SSC professor aims to debunk myths about Holocaust in book

SSC professor aims to debunk myths about Holocaust in book
By Jack Butterworth
Monday, April 19, 2004

PEABODY — Salem State College History Professor Christopher Mauriello
had a warning for those attending the Holocaust Center Boston North’s
annual Holocaust commemoration ceremony Sunday afternoon, especially
the 14 local survivors of the persecution and murder of 6 million Jews
that occurred from 1933-1945, which he called “one of the most
important moments in history.”

The survivors sat in the front center rows of the Peabody
Veterans Memorial High auditorium during the 90-minute ceremony, which
also included remarks by center President Robert McAndrews, Mayor
Michael Bonfanti and Jewish Federation of the North Shore officer
Merritt Mulman, music by the Gordon College Women’s choir and Shir
Shalom Children’s Choir, an interfaith service led by the Rev. Louise
Mann of Swamspcott, Rabbi Ilana Rosansky of Salem, Cantor Sam
Pessaroff of Peabody and Holocaust survivor Sonia Schreiber Weitz and
Harriet Wacks’ presentation of the Holocaust Center Service Award to
Sandy Weitz, center clerk and daughter of Sonia Weitz.

A large art display in the high school lobby included the work of
students and Peabody artist Apo Torosyan, whose relatives were caught
up in the Armenian Genocide and who presented his display, “My Story,
Everybody’s Story.”

Mauriello, who has a book in progress called “Nazi Myths,” said
the Holocaust is undergoing in-depth study by historians – not the
revisionists who deny the Holocaust ever happened, whom he dismissed
with a wave of his hand – but by researchers whose findings may force
the survivors and their families to let go of some of the feelings and
memories they carry.

“There is anxiety about this,” he admitted, “but historians have
to insist on accuracy in place of myths and misconceptions.” He said
his talk and the myths he plans to bring forward are based on
“consensus among historians” – in fact, he has asked German historians
to review a draft of his book for accuracy.

He offered four popular myths about the Holocaust, which he has
heard from students taking his course on the subject over the past
seven years: Adolf Hitler and the Nazis invented anti-Semitism and
brainwashed Germany with anti-Semitic propaganda; Hitler and the Nazis
were dominated by the notion of a Master Race; Hitler’s evil
imagination created the blueprint for the Holocaust; the Holocaust was
run by a ruthless, technocratic, centralized Nazi regime.

In fact, Mauriello told his audience, anti-Semitism has long,
deep roots in Europe, with spikes in persecution when there were
plagues, wars or other social strife. From 1933-1939 the Nazis were
careful not to alienate their political allies, the Conservatives, in
a Germany where Jews were as integrated as any in Europe. “It wasn’t
until the invasion of Poland that war made racial cleansing possible,”
he said.

As for the Master Race, Mauriello said a pseudo-science of racial
purity called Eugenics swept America as well as Europe in the early
20th Century, when county fairs gave prizes to families whose blond
hair and white skin denoted a high rate of racial purity.

Furthermore, there was no blueprint for the Holocaust, which
evolved from 1933-1939 as the Nazis grew more opportunistic. Poland
became a laboratory for racial cleansing as the Nazis tried
deportation, then ghettoization and finally racial cleansing.

Instead of a ruthless centralized regime, Hitler issued vague
orders and his bureaucrats, eager for status, credibility, promotions
and pay raises, competed to find innovative ways of making those
orders happen.

“There is no smoking gun linking Hitler to genocide,” Mauriello
said, but he didn’t let the lack of an arch-villain give his audience
any peace. “This can happen again.”

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