A little more on Ausrottung

My recent discussion of Ausrottung has provoked a series of hasty and unthinking replies from the bloggers of holocaust controversies, none of which do much to touch the arguments made. The bloggers seem to be employing a style of “throw shit at the wall and see what sticks” – that is, they quickly post any objection which occurs to them without any attempt to think things through, just so as to be able to say that they had responded. Harrison had already set this pattern of replies with his total inability to comprehend my arguments regarding the November 15 steam chamber report. While this strategy may succeed in creating a diversion, it ultimately only causes the bloggers to humiliate themselves further with their ill-thought replies. In this post I will reply to several of their arguments, and will also introduce some additional examples in which ausrotten is used with a rather broad meaning.

The meaning of Genesis 17.14 and other occurrences of ausrotten in the Luther bible

Roberto Muehlenkamp contests my reading of Genesis 17.14, which is rendered with ausrotten in the Luther bible. I had stated that

In the Luther Bible translation of Genesis 17.14, it is commanded that the uncircumcised be ausgerottet, with the meaning that they be removed from the people, or exiled.

He appeals to a dictionary which lists this passage as meaning killing. Yet appeals to dictionaries are no way to settle the meaning of a passage. The question is, what does the verse actually mean? In English translations of Genesis 17.14, what the Luther bible renders as “ausgerottet aus seinem Volk” is generally rendered as “cut of from his people”. For example, in the ESV the verse is rendered

Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.

What does “cut off” mean? Does it mean killing? No, at least not directly. First of all, it makes little sense to say that someone will be “killed from his people”. The element of “from” the people conflicts with the meaning of killing. Second, we can examine other passages regarding being “cut off” from the people – which are also translated with ausrotten. Take Leviticus 20 in English and German. Here, the punishment of being put to death is contrasted with the punishment of being cut off [ausgerottet] from your people. Adultery with another man’s wife gets you (and her) put to death, while sex with a menstruating woman and “uncovering her nakedness” only gets you (and her) cut off from your people. Giving your children to Molech gets you death, but if the people should fail to kill you God will cut you off from the people. Being cut off from the people is a different punishment from death. In its most literal and natural interpretation, it means being deprived of membership in the people, and of all the attendant benefits. As I said, this is removal from the people. My use of the word “exile” is perhaps a slight over-interpretation, as it gives particular emphasis to the territorial aspect of having your status as a member of a people removed, but this is a subtle distinction. The point is that being cut off from the people does not, in itself, mean being killed.

There are further such passages in, for instance, Leviticus 7 and 19. For the sake of completeness, I should mention that these mention being ausgerottet von your people rather than aus. Also, one of the passages in Leviticus 20 had vor: Die sollen ausgerottet werden vor den Leuten ihres Volks.

Finally, what Muehlenkamp calls my “self-serving interpretation” (that this passage does not imply killing) is in fact by no means original to me, but is quite common in the literature, as Muehlenkamp would have discovered had he done any actual research.

Incidentally, it’s not only the Luther bible that uses “ausrotten” in this context. Moses Mendelssohn’s translation uses “ausrotten” here as well.

Two more examples of ausrotten being used in a broader sense

In my previous discussion of Ausrottung, I gave a number of examples of the word’s non-homicidal use, including a particularly explicit one from “Fürchtegott Leberecht Christlieb”. That particular passage is so explicit in stating that an expulsion counts as an Ausrottung that we can expect Muehlenkamp and Harrison to continue to ignore it, as it is so clear in its meaning that they will not be able to creatively misinterpret it. While we wait for them to address this most explicit of examples, here are two more cases of ausrotten being used with respect to Jews, in a sense broader than that which the bloggers attach to it.

In an 1806 letter quoted in the 1912 book “Die Emanzipation der Juden in Preußen” by Ismar Freund (vol. 1, p. 111), the Prussian reformer Friedrich von Schrötter wrote, speaking of the Jews (“diese ungluckliche Menschenrasse”) “Ausrotten läßt sie sich nicht, aber einschränken und bessern”. Was it really just the possibility of killing all the Jews which he rejected? No. The meaning of the rejected Ausrottung is clearly broader than this, and encompasses any sort of project designed to eliminate the Jewish population.

The second example comes from the book Preußen in seinen religiösen Verhältnissen. In addressing the Jewish question, the author states that there were only two possibilities: to educate the Jews, or to violently ausrotten them. What did the author mean by violent Ausrottung? This becomes clear by the continuation: the author states that a violent Ausrottung seems to him wrong, because “[the Jews] are, after all, residents of the land, and have a right to continue to live in the land in which were born”. That is to say, an Ausrottung simply consists of denying the Jews the ability to continue to live in a given land. Hence the author’s insistence that there are precisely two possibilities. Those are: either the Jews will continue to live in our land or they will not. If they do continue to live in our land, we must educate them so as to make them less of a menace. Getting rid of them would require force (the Jews being unwilling to leave voluntarily) which the author found morally unacceptable. Indeed, as he sums up his position:

1) Es wäre zu wünschen, wir hätten gar keine Juden im Lande.
2) Die wir einmal haben, müssen wir dulden, aber unablässig bemüht sein, sie möglichst unschädlich zu machen.

The two possibilities are either to make the land Judenfrei, or to continue to live with the Jews. The former possibility would require an Ausrottung – rooting out the Jews – and while the author recognizes that the absence of Jews would be desirable he rejects such an action on moral grounds. Again, ausrotten has been used in the sense of the removal of a population, independent of the means employed in that removal, and without implying killing.

What about National Socialist usages of ausrotten?

Jonathan Harrison quotes Peter Longerich to the effect that while Ausrottung applied to groups of people need not mean killing in general, it does always mean killing when used by National Socialists. This claim ignores some rather blatant counterexamples. In his January 30, 1942 speech at the Berlin Sportpalast, Hitler characterized the war as having two possible outcomes, one of which was that the European peoples would be ausgerottet. He expressed the same idea in other speeches as well – that the war was a choice between the Ausrottung of the Jews or the Aryans. At Nuremberg, Alfred Rosenberg confirmed that statements like this did not mean a general slaughter:

this word [Ausrottung] has been used with respect to the German people and we have also not believed that in consequence thereof 60 millions of Germans would be shot.

Thus, the National Socialist use of “Ausrottung” has a broader set of meanings than Harrison or Muehlenkamp – or Longerich – would like to believe.

Rosenberg’s diary

As I have explained, Alfred Rosenberg’s diary fully confirms his postwar statements to he effect that he knew nothing of an extermination of the Jews in the sense which allegedly occurred. Without acknowledging this fact, Jonathan Harrison has taken exception to one particular observation which I made regarding Rosenberg’s diary. In reply to my mention of Rosenberg’s diary entry discussing the proposal to put the Ukrainians on the same legal footing with the Jews and Gypsies, Harrison claims that I have “misinterpreted” the entry. In fact, I did not offer any interpretation. I only stated that according to the interpretations of holocaust controversies, this would mean a proposal of extermination. If the policy towards the Jews was “kill them all” then putting the Ukrainians on the same legal footing would mean “your position before the court is a bullet through the skull – for every Ukrainian.” Obviously that is not what was proposed. Harrison tries to get around this by claiming that the inclusion of the Jews is “moot” because he believes they were already dead. This simply begs the question; i.e. Harrison assumes his own desired conclusion. Rosenberg evidently did not consider the inclusion of the Jews moot, because, well, he included them. Despite his well-known sympathy for the Ukrainian cause, Rosenberg did not respond with shock at the idea of putting Ukrainians on the same legal footing as a Jewish population that (allegedly) had already been killed off, but simply with strong disapproval and the sentiment that such a policy would worsen German-Ukrainian relations. This indicates that the Jews’ legal standing, while not very good, was not simply that of being subject to a policy of extermination.

Harrison also notes Rosenberg’s other uses of ausrotten, which completely misses the point again, namely that ausrotten has a range of meanings, so that its meaning is not confined to the narrow sense to which Harrison wishes to limit it, and therefore its usage cannot be used to deduce a Nazi policy of killing the Jews.

(A side issue: does Harrison even read German? In the manifesto he generally relies on other authors’ translations – sometimes their mistranslations – even when he claims to have used an original German source. And by “read German” I don’t mean “type stuff into Google translate” – the way that Nick Terry seems to “read Polish”, although as I showed in my discussion of Terry’s error concerning the “Rabinowicz” document, sometimes he doesn’t even bother to do that.)

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One Response to A little more on Ausrottung

  1. Pingback: Ausrottung yet again | Holocaust History Channel

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