The Holocaust Historiography Project


A Legacy of Hate: Anti-Semitism in America

  • by Ernest Volknian, Franklin Watts, 358pp, $16.95, ISBN 0-531-09863X.

reviewed by L. A. Rollins

“Some people go around smelling after anti-Semitism all the time,” wrote George Orwell in a letter to a friend. Orwell then opined that, “More rubbish is written about this subject than any other I can think of.” Ernest Volkman is a “prize-winning journalist” who has dedicated himself to proving the aptness of Orwell’s remarks. For some time, he has gone around smelling after anti-Semitism, and he has written a load of rubbish about it.

This load of rubbish, titled A Legacy of Hate: Anti-Semitism in America, purports to be “a study of the more modern forms of anti-Semitism in this country, the one place in the world where this ancient disease should not have happened, and where it should not be happening.” But what it is, primarily, is an exercise in fear-mongering, an attempt to conjure up the spectre of calamity for American Jews as a possible consequence of a supposed new outbreak of anti-Semitism. And, secondarily, the book is an exercise in smear-mongering, in which numerous individuals, groups, movements and institutions are tarred with Volkman’s mile-wide brush of anti-Semitism.

Volkman’s main theme, not exactly an original one, is that “there is a new anti-Semitism afoot.” But this “new anti-Semitism” is a strange beast. As Volkman puts it, “There are expressions of anti-Semitism, but paradoxically, they are not expressed out of hatred, but because of something even more hateful: simple ignorance.” But, as Volkman also says,

Anti-Semitism, then, is hatred of the Jews as a people. It should be distinguished from anti-Jewish feelings. People who do not like Jews for one reason or another are not necessarily anti-Semites; there is no compelling reason for Jews to be universally liked, any more than Americans, Chinese, Catholics or Buddhists are to be universally liked. Voltaire, that great humanist, plainly did not like Jews (he regarded them as odd and superstitious), but took pains to note that he thought burning Jews at the stake was uncalled for. Anti-Semites, however, progress over that critical step beyond dislike to pathology, hating Jews for being Jews. (p10)

If anti-Semitism is “hatred of the Jews as a people,” then there can be no “expressions of anti-Semitism” that “are not expressed out of hatred.” Thus, Volkman’s “new anti-Semitism” is not antiSemitism at all. Volkman attempts to pass his self-contradiction off as a “paradox.” Rather, it is an example of his inability, or unwillingness, to think straight. (He has a similar problem with getting his facts straight, but more on that anon.)

As I've said, Volkman’s main theme is the rise of a “new anti-Semitism.” There are two varieties of this “new anti-Semitism: “indifferent anti-Semitism” and “casual anti-Semitism". The first of these is the subject of a chapter titled “A Callous Indifference.” Volkman probably took this title from a phrase used in a 1974 book titled, coincidentally, The New Anti-Semitism, an opus perpetrated by Arnold Forster and Benjamin Epstein, who Alfred Lilienthal has aptly dubbed the high priests of the “Anti-Defamation” League’s cult of anti-anti-Semitism. Here is the context in which Forster and Epstein used the phrase:

This book represents an attempt to survey the American domestic and world scenes and properly identify the current sources, modes and extent of anti-Jewish behavior. The task will involve, necessarily, some re-defining of traditional notions of anti-Semitism and serious reorientation of long-held convictions about the nature of its sources. But more important, we propose to examine as well behavior that can only be properly defined as an insensitivity to these problems rather than anti-Semitic either by the definitions that have existed or by new and more inclusive descriptions. It includes, often, a callous indifference to Jewish concerns expressed by respectable institutions and persons here and abroad-people who would be shocked to think themselves, or have others think them, anti-Semites. (p5)

Forster and Epstein did not go so far as to include “a callous indifference to Jewish concerns” within their new (and improved?) definition of “anti-Semitism.” But, in a case of the student surpassing the teacher, Volkman has done just that. With Volkman, “a callous indifference to Jewish concerns” becomes one of the two varieties of “the new anti-Semitism.” This is progress indeed. I can hardly wait for the day to arrive when this ever-expanding concept of “anti-Semitism” will have come to encompass everything under the sun.

In the meantime, Volkman has sniffed out numerous instances of “a callous indifference.” The Reagan administration, it seems, was guilty of “a callous indifference” in nominating Warren Richardson to the post of assistant secretary for legislation of the Department of Health and Human Services, because Richardson, from 1969 to 1973, had been general counsel and chief lobbyist for Liberty Lobby, “one of the more notorious anti-Semitic organizations in the country.” Volkman rhetorically asks, “[H]ow was it possible for an administration to nominate for a high-ranking domestic policy post, a man who at the very least had served an avowedly anti-Semitic organization?” But, elsewhere in the book, he mentions Liberty Lobby’s “recent assertion that it is 'not anti-Semitic, only anti-Zionist.'” Thus, Liberty Lobby is not an avowedly anti-Semitic organization, and Volkman knows it.

In any case, it was Richardson who was nominated, not the Liberty Lobby. And, even assuming the Liberty Lobby is anti-Semitic, that does not necessarily mean that Richardson is anti-Semitic (unless, of course, one believes in guilt by association), and Volkman’s evidence of Richardson’s alleged anti-Semitism is tenuous at best. It consists of two items: (1) an article by Richardson critical of American Middle East policy which concluded, “Liberty Lobby will not tag along with the cowards who would rather countenance another national disaster than brave the screams of the pro-Zionist 'free press' in America,” and (2) a joint interview Richardson gave with Curtis Dall, then head of the Libery Lobby, in 1970, during which Richardson referred to “the international money order.” But, if this is enough to convict a man of anti-Semitism, then my name is Isadore Lipschitz. The article on Middle East policy, even assuming Richardson wrote the above-quoted conclusion, which he denies, is evidence only of anti-Zionism, not anti-Semitism. Volkman treats anti-Zionism as a manifestation of “the new anti-Semitism,” but, as I've already pointed out, “the new anti-Semitism” is not anti-Semitism. As for Richardson’s reference to “the international money order,” taken out of context it is not proof of much of anything (what did Richardson say about “the international money order?"), let alone proof of antiSemitism. Volkman claims that the phrase is “an old right-wing code word for Jews, by which is meant 'international Jewish money.' “ Of course, one can convict a person of anything by putting the necessary incriminating words in their mouth. But Robert Anton Wilson, in an interview given to Conspiracy Digest and reprinted in his book The Illuminati Papers, makes some relevant comments about a similar matter:

… it has been impossible to talk about bankers' conspiracies since the 1930s without most of your audience thinking you are a Nazi or, or least, an anti-Semite. This is what is called a conditioned association, or uncritical inference, and, however illogical it is, it is very widespread. I've been attacking the bankers since about 1962, and I never stop getting mail from two groups of idiots: Jewish idiots who think I'm secretly an anti-Semite, and are angry at me for it; and anti-Semitic idiots who also think I'm a secret anti-Semite, and are glad to welcome me to their loathsome club.

I don’t know if Volkman is a Jewish idiot, but he is, in any case, an anti-anti-Semitic idiot.

Most of Volkman’s examples of “callous indifference” are episodes in which the U.S. government has failed to act as a running dog lackey of the Zionist State of Israel. He is willing to go to ridiculous lengths to condemn the Carter administration for insufficient zeal in defending Israel. During the Carter administration, says Volkman, “the Americans sat on their hands while a series of events took place that should have aroused the strongest U.S. protest.” Such as? One such “incident took place at the June 1980 meeting of the Organization of African Unity, when Israel was referred to in the group’s official documents merely as 'the Zionist entity.'” Oh, dear! How horrendous! But, pray tell, why should the U.S. government jump up and down, pull out its hair and scream “No! No! No!” because some other governments refer to Israel as “the Zionist entity?”

According to Volkman, the second variety of “the new anti-Semitism” is what he calls “casual anti-Semitism.” Let’s see how he derives this pseudo-concept. He begins by noting that the results of recent public opinion surveys suggest that anti-Semitism is declining. But, he asks,

if anti-Semitism is supposedly disappearing, why are there so many instances of open expression of anti-Semitism? Because it is what we might call casual anti-Semitism, a new form that is most often expressed by people who claim no animosity toward Jews. For the most part they're telling the truth; whether they are making such statements in the name of “truth” or “objectivity” or “realism” or “historical fact,” they very seldom have malicious intent. (pp82-83)

Thus spake Volkman. But, irony of ironies, Volkman’s own words can be quoted to question the meaningfulness of this pseudo-concept of “casual anti-Semitism.” In a chapter on the history of anti-Semitism in America, Volkman reports that historian Oscar Handlin “went so far as to claim that anti-Semitism in this country did not really begin until the early part of this century, and that any anti-Semitic incidents before then were 'without malicious intent' (whatever that means).” But, if, as Volkman is snidely suggesting, it is meaningless for Handlin to write about anti-Semitic incidents “without malicious intent,” then it is likewise meaningless for Volkman to write about expressions of anti-Semitism by people who “very seldom have malicious intent.” Nevertheless, Volkman devotes an entire chapter of this book to doing just that.

Volkman says that “casual anti-Semitism is expressed out of ignorance or because there is simply no awareness that such a statement might be considered in the least anti-Semitic.” So “casual anti-Semitism” is, in some cases, expressed out of ignorance. But Volkman’s prime example of “casual anti-Semitism” is revisionism regarding “the Holocaust,” a subject about which his own ignorance is such that, he is obviously incompetent to judge anyone else’s knowledgeability about the subject. As for Volkman’s statement that “casual anti-Semitism” is sometimes expressed “because there is simply no awareness that such a statement might be considered in the least anti-Semitic,” this seems to imply that it is “casual anti-Semitism” to make any statement that “might be considered” anti-Semitic. But, with anti-anti-Semitic bloodhounds like Volkman on the prowl, any statement that is in the least critical of Israel, Zionism, Organized Jewry, the American Jewish Lobby, “Holocaust” historiography, individual Jews, etc., might be considered anti-Semitic whether or not it really is. In effect, Volkman is saying: Keep your mouth shut. Don’t you dare criticize Israel, Zionism, Organized Jewry, the American Jewish Lobby, “Holocaust” historiography, individuals Jews, etc., or he'll accuse you of “casual anti-Semitism.” What Volkman is trying to pull is a variation of what the late novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand called “The Argument from Intimidation,” which, as she explained,

is not an argument, but a means of forestalling debate and extorting an opponent’s agreement with one’s undiscussed notions. It is a method of by-passing logic by means of psychological pressure.

… the psychological pressure method consists of threatening to impeach an opponent’s character by means of his argument, thus impeaching the argument without debate.

The essential characteristic of the Argument from Intimidation is its appeal to moral self-doubt and its reliance on the fear, guilt or ignorance of the victim. It is used in the form of an ultimatum demanding that the victim renounce a given idea without discussion, under threat of being considered morally unworthy. The pattern is always: “Only those who are evil (dishonest, heartless, insensitive, ignorant, etc.) can hold such an idea.”

In Volkman’s case, the “Argument from Intimidation” takes this form: Only those who are anti-Semitic, as least, “casually” so, can hold such an idea. Rand observed that, “The Argument from Intimidation is a confession of intellectual impotence.” Volkman’s performance confirms that.

As I've said, Volkman’s primary example of “casual anti-Semitism” is “Holocaust Revisionism,” or, as he puts it, “the disturbing attempt to disprove one of the touchstones of modern Jewry, the Holocaust.” True to the method of “the Argument from Intimidation,” Volkman makes no attempt to come to grips with and rebut the arguments of the “Holocaust Revisionists.” Instead, he labels (libels?) “Holocaust Revisionism” as “casual anti-Semitism” and then presents an incredibly distorted, error-ridden version of the history of “Holocaust Revisionism,” throwing in some choice invective along the way ("insanity,” “hopelessly muddleheaded,” “this poison … evil works,” etc.).

According to Volkman, Paul Rassinier “had been imprisoned at Buchenwald, an experience which somehow led him to conclude that no atrocities went on in Nazi concentration camps, and if any Jews were killed, they were murdered by Jewish Kapos (camp trustees).” But, in fact, Rassinier, who was imprisoned at Buchenwald, never asserted that no atrocities went on in the Nazi concentration camps. And if one consults Lucy Dawidowicz’s “Lies About the Holocaust,” Commentary, December, 1980, which is Volkman’s source of information about Rassinier, one finds a rather different, and more accurate, characterization of what Rassinier concluded. As Dawidowicz puts it, Rassinier concluded that “the atrocities committed in the Nazi camps had been greatly exaggerated by the survivors.” Volkman has somehow managed to get the facts wrong, even though his source got them right. This is a prize-winning journalist? In any case, Volkman is also wrong in claiming Rassinier concluded that “if any Jews were killed, they were murdered by Jewish Kapos (camp trustees).” This is, in fact, a distortion of something Rassinier wrote about Buchenwald. (See Debunking the Genocide Myth, p127.)

The S.S. no longer had any need to hit men, since those to whom they delegated their power did the hitting better; nor to steal, since their minions stole better and the benefits were the same; nor to kill slowly to make order respected, because others did that for them, and order in the camp was all the more perfect for it.

As you can see, Rassinier did not specify Jewish prisoners or Jewish Kapos. Volkman, has once again managed to get the facts wrong. But this time he did so by accurately repeating an inaccurate statement by Lucy Dawidowicz.

According to Volkman, Arthur Butz, in The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, “included what he considered to be incontrovertible evidence that all the Jews who were supposed to have died [during “the Holocaust"] were in fact still alive, carefully hidden from view.” That Butz did not assert this can be verified by consulting page 239 of his book, where he states that, “The Jews of Europe suffered during the war by being deported to the East, by having had much of their property confiscated and, more importantly, by suffering cruelly in the circumstances surrounding Germany’s defeat. They may even have lost a million dead.” This is another instance in which Volkman got his facts wrong by parroting Lucy Dawidowicz. Of course, he might have avoided this error if he had taken the trouble to read the Butz book rather than relying on a second-hand description from a biased, hostile source. But no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o! Not this prize-winning journalist.

Not this self-righteous hypocrite, who even has the chutzpah to condemn Northwestern University for defending Butz’s academic freedom, because — now get this — “it did not seem to occur to Northwestern that equally cherished standards of academia were being trampled in the process, including truth, research and facts.” “Truth, research and facts?” Let’s examine some further evidences of Volkman’s concern for “truth, research and facts.”

According to Volkman, “Anne Frank died in the Nazi gas chambers for the crime of being Jewish… “ But Ernst Schnabel, who researched the fate of Anne Frank for his book, Anne Frank: A Portrait in Courage, found that she and her family were deported to Auschwitz, from which she and her sister were transferred to Belsen, where they both died of typus. Schnabel’s findings about Anne Frank’s fate are summarized in the commonlyavailable paperback editions of what purports to be her diary. Volkman says that the diary “remains one of the great documents of humanity.” But has he actually read it?

Concluding a plea for more extensive treatment of Jewish history, and especially “the Holocaust,” in high-school and college textbooks, in order to eradicate the “appalling ignorance” about such matters, Volkman invokes “the memory of the famous historian Simon Dubonow [sic] who, as the Nazis took him from the Riga ghetto in 1941 to be gassed at Buchenwald, called out: 'Brothers! Write down everything you see and hear. Keep a record of it all!' “

Volkman cites The Holocaust and the Historians by Lucy Dawidowicz as his source of information about Dubnow. But here is Dawidowicz’s version of this incident:

In December 1941, when the German police entered the Riga Ghetto to round up the old and sick Jews, Simon Dubnow, the venerable Jewish historian, was said to have called out as he was being taken away: “Brothers, write down everything you see and hear. Keep a record of it all. (p125)

Notice that Volkman took the liberty of adding two exclamation points to the Dubnow quotation. Notice also that in Dawidowicz’s version Dubnow “was said to have called out,” but in Volkman’s version Dubnow “called out.” But, most importantly, notice that Dawidowicz said nothing about Dubnow being taken “to be gassed at Buchenwald.” So why, then, does Volkman say Dubnow was taken “to be gassed at Buchenwald,” where there never was a gas chamber? The explanation undoubtedly lies in Volkman’s dedication to “truth, research and facts.”

Volkman’s dedication to “truth, research and facts” also shows up in his handling of a speech made by Charles Lindbergh on 11 September 1941, in which Lindbergh, an opponent of American intervention in the war in Europe, said, “The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish, and the Roosevelt administration. “ Volkman responds that “many influential Jews were in fact isolationists,” even though Volkman’s source, The Warhawks, by Mark Lincoln Chadwin, concedes that “many influential Jews were interventionists.” (Italics in original.) Volkman is so coneprned about “truth, research and facts,” that he substitutes the word “isolationists” for “interventionists” to create a non-fact with which to rebut Lindbergh.

Volkman’s concern for “truth, research and facts” is manifest throughout A Legacy of Hate, and there are many examples of that concern that I will not mention specifically. Suffice it to say that Volkman’s dedication to “truth, research and facts” is such that one should never take his word for anything.

In his search for anti-Semitism, Volkman covers a lot of ground, and the list of those he indicts on this charge is a long one. The culprits include: George, Ball (the advocate of a tougher U.S. policy with respect to Israel and critic of the American Jewish lobby who, interestingly enough, works for the investment banking house of Lehman Brothers, Kuhn Loeb), Paul McCloskey, James Abourezk, both Time and Newsweek magazines, the Hilton hotel chain, the Sixty Minutes television program, David Irving, Truman Capote, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Jerry Falwell, the National Council of Churches, Daniel Berrigan, Mobil Oil and-hold onto your hats-the Anne Frank Foundation!

Volkman discusses anti-Zionism in a chapter titled “Anti-Zionism: The Easy Disguise.” Here he dogmatically spouts the Zionist line and makes unsubstantiated, inaccurate generalizations about anti-Zionism and anti-Zionists. According to Volkman, “a reading of the vast literature produced by anti-Zionists is persuasive that anti-Zionism is certainly motivated by anti-Semitism, and there is not much point in trying to claim (as many do) that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are two very different things.” But if Volkman has actually read “the vast literature produced by anti-Zionists, “ then I'll eat my yarmulka. None of this literature, is included in Volkman’s bibliography and there is nothing in his text to indicate any familiarity with it. If Volkman had read the anti-Zionist literature, he might have known that the anti-Zionists include Alfred Lilienthal, Moshe Menuhin, Rabbi Elmer Berger, Murray Rothbard, Rabbi Moshe Schonfeld, and Uri Avneri, and he might have thought twice about equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism (while vehemently denouncing those who equate Zionism with racism).

At one point, Volkman writes that “it is possible to tell the history of Judaism by simply reciting one long dirge of anti-Semitism.” Possible, yes. But, truthful? To tell the history of Judaism as one long dirge of anti-Semitism is to practice what Salo W. Baron called the “lachrymose” presentation of Jewish history. In this version, Jewish history is a history of suffering, persecution and martyrdom at the hands of hate-ridden Gentiles. Or, in other words, the Jew is the eternal victim, and, furthermore, never a victimizer. Of course, there are problems with this view. On the one hand, it has to ignore or minimize the various “Golden Ages” that Jews have enjoyed during their history, for example, their five-century-long “Golden Age” in Moslem-ruled Spain. On the other hand, it has to ignore or minimize such things as the Hebrew conquest of Canaan, the forced conversion to Judaism of the Idumeans under John Hyrcanus, Jewish persecution of the early Christians (considered blasphemers for deifying a man), the prominent role of Jews in the slave trade during the early Middle Ages, etc. In line with this one-sided, lachrymose view of Jewish history, Volkman blithely dismisses the victimization of Palestinian Arabs at the hands of Zionist/Israeli Jews. “However much anyone wants to believe that the Palestinians' plight is cause for some concern, it obviously bears no resemblance to the very real plights of the Cambodian refugees, the Vietnamese boat people, the Soviet Jews and the many victims of the torture chambers of Latin America.” Thus, while the Soviet Jews' plight is a very real plight, the plight of the Palestinians is no cause for concern. How’s that for bias and insensitivity?

And this is not the only manifestation of Volkman’s one-sided view of Jewish-Gentile relations. Another is Volkman’s abrupt dismissal of the claim that “classical Jewish texts were violently anti-Christian” as a manifestation of “anti-Semitism” while he himself claims that classical Christian texts are anti-Semitic. Is Volkman’s reference to “the scriptural anti-Semitism” of Gospel accounts of the trial of Jesus a manifestation of anti-Christian prejudice? If not, then why is the claim that classical Jewish texts were violently anti-Christian necessarily a manifestation of anti-Semitism? I suggest that Volkman open up Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (which he lists in his bibliography) and read the preface to Part One, “Anti-Semitism.” There he can find Arendt writing that

it was Jewish historiography, with its strong polemical and apologetic bias, that undertook to trace the record of Jew-hatred in Christian history while it was left to the anti-Semites to trace an intellectually not too dissimilar record from ancient Jewish authorities. When this Jewish tradition of an often violent antagonism to Christians and Gentiles came to light, “the general Jewish public was not only outraged but genuinely astonished,” so well had its spokesmen, succeeded in convincing themselves and everybody else of the non-fact that Jewish separateness was due exclusively to Gentile hostility and lack of enlightenment.

In short, classical Jewish texts (some of them anyway) were violently anti-Christian, just as some classical Christian texts were anti-Jewish.

Volkman seems almost oblivious to the reality that anti-Semitism is but one side of a coin, the other side of which is anti-Gentilism. But let him consider the following statement, made by a George Mysels of Hollywood in a letter printed in The Los Angeles Herald Examiner of 4 January 1982: “I am not lighting a candle for the Polish people because nobody ever lit candles for the millions of Jews who have been murdered by the Poles since Polish history began.” Millions of Jews murdered by the Poles? How’s that for a “blood libel"? That Mr. Mysels is not simply anti-Polish, but anti-Gentile, is confirmed by a letter printed in the same newspaper the very next day in which he wrote that, “The only friends of Jews are other Jews and a number of apparent Gentiles who are aware of the existence of a least one Jew in their lineage.” And let Volkman consider this item from The Los Angeles Times of Monday, 11 October 1982:

TEL AVIV (AP)-Police investigating the fire that destroyed Jerusalem’s Baptist church have detained two suspects, Israel radio said Sunday.

The radio said the suspects are Jews, one of them a foreigner. There was no immediate police comment on the radio report.

One can’t help but wonder if this church-burning was the work of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach ("Thus") movement. It was a member of Kahane’s movement who was recently convicted of plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock shrine, the mosque at Islam’s third holiest site. And it was the Kach movement which, according to The Los Angeles Times of 25 October 1982, printed a poster “describing the massacre of Palestinians in Beirut as divine retribution for the past murders of Jews” and saying, “ 'What we ourselves should have done was done by others.' “ Contrary to the image Volkman seeks to create, hatred in Gentile-Jewish relations is not a one-way street; it travels in both directions.

A Legacy of Hate is an awesomely bad book. Amusingly enough, one of Volkman’s mentors, Lucy Dawidowicz, in the October, 1982 Commentary, calls it “a shoddy book” which “tries to exploit the ripple of anti-Semitic incidents by sounding a general alarm in a chapter called, of all things, 'Kristallnacht.' “ And, says Dawidowicz, “Stretching evidence is only one of this book’s flaws.” True. It has lots of other flaws, including factual inaccuracies, unsupported assertions, incoherent arguments, specious reasoning, and internal contradictions. Shoddy indeed. But, then, what do you expect from a prize-winning journalist?