The Holocaust Historiography Project

Book review

The Other Holocaust: Many Circles of Hell

  • The Other Holocaust: Many Circles Of Hell, by Bohdan Wytwycky, Novak, 1980, 918 F Street NW #410, Washington, DC 20004, 96pp, paperback. ISBN: 9991651950.
Reviewed by Lewis Brandon

The inevitable has happened. Exterminationist circles are viciously divided as to “whose Holocaust is it anyway?” This Ukrainian author has sought to hitch a ride on the Holocaust gravy-train, by addressing the issue of the 9-10 million (or as some say, 5 million) “Others” who perished along with the magical six million Jews. The reaction has been polarized. Rabbi Seymour Siegel of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America says that “There is a brotherhood of suffering. Dr. Wytwycky's work helps create that brotherhood.” Professor Jacob Neusner of Brown University enthuses: “I certainly endorse this document, which is objective and factual, and which deserves the widest circulation.” Michael Berenbaum, Head Holocauster at the President's Commission on the Holocaust (see book review on pages 174-177 of our Summer 1980 issue) is not so sure as to the ideologically correct line to take. He agrees that “Wytwycky has begun a critically important task” but that he has some “philosophical and methodological reservations” about the book. The main reservation he has is that he would have liked “to have seen his keen intellect probe the critical and unavoidable question of the collaboration with the Nazis of the other victims of their oppression in murdering Jews, sharing with their enemy the most central goal — the extermination of the Jewish people.” Such is the paranoid world of the professional Exterminationist that he identifies the non-Jewish exterminatees as exterminators.

Indeed, Berenbaum's Holocaust Commission, under the guruship of survivor extraordinaire Elie Wiesel, has exhibited a considerable amount of anxiety on this vexed question. (Maybe these were the “nocturnal obesssions and complexes” that Wiesel refers to in his revealing introduction to his Report?) The commission gnashed its collective teeth over whether or not all those “Others” should be included in any Holocaust memorializing. They lurched this way and that way, endeavoring to placate all those “Others” who sought to elevate themselves to the same pinnacle of aloofness from criticism which is enjoyed by the Tiny Remnant of Jewish survivors. (Not least among these “Others” was, of course, the unsavory collection of Negro child-molestors and renegade Poles who had been co-opted onto the Commission as “window dressing” to make it appear that it was not a totally Jewish operation.)

The slightest move by the Commission to memorialize the “Others” brought down condemnation and rebuke from the lofty towers of Jewish academia. The most vitriolic attack on this Holocaust universalizing came from Prof. Yehuda Bauer, writing in the Chicago Sentinel of May 1980 and the Australian Jewish News of 18 April 1980:

In this [President Carter's] most disturbing statement, the Holocaust is re-defined to include the sum total of all the atrocities committed by the Nazis … The Holocaust in this view is no longer a unique historical event … but a hold-all term for “the inhumanity of man to man,” and similar generalizations. Not only were the six million Jews murdered by their enemies; they now stand in danger of having their unique martyrdom obliterated by their friends.

Jews … were killed for the crime of being born. Their destruction was a sacral act. Even the method of their murder after 1941 — gassing — was different: only a few thousand gypsies and a smaller number of Soviet prisoners of war shared the fate of millions of Jews. The place of the Jews in the Nazi world was unique, and was related to the unique history of the Jewish people and their historical relationship to the non-Jewish world.

The fact that a U.S. administration must necessarily be under political pressure from the many groups that make up the American nation who now, paradoxically, appear to envy the Jews “their” Holocaust, is tragic, or infuriating, or sad.

Bauer's essay was also quoted at length in the Baltimore News American of 11 May 1980, by Gary Rosenblatt, editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times. Rosenblatt anguished over the construction of Baltimore's own Holocaust Memorial at the Inner Harbor, worrying whether or not it should refer to “Others.” He noted that many Baltimore Jewish groups felt that a universalized inscription would be “watered down” and “trivialized” if it were to include all who died. Such, it seems, is the arrogance of the Tiny Remnant, that the alleged deaths of 9-10 million people (or as some say, 5 million) are “trivia” compared to the alleged deaths of six million (or as Raul Hilberg says, 5.4 million; or as Gerald Reitlinger says, 4.6 million) just because they do not happen to be of the Jewish faith!

Happily for Bohdan Wytwycky, such conflicts between “unique, sacral acts” on the one hand, and “trivial, universalized” grab bags of in humanitarianism on the other, are transmitted at an altitude far above his helotic sandbox.

It is virtually impossible to provide a critique of the content of his book, because it presents so very little information. Most of the text is editorializing and unreferenced ad hominem arguments. The few references there are, are hilarious in their feeble attempt to appear academic. Not only are we referred to the communist-written faked confessions of Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz; the publishers cannot even get his first name right! (He is referred to as Karl instead of Rudolf.)

Later, on page 49, we are referred to the memoirs of a Pole who “miraculously survived” for four years at various camps, despite “the average life expectancy” being “about three weeks."

Probably the most telling paragraph in the entire book is on page 52, where the author cites as a source (apparently the only one) for his “10 million” victims, not the German Einsatzgruppen records, not the German concentration camp records, not even Polish or Soviet communist historians, but … the New York Saturday Evening Post, 27 January 1945! Perhaps Mr. Wytwycky would have been better off peddling his manuscript on Madison Avenue; it would have been much more suited there than among the ivyed cloisters of our seats of learning.

From The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1980 (Vol. 1, No. 4), page 378.