Subcontractors of Guilt: Holocaust Memory & Muslim Belonging in Postwar Germany,
by Esra Ozyurek. 2023
Reviewed by Jan Peczkis
This book is about postwar Islamic Germans, and about how they are being indoctrinated about the Holocaust, as if their ancestors were responsible for it. I relate this to broader issues, notably to comparable issues that affect the Poles.
Ozyurek writes, “Burak defines the ultimate aim of the Muslims in Auschwitz project: to persuade Muslims to empathize with Jews and their victimhood, with empathy as both the goal and the solution to their problems.” (p. 136). Of course, there is no clarion call for teaching ethnic Germans, let alone newcomer Muslim Germans, any sort of empathy towards Poles and their victimhood at the hands of the Third Reich.
HOLOCAUST EDUCATION SLIGHTS ALL NON-JEWISH SUFFERING: MUSLIMS ARE NOT FOOLED
Author Ozyurek comments, “Mehmet, a Germany history teacher of Turkish background, worked in a Holocaust education program for immigrants. He told me that some students don’t want to talk about the Jews’ suffering ‘because according to them, it was always about the Jews, and no one cares about them.’” (p. 103). Exactly right.
She reinforces this, “A more common reaction I observed in relation to Holocaust memory among second- and third-generation Muslim Germans was a sense of unfairness because discrimination toward Muslims in Germany and around the world goes unrecognized.” (p. 112). Some people are more equal than others.
Furthermore, “The Middle Eastern/Muslim minority is poignantly aware that despite all the work to ensure that they empathize with the Jewish victims, they themselves are not allowed to demand any empathy.” (p. 104). And neither are Poles. Only Jews matter.
INSTILLING HOLOCAUST GUILT: IN POSTWAR GERMANS, IN ISLAMIC IMMIGRANTS (AND OF COURSE, IN POLES)
Ozyurek makes these revealing statements, “New Holocaust education programs designed especially for and often by Muslims open up space for immigrants to enter into Holocaust memory discourse through affiliation with the German perpetrator [!]…All of this emotional and intellectual hard work of taking the guilt and responsibility of the Holocaust on their shoulders [!] gives participants of Muslims in Auschwitz partial and exclusionary entry into what I call the postwar German social contract.” (p. 157. Emphasis added). Of course, there is no “German social contract” for German citizens to address, much less rectify, the Nazi German crimes against Poles.
The author adds, “Because Arabs and Turks have yet to atone for their contribution to the Holocaust, this narrative paints Arab-background and to some extent Turkish-background, nationals as morally inferior to repentant white Germans.” (p. 20. Emphasis added).
The foregoing statements are very revealing. According to standard messaging, the Germans alone did not do the Holocaust: The non-German goyim “have to” atone for their contribution to the Holocaust. Says who? Clearly, Holocaust education is, and has always been, about instilling Holocaust guilt, and to spread this guilt around. This is what Poles have long called the pedagogika wstydu (pedagogy of shame). BTW, no other genocide enjoys this privilege. No one, for instance, suggests that non-Turks must accept their share of guilt for the Armenian genocide. And, of course, Jews are never ever told, much less compelled, to feel guilty for their crimes against others.
Guilt for the Holocaust is transferred not only to successive generations of ethnic Germans, but also to relatively new Muslim immigrants that have become German citizens. Author Ozyurek recognizes the fact that, for many ethnic Germans, the inculcation of Holocaust guilt in local Muslims is a clever and convenient way to offload their own guilt:
“Designed to make good on Germany’s promise to safeguard the memory of National Socialism and the Holocaust, Muslim-only education programs externalize antisemitism onto racialized and migrantized groups who have been living in Germany for generations, thus subcontracting part of the guilt unto them. By doing it so allows white Germans to move on, but not away, from their seventy-five-year-old guilt, to enjoy a more anodyne German nationalism, and to congratulate themselves for their continuous investment in fighting against antisemitism in Germany and around the world. (p. 21. Emphasis added. Whence the title of this book.)
Not mentioned is the fact that this Holocaust guilt is also transferred by Jews and Germans to Poles. What’s more, as shown above, Germany is made into a contrived model of repentance so that other nations, such as Poland, can be attacked more effectively (e. g, “Since Germans have repented, why won’t Poles?”).
Guess who promotes this entire guilt-peddling setup, and guess who benefits from it.
FORCING HOLOCAUST SUPREMACIST AND ISRAEL-CENTERED NARRATIVES ON OTHERS
If you think that Holocaust education is just an innocent little device for “promoting tolerance”, as we are incessantly told, think again. Ozyurek comments, “The desire to separate antisemitism from Islamophobia and any other racism began intensifying again in 2019 when the political atmosphere changed. The constitutional resolution declared the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement to hold Israel accountable under international law to be anti-Semitic. In the years preceding this political watershed, Germany witnessed a number of high-profile cases in which Arab-, Turkish-, African–, and Jewish-background Germans and non-Germans, a significant number of them women, were accused of antisemitism or of promoting anti-Semitic sentiments simply for having emphasized or stood against Islamophobia (Dekel and Ozyurek 2020). These prominent scholars, experts, and cultural figures were uniformly denounced because of their nonadherence to the exceptionalist rules of Holocaust memory: they espoused neither the singularity of the Holocaust as distinct from other genocides nor the singularity of antisemitism as distinct from other forms of racism.” (p. 80. Emphasis added).
So there you have it. This is what Holocaust education is all about. It is all about instilling Holocaust guilt. It is all about indoctrinating the idea that Israel is right, and that the Holocaust is special and above all other genocides. Better yet, we are supposed to believe that antisemitism is essentially different from, and worse, than any other form of prejudice. (Ironically, this itself is a form of prejudice). The benefits to Jews never end.