but that they’re still called plantations. So that if they called it something else, it would perhaps be OK.

          I’m sure your family has experienced all sorts of things including pogroms (although I’ve never heard the word used before except in the particular context of Jews in Europe); I’m not trying to lecture you. But when it comes to discussions of the Holocaust in particular, I get annoyed fairly easily when people whose families didn’t experience it start questioning how I feel.

        19. I’m sure your family has experienced all sorts of things including pogroms (although I’ve never heard the word used before except in the particular context of Jews in Europe).

          Maybe in western usage. I don’t know a better word. If you’re interested.

          I get annoyed fairly easily when people whose families didn’t experience it start questioning how I feel.

          I understand that, and I genuinely didn’t intend to question how you feel, except in the literal sense of wanting to understand how you felt.

        20. — or claim that the Holocaust was a century ago rather than 70 years, and ascribe that claim to “rounding off,” when in fact it moved what happened from within living memory to outside living memory. If you’re rounding off, why not round it off to a half-century? It was closer. I’m not accusing you of any lack of good faith, but I do think you were changing the facts to support your argument. Which is exactly what you accused me of.

        21. – or claim that the Holocaust was a century ago rather than 70 years, and ascribe that claim to “rounding off,” when in fact it moved what happened from within living memory to outside living memory. If you’re rounding off, why not round it off to a half-century? It was closer. I’m not accusing you of any lack of good faith, but I do think you were changing the facts to support your argument. Which is exactly what you accused me of.

          Just a turn of phrase. You can choose whether or not to believe me, but whether it happened within living memory didn’t even cross my mind as a factor that would influence the moral calculus of this particular decision.

        22. Then let’s tear up all the cemeteries around the world — some of it’s prime land, after all — and build housing developments. Use the old tombstones to build foundations and pave streets. Why not?

          I know there are people on here who can make this argument better than me, so I’ll just say that there are countless US residents living on former Native American burial grounds (not just the ones with poltergeists.)

        23. In Dresden, for instance, there was a hotel deal until anti-immigrant threats persuaded the hotel-owner to pull out (another strike against the notion that there is no anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany).

          Are there people seriously claiming that there is no anti-foreigner sentiment in Germany? It was widely acknowledged as a problem when I was living there some 30-40 years ago, and from what I hear, it’s only gotten worse, especially in the former East Germany.

          A minor nit: it can’t be “anti-immigrant” sentiment, since by public policy Germany doesn’t have immigrants — pretty much the only way to be a German citizen is to be the child of one, and I’ve never heard anyone suggest changing that policy. The current anti-foreigner sentiment focusses on asylum seekers, i.e., refugees. The German government accepts asylum seekers because the German constitution requires them to, but it has no intention of making them feel welcome (let alone become citizens.)

          I can’t help wondering if the idea of putting them in a former SS baracks wasn’t at least unconsciously a way of making it clear to the refugees that nobody wants them in the country.

        24. Yeah, but I would hardly take US treatment of Native American land as a moral model to emulate. Quite the contrary.

          I hope you don’t think I’m implying you were. I just meant that any of the houses that any of us in NYC have lived in could at one time have been ‘burial grounds.’ (I put that in quotes because I’m including aboveground places floor the dead, not to minimize it.)

  6. It sounds to me like pogrom is a good word for what happened to ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, although “pogrom” usually also implies that the government is behind what happened, or at least condones it. I don’t know if there’s any other word that’s applicable.

    1. although “pogrom” usually also implies that the government is behind what happened, or at least condones it.

      The government incited riots against the Chinese on numerous occasions. Most notoriously, the Kostrad (elite special forces) assassinated and kidnapped dozens of student activist leaders, and then blamed (or allowed the blame to fall on) Chinese shopkeepers, which led to some of deadliest weeks of 1998; the head of the Kostrad, Subianto Probawo, sent deputies to organize the rioters and ensure that the violence targeted Chinese businesses instead of ethnically Indonesian businesses. Hundreds of soldiers ‘deserted’ to take part in the killing; this was either explicitly or implicitly condoned by their superiors, at various points.

      And on, and on.

      1. That’s pretty much a classic pogrom, not simply “riots” as Wikipedia described it. I have no problem with expanding the use of the word to other places and ethnicities.

  7. ” How could they possible feel with those echoes all around them?”

    I think they would just be happy to be alive and in a building. Not drowned in the Mediterranean. Not freezing to death in a tent in Lebanon. Not desperately queuing for food and gas in Syria while avoiding slaughter.

    I understand why you’re upset by this, but your insight into the thoughts and feelings of Syrian refugees is a bit off.

    P.S If I recall correctly, this is only the third time there’s been a post referencing events in Syria here, the previous two being about a fake Syrian (Damascus Gay Girl) and Western female journalists

    1. ” How could they possible feel with those echoes all around them?”

      I think they would just be happy to be alive and in a building. Not drowned in the Mediterranean. Not freezing to death in a tent in Lebanon. Not desperately queuing for food and gas in Syria while avoiding slaughter.

      I understand why you’re upset by this, but your insight into the thoughts and feelings of Syrian refugees is a bit off.

      This point is quite prescient and admittedly not what i had thought of.

      While I can see the bitter irony in housing people from a middle eastern country in a place that was built for hardcore supporters of racism. It’s important to consider that appreciation of irony is a luxury that displaced people cannot afford. As the grandson of a Holocaust survivor (and great grandson of two who didn’t survive,) i would prefer to take Donna’s interpretation from above about it being an f-you to Nazis, and I am happy these people have a place to go and are being welcomed by a country that didn’t give my family the same respect.

      1. I wonder. It seems to me that it is not awareness or appreciation of irony or creepiness that is a luxury, but the ability to act on it. If you have no other options, but you do know the history, desperation doesn’t make that knowledge go away. If you didn’t know it to begin with, then you wouldn’t have been aware regardless.

  8. Pressed post too soon.

    So in short: Feministe’s coverage of Syria over four years of conflict: Fake Syrian, Western Journalists in Syria, buildings Syrian refugees might move into.

    You’ve got to be kidding me.

    1. Well, but compared to what? Is there a country outside of the US, where most of the bloggers are located, that Feministe covers particularly well or thoroughly? It seems mostly catch as catch can, to me.

      1. Safiya Outlines
        So in short: Feministe’s coverage of Syria over four years of conflict: Fake Syrian, Western Journalists in Syria, buildings Syrian refugees might move into.

        You’ve got to be kidding me.

        EG
        January 19, 2015 at 12:56 am | Permalink | Reply *
        Well, but compared to what? Is there a country outside of the US, where most of the bloggers are located, that Feministe covers particularly well or thoroughly? It seems mostly catch as catch can, to me.

        I believe you’re both right.

        FWIW, I think a guest (or regular) blogger (or several) from a Muslim country, (or failing that a Muslim writer from a Western country,) would be a positive addition to the discourse on here.

        I understand the reticence of some, due to past issues, but I think Feministe has evolved into a different sort of place. I think it has. I know, as a (secular) Jew, that I feel the commentariat seems more sensitive to Anti-semitism. But I suppose for the real answer I’d have to ask a regular commenter like Ally (or you, if you’ve been steadily reading the comments despite not posting much,) who is a (secular or religious) Muslim if she feels there same way.

        1. Fat Steve, you keep mixing up the quote boxes!

          You realize, of course, that the reason the commentariat is sensitive to anti-Semitism is that the “core commenters” are dominated by Jews like me and EG. (I’m trying to remember the name of the commenter who made that claim a couple of years ago, but can’t. I have a terrible memory for names of former commenters, and for names in general. I’d say it results from my impending old age, but I’ve always had that problem.)

      2. I remember. It was Miss S, shortly after the contretemps with Azalea regarding religiously based opposition to gay marriage, when she, Azalea, made some inaccurate claims about Judaism and got called on them.

    2. I don’t think you can really hold EG responsible for the last four years of Feministe’s coverage on any issue. Until a couple of months ago, she was just another commenter, like you. Since then, she’s posted occasionally. Jill isn’t here anymore, and a number of other bloggers who posted here four years ago aren’t either.

      There have been a number of solicitations for people who might want to blog here, or for recommendations on someone who might want to, with diversity specifically in mind. I think Tigtog has mentioned how reluctant people who’ve been approached seem to be to blog here, apparently because of a widespread perception — based on the way Feministe was a few years ago when things were more active — that the commentariat is vicious to people who blog here. (I remember one notorious thread responding to a post by Maia(?), right around the time I started reading here.)

      If you want to write about Syria, or can think of somebody who might want to, I’m sure tigtog would be very happy to oblige. I think I mentioned a year or so ago that Syria gets almost no attention from the mainstream media — except perhaps fairly recently with Isis, which isn’t specific to Syria — even though I believe that some 200,000 people have died there since the conflict started.

      The same with Nigeria and Boko Haram, really (except during the popularity of the “bring back our girls” hashtag). I posted a link on the Charlie Hebdo thread to an article contrasting the media coverage of Nigeria to that of Paris, but nobody commented on it.

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