Item description for A Century of Horrors: Communism, Nazism, and the Uniqueness of the Shoah (Crosscurrents) by Ralph C. Hancock Alain Besancon...
The twentieth century bears the indelible imprint of both communism and Nazism. Today, it sometimes seems as if the former is all but forgotten, at least among Western elites, while our cultural memory of the latter is an inextinguishable fire. This inequality is surprising and calls out for explanation, a task the French political thinker Alain Besanon attempts here in a wise and elegant meditation.
In examining the horror and destruction caused by both of these terrible ideologies, Besanon finds that recourse to theology is necessary if we are to achieve even feeble illumination. He also explains why, even with the full knowledge of the extent of communism's crimes, the uniqueness of the Shoah ought to be accepted without reservation.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.6" Width: 5.6" Height: 0.6" Weight: 0.65 lbs.
Release Date May 15, 2007
Publisher Intercollegiate Studies Institute
ISBN 1933859172 ISBN13 9781933859170
Reviews - What do customers think about A Century of Horrors: Communism, Nazism, and the Uniqueness of the Shoah (Crosscurrents)?
Atrocity Exhibition Jul 5, 2008
This text in the French essay tradition is a reflection on the 20th century's twin totalitarian evils. Besancon muses on their nature, why the one is considered evil incarnate whilst the other gets off lightly, and why the Shoah/Holocaust is unique in last century's atrocity exhibition. Although Communism - including Maoism - caused far more deaths than Nazism it is not stigmatized equally. To better define this disparity, Besancon refers to a collective "amnesia" and "amnesty" where Communism is concerned versus "hypernesia" regarding Nazism.
This is due to our culture's dominant moral relativism, a PoMo morality that asserts universal relativism whilst clinging to temporary absolutes dictated by intellectual trends. The collapse of the Soviet Empire and the fall of the Berlin Wall have driven most of the Leftist Faithful into Marxism's latest mutations environmentalism, feminism and multiculturalism. Chantal Delsol unmasked a type of European piety prevalent in academic and media circles as an empty morality of despair and withdrawal. She calls it the clandestine or black market ideology of our time; sickly sentimental, arbitrary and intolerant despite claims to the contrary.
It inspires nausea to see a hip fashion brand like Soviet Jeans using Soviet imagery in their advertising. Trade in Nazi paraphernalia is restricted to the murkier media and overt Nazi styles are associated with violent skinheads, for now. The visual imagery, lyrics and manner of delivery of the most popular German rock group Rammstein reveal an aesthetic of blood- and power lust, death-worship, ferocity and sadism, concludes Claire Berlinski after thorough investigation including several interviews with band members. In a series of absorbing arguments in the entertaining Menace in Europe she shows how the black-market German nationalism of Rammstein resembles the Third Reich's dramaturgy, mythology, propaganda and vocabulary.
Like all sects of Sinisterism, Communism and Nazism were collectivist and justified mass murder but they surpassed all the others in scale of massacre. They caused similar physical, moral and psychological destruction and would have killed consciousness itself if it were possible. As competing strains of the power-worshiping sinisterist religion they regarded as rivals Christianity and Judaism. A perceptive thinker, perhaps William Nicholls or Robert Wistrich, referred to Western utopian movements as the "secular salvationist offspring of Christianity."
They fit neatly into Eric Hoffer's descriptions of the mass movement driven by disaffected true believers hell-bent on mutilating reality through sociopathic behavior in their search for "meaning." For Besancon, ideology offers a type of temporal salvation that claims to correspond to a cosmic pattern which must be enforced on earth in order to recreate paradise.
The total destruction of existing values is the immediate goal; a drastic departure from history in pursuit of the ideology which is believed will lead to utopia. The "salvationist" label is thus applicable and appropriate. Analyzing and comparing the structure of their thought-forms and taking into consideration their host cultures Germany and Russia (and less frequently China), he explores their promise/s in relation to the beliefs they attempted to eradicate.
This led Besancon to question whether there was something fundamentally unusual about the murder of the 6 million as compared to all the other victims of the Nazis and Communists. He does not seek the answer in the method of murder or in the depths of suffering that are after all impossible to measure, but in the impulse or intent. He also addresses differences in the perception of the horror as determined by religious beliefs. For Christians, the word "holocaust" with its sacrificial connotation made sense. Some Jews objected precisely because of the implication of human sacrifice which is abhorrent to Judaism, choosing the word "shoah" which means disaster or catastrophe.
Besancon's expression "twin evils" reminds me of today's prominent evil twins that predated, thrived in and survived Communism and Nazism: Anti-Americanism and Anti-Zionism. More than mere remnants of Besancon's twins they are mind parasites with remarkable powers of mutation and survival.
Anti-Zionism is one expression of the hydra-headed New Antisemitism which is a blend of several 20th century strains that evolved out of the post-Enlightenment variety which in turn emerged from Anti-Judaism that goes back all the way to the origins of Christianity. The roots of Anti-Americanism - which also sprouted several variants - are embedded in European elitism.
This New Anti-Semitism with its many faces provides clues to the Shoah's uniqueness when viewed as a toxic tree:
(a) With its roots in the New Testament, the Shoah was the culmination of 1900 years of deligitimization and dehumanization. Its trunk is composed of the writings of the "church fathers", discriminatory laws that became especially harsh after the victory of Constantine Christianity, psychological repression and projection amongst a religiously brutalized populace that reached fever pitch in the late Middle Ages and Augustine's replacement theology that migrated to Protestantism through Luther. The branches bearing poisoned fruit are the "salvationist" ideologies like Communism, Fascism, Nationalism and Nazism, the one in which the virus finally took genocidal form.
(b) A hatred honed for maximum contagious capacity was unleashed in the Nazi branch in an effort to annihilate a people and a religion. Consuming massive resources, the effort was fueled by such frenzied insanity that it became the Nazi priority even to the extent of hindering the war effort.
In other words, the factors that make the Shoah unique are (a) the long centuries of preparation (b) the contagious and epidemic hatred that inspired and guided it.
During the Anti-War demonstrations of 2003, Christopher Hitchens and Julie Burchill both commented on a peculiar behavioral pattern observed in some of the marchers: a type of frenzy with erotic undertones. It has since become more commonplace, particularly at anti-Israel and anti-American demonstrations on college campuses. The eroticism is often expressed by gestures that incorporate serpentine writhing. I now suspect that this erotic quality has always been present in outbreaks of Judeopathy.
Andre Glucksmann has warned that the concept of a contagion of hatred must be taken literally as a mental disorder that invades minds, bodies and society. Immune to reason, such an outbreak inoculates itself against opposing opinions and emotions. But at least we have identified a particular manner of its expression that may well point to Judeo-Christian myth. Now it is up to the irreverent, to South Park and stand-up comedians to ridicule, mimic and mock it. What is immune to reason is vulnerable to humor.
An Eye Opening Book Mar 13, 2008
This book is amazing! It completely and descriptively compares the two most evil Ideologies of the 20th Century. It describes how the crimes associated with Nazism unfortunately overshadow the crimes associated with communism, which claimed the lives of over 12 times that of Nazism; because Nazism promoted the reign of one race and was dedicated to the complete obliteration of another. But people often forget that communism was as genocidal at times as Nazim, not to mention the murder and "reeducation" of anyone who did not conform to their ideas of equality. We condemn Nazism because of the over 6 million dead. But most people condemn communism because of its opposition to capitalism, not because of the hundred million or so murdered, plus all those who were tortured just for thinking a different way. Alain Besancon opens our eyes to this and tells us not to forget the crimes of Nazism, but to remember the injustice and the still alive evil of the communist idea. An amazing read.
Profound on Deep Matters Dec 21, 2007
The work is profound, commensurate to the regimes of terror it seeks to understand. Working through the experiences of the most thoughtful who suffered these two regimes and those who led them, all militant atheists, Besancon reaches an astonishing theological conclusion. A mark of its profundity is that as you first read it, you soon know you will have to reread it soon.
Short book that dares to ask the big questions Jun 25, 2007
The 20th century was cursed with two murderous ideologies: communism and Nazism. Nazism slaughtered 6 million Jews, while communism killed at least 100 million people, and managed to enslave vast swaths of the globe. Besancon wonders why Nazism has become the prototype for evil while communism's evils are largely ignored.
In this important essay, Besancon points out the many similarities between communism and Nazism. "Ideological language is charged with the magical role of forcing reality to conform to a particular vision of the world" (p 14). Who can forget "scientific Marxism" or the false journalists of communism? Or replacing truth with invented histories of an Aryan civilization? And both persecuted religion while trying to substitute their ideologies for religion. "These two doctrines ...have in common the idea of a collective salvation coming in history" (p 60), a biblical idea wholly unknown in the eastern world.
Besancon actually dares to point out that "a Nazi or communist presents a clinical case for psychiatric examination" (p 16). Furthermore, "These artificial mental illnesses were...epidemic and contagious" (p 16). Germany and the USSR woke up years later like patients recovering from comas.
What is most striking is that the atrocious actions of both ideologies, the monstrous death camps, the gulag, the mass starvations, the horrors of Pol Pot and Mao, were all committed by people sure they were doing these things in the name of good.
Why did madness strike the 20th century? What does it say about human nature and what does it say about our future?