Monday, 2 February 2015

THE OLD MAN IN THE GARDEN: CONVERSATION, INTUITION, HOLOCAUST



Man shall learn by suffering.

Aeschylus, Agamemnon

 

Und we made them into soap…

Lenny Bruce, Adolf Eichmann

 

 

The BBC reminded us of their class recently when they suggested that perhaps it was time the Jews gave it a rest about the Holocaust. If you are a television consumer, I hope that you’re pleased to pay your Danegeld to these horrible people, but that is for another day. Auntie, of course, has an almost erotic yearning for Islam, and is more than happy at the prospect of a Judenfrei Europe. As we know, the Muslim world is divided by the Shoah. Divided, that is, between applause and denial. And it is Holocaust denial that will detain us here.

“What can I know?” Kant’s epistemological query is linked with another of history’s famous question, as when Pontius Pilate asked Christ; “What is truth?” How do we know, for example, that Japan exists if we have never been? I have an American friend who lives in Okinawa. So she says. We Skype regularly, but I just see the inside of an apartment with Japanese trappings. I see Facebook photos of her life: scenery, ‘Japanese’ folk, indigenous Oriental cuisine. But Descartes’ demon whispers in my ear that this is all trickery and deceit. Could she not simply have arranged a series of visual elaborations to fool me and others into believing in a place called Japan, which exists no more than Narnia? I am reminded of the great film Capricorn 1, in which the Apollo astronauts – included the under-rated Elliott Gould – are held hostage in the desert and forced to act out the apparent Moon landings in a mocked-up studio lot.

Somehow, though, I know that Japan exists. Not in the way that I know that 2 + 2 = 4, or that my tooth aches, or that the sun shines, but there are different categories of truth, as the philosopher certainly knows. Curiously, my knowledge that Japan exists is less mathematical than religious; I know because I believe.

In the case of great historical events or tales, how can we know the truth, receding in time as these things are? Take World War II. How can we know the facts concerning, for example, the Katyn Forest massacre, Pearl Harbour, Churchill’s alleged drunkenness, Hitler in the bunker, the Holocaust? Let’s begin with the last, an event I happen to know took place. Again; how do I know?

Twenty years ago my girlfriend was a milliner. God must be hard of hearing, because I asked for a millionaire, but there you have it. She rented work space near London’s Primrose Hill, a studio she shared with a charming elderly couple who were furniture upholsterers. The old man and I were nicotine addicts, and would often smoke cigarettes out in the sun of the small back garden.

One such afternoon, conversation turned to the War. I mentioned that my father had just been old enough – having been born in 1926 – to serve in the Army of Occupation, stationed in Graz in Austria, clearing up after Hitler and having a high old time of it. The old man chuckled but, when he told me of his part in the occupation, his calm grave eyes belied the testament of horrors they had seen.

His was one of the first units into an infamous concentration camp. I think it was Belsen, but this was two decades ago. His unit was in a joint operation with the Yanks, and he told me what he saw, with no embellishment and no emotion, and then I knew.

On entering the death factory, the Americans brought the prisoners out of the shacks and lined them up in their striped uniforms, familiar to us now through photographs, movie footage and Hollywood. Something was very wrong, and it wasn’t just the atmosphere of disgraceful wrongdoing. Most of the creatures there, skeletal and with their human dignity subtracted, looked exactly as you might expect the victims of these camps to look. Others, however, did not.

Well fed, adequately nourished, the German camp guards who were trying to evade the liberators by dressing in the rags of their victims were soon singled out by the Americans and herded into a corner of the camp by a fence. The old man recounted how he and his comrades were told to look away. But the old man did not look away. He stole glances at the carnage as the Americans gunned down the defenceless and unarmed Germans. In snatches, like the scenes on a magic lantern, he watched a war crime take place all those years ago. After the war, he said nothing. Presumably he had told his wife, perhaps while they were patching up a chair or a chaise longue together. He may have told others. He certainly told me.

And that’s how I know that the Holocaust is undeniable. Scarcely scientific but, as mentioned, some truths do not admit of scientific or mathematical proof. As Aristotle writes:

‘It comes then to this: since the faculties whereby we always attain truth and are never deceived when dealing with matter Necessary or even Contingent are Knowledge, Practical Wisdom, Science, and Intuition, and the faculty which takes in First Principles cannot be any of the first three; the last, namely Intuition, it must be which performs this function.’ (Ethics)

I hold no torch for the Jews. I am becoming weary of their war with the Mohammedans, a war into which we have wandered. Furthermore, as ‘Irwin Vinson’ writes, ‘the Holocaust nazifies any assertion of White national consciousness’, clearly against certain world-historical interests. Nor was the Holocaust exclusively Jewish: Gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally handicapped, Poles, Russians and Freemasons went to the gas. Nor is there any suggestion that the BBC are Holocaust deniers, merely Islamic appeasers. But any downplaying of the importance and relevance of the great burning of flesh (the Greek meaning of ‘holocaust’ flirts with a refusal to believe. And, after a conversation with an old man, I believe.