Magazine article Tikkun

...A Debate: Daniel Goldhagen Responds to Browning

Magazine article Tikkun

...A Debate: Daniel Goldhagen Responds to Browning

Article excerpt

... A Debate: Daniel Goldhagen Responds to Browning

Christopher Browning diverts attention from the general issues of my article--about method, explanation, and future research--with rampant misrepresentations and spurious charges to put forward the Panglossian position that the study of the Holocaust has been the best of all possible worlds.

Despite the insistent self-focus of his long letter (when my article barely mentions him) Browning is silent on my article's single empirical challenge to him: why he relied on only the perpetrators' testimony in constructing his analysis of Police Battalion 101's killing operations in Miedzyrzec, ignoring published survivor testimony which belies his account of the Germans' cruelty. Anyone familiar with the victims' testimony knows that the perpetrators were cruel not, as Browning imagines, mainly for pragmatic reasons. Their testimony (Browning's selective use of it here notwithstanding), as well as much other evidence, disproves his bizarre contention in Ordinary Men that the German perpetrators were overwhelmingly reluctant, disapproving killers, which, comparatively, would make them the only such perpetrators of genocide of our century! Despite responding obsessively to me, Browning refuses to address the critical issue of the perpetrators' gleeful torturing in Miedzyrzec or the comparative issue.

Instead, Browning is rewriting his untenable, longstanding positions, including on victims' testimony and on anti-Semitism, which is at best marginal in his book's analysis. The lengths to which Browning is now going to conceal that work's true nature can be seen in his 1992 methodological treatise "German Memory, Judicial Interrogation, and Historical Reconstruction: Writing Perpetrator History from Postwar Testimony":

But Reserve Police Battalion 101 was itinerant. Its units moved from town to town, killing Jews or driving them out of the ghettos and onto the death trains headed for Treblinka. From Jozefow, we do not know of a single survivor. From survivors of other towns that lay in the battalion's destructive wake, we learn nothing about the unit. Unknown men arrived, carried out their murderous task, and left. Seldom, in fact, can the survivors even remember the peculiar green uniforms of Order Police to identify what kind of unit was involved. Thus there can be no history of Reserve Police Battalion 101 from survivor testimony. (28, emphasis mine)

When I wrote, "Browning claims that from survivors `we learn nothing about' Police Battalion 101 or, for that matter, about itinerant units in general," I quoted him accurately and in context. Browning has now switched passages to level fabricated charges. …

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