Wednesday, April 13, 2005
But first, some background.
Such research as I've done into the Holocaust - or more particularly, into holocaust denial - has left me with little patience for people who don't want to talk about it. There are still lessons to be learned, and these days we seem to be mostly forgetting.
I'm aware that other, less charismatic genocides don't get as much press time. That's not a reason to stop talking about this one. I'm aware that lots of people who weren't Jewish died in the Holocaust. That's not a reason to stop talking about the Jewish dead.
I'll also take this opportunity to encourage the letter-to-the-editor-writers that I'm sure avidly read this blog to learn to differentiate a the various Jewish organisations from each other and also actual Jewish people. And, if you're getting the hang of that, from Israel.
And that there are people living in this country who lost their families and/or nearly died themselves. I can accept both that Tamihere didn't expect his comments to be made public and that this one was peripheral to what he was talking about. Not a great excuse, but a lot of the people coming out of the woodwork don't even have that.
Perhaps the only silver lining in the whole affair is that, in the process of semi-coherently supporting Tamihere, Kyle Chapman acknowledged the reality of the Holocaust. I'd been wondering.
What I took the guy from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre to be getting at - and I agree - is that political leaders need to know about the Holocaust in much the same way that space flight engineers should be interested in what happened to Challenger.
I'm not entirely sure it's a hanging offense in and of itself, though. If willful ignorance of important matters disqualified a candidate from parliament, we'd have trouble filling all those seats. It's just nasty and stupid, much like everything else he said.
The rhetorical question I have in mind arises from the way Tamihere's turn of phrase seems, like a biased survey question, to have set the terms of the whole debate. I refer to the guilt thing.
As it happens, the Allies do have some blood on their hands, both from refusing refugees early in the piece and, depending on your morals, not bombing the death camps out of operation as soon as they could. That's not what I'm talking about, though.
So here it is: when someone tells him how many Jews died in the gas chambers, why in the name of all that's holy does he think he's being made to feel guilty?