Dare to Compare: The Indigenous Holocaust Started By Columbus The Jew vs. The Jewish Holocaust

Columbus Day? Cristóvão Colón, a Portuguese Sephardic Jew, discovered America

Americanizing the Holocaust

For several centuries now, men of the white race have everywhere destroyed the
past, stupidly, blindly, both at home and abroad…. The past once destroyed
never returns. The destruction of the past is perhaps the greatest of all crimes.
Today the preservation of what little of it remains ought to become almost an
obsession. We must put an end to the terrible uprootedness which European
colonial methods always produce, even under their least cruel aspects. We must
abstain, once victory is ours, from punishing the conquered enemy by uproot-
ing him still further; seeing that it is neither possible nor desirable to extermi-
nate him.
Simone Weil, The Need for Roots: Prelude to a Declaration
of Duties Towards
German-speaking Jewish writers have long felt comfortable expropriating im-
ages and analogies from the site of Native American identity in their literary
imagination.1 Today, a growing sentiment of sympathy for the “vanishing
American” in Germany has upped the ante in the identity-appropriations game,
and German-speaking Jewish writers now appropriate Native American iden-
tity in the attempt to inflect their own historiography with an added degree of
moral currency on the landscape of a contemporary Germany still caught in
the throes of denial concerning its own genocidal past.
In German-speaking literary circles, the examples of Else
who stylized herself as an American Indian, and Franz Kafka’s wish to be a “Red
Indian” are well known. George Tabori’s 199o stage production of the Jewish
Western Weisman und Rotgesicht wittily pitted [Jewish] white man against
[partly Jewish] red man in a verbal duel in which the protagonists exchange a
hilarious blow-for-blow account of injuries and insults suffered by the victim-
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/VOL. 24, NO. 3
353ized populations they represent. But the phenomenon of conflating Jewish and
“Indian” identity is not unique to foreign-language publications. As Seth Wo-
litz points out, in his discussion of Weisman und Rotgesicht, this “tradition of
spoofing Jewish-Indian interrelations … reaches back to a Yiddish playlet,
Tsvishn Indianer.”2 This 1895 play, “Among the Indians, or The Country Ped-
dler,” as its translator states, “is not an anomaly, but rather a pathbreaker in a
well-defined line of Jewish-American entertainment that leads to the films of
Mel Brooks and others.”3 The American leg of this lineage includes Eddie
Cantor’s redface minstrelsy in Whoopie! (1930) and Woody Allen’s Zelig (1983).
Fanny Brice sang herself to stardom with “I’m an Indian,” and Bernard Mala-
mud’s The People provides a classic example of the phenomenon.
Most recently perhaps, Raphael Seligmann has gone on record stating that
the Jews are “the Indians of Germany.” 4 That this statement begs the question
of identifying “Uncle Sam’s willing executioners” seems, however, of minimal
concern to the Jewish community in America and abroad. In fact, when the
time comes to put the Shoah on the other foot and parallels are drawn between
atrocities experienced by the American Indian population over a five-hundred-
year period and those experienced by the Jewish population of Europe in the
twelve-year reign of Nazi terror, the knowledge of self-described “Jewish In-
dians” recedes into the recesses of repressed memory. In a seditious reversal
of national identity politics, Lucy Dawidowicz charges those who would dare
to compare with “a vicious anti-Americanism.”s5 Rabbi Irving Greenberg,
founder of the Holocaust Resource Center and first director of the U.S. Holo-
caust Memorial Commission, has described the comparison of the Nazi Holo-
caust with other acts of genocide as “blasphemous.”6 In The Holocaust in
American Life, Jewish historian Peter Novik describes the way in which any at-
tempt to compare is dismissed as a “felonious assault” on truth and memory.7
In the pathological dynamic of genocidal histories, the perpetrator culture
invariably turns its gaze to the horrors registered in the archives and accounts
of the “other guys.” 8 This is why Holocaust studies in the United States focus
almost exclusively on the atrocity of Auschwitz, not of Wounded Knee or Sand
Creek. Norman Finkelstein, in his discussion of the way images of the Holo-
caust have been manufactured to reap moral and economic benefits for mem-
bers of the Jewish elite, states that the presence of the Holocaust Museum in
Washington is “particularly incongruous in the absence of a museum com-
memorating crimes in the course of American history” and makes specific ref-
erence to the slave trade and genocide against the American Indians.9 Peter
Novik suggests that the Holocaust has become a sort of “civil religion” for
American Jews who have lost touch with their own ethnic and religious iden-
tity, and asserts that “in the United States the Holocaust is explicitly used for the
purpose of national self-congratulation: the Americanization of the Holocaust
Friedberg: Americanizing the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshas involved using it to demonstrate the difference between the Old World and
the New, and to celebrate, by showing its negation, the American way of life.” 10
The Historikerstreit or “Historians’ Debate” in Germany during the mid-
1980s disrupted the traditional historiographical narrative, which placed three
groups of actors at the scene of the Nazi crime-perpetrators, bystanders, and
victims. Saul Friedlander summarizes the controversy as “a debate about the
shape of the past in terms of public memory and national identity.” I” Conser-
vative historians, in their efforts to “historicize” the Nazi period and thus su-
ture the wound of discontinuity presented by a “past that refused to go away,”
attempted to relativize the crimes of the Nazi period by situating them in the
context of a narrative that included an amalgamated fourth character in the
plot: the Soviet and American forces who forced Germans into a victim posi-
tion from which only further victimization could ensue. These abnegationist
attempts at historical revision were staunchly contested by left-wing social phi-
losopher Jtirgen Habermas in a series of essays that have since been collected
and published in German and in English.’2
The Historians’ Debate directed international attention to the issue of his-
torical liability as it relates to public memory and national identity in territo-
ries known to have been host to genocidal campaigns. However, what got lost
in translation when the debate migrated to America was the very real opportu-
nity this controversy might have presented for an authentic “working through”
or “mastery” of this country’s traumatic genocidal past. Instead, the dispute
conveniently constructed a site of transference upon which the melancholic
drama of “manifest manners” could be acted out.13 American intellectuals,
confronted with the quandary of whether to see or not to see, chose to look the
other way. George Tabori, in “Hamlet in Blue,” provides an apt metaphor for
this dynamic of denial: “the old Hamletian ploy of dodging action by mind-
fucking.” 14 As Henryk Broder points out in “Die Germanisierung des Holo-
caust,” today one speaks of the “Americanization of the Holocaust” as though
the Jews were slaughtered on American soil.15 This, in turn, cultivates fertile
breeding ground for absolutionist scholarship and public discourse on both
sides of the Atlantic. In the end, only the interests of the respective aggressor
cultures are served.
The same kinds of arguments attempting to “historicize” America’s past in
the interest of “normalizing” its present from the perspective of the perpetra-
tor population do not unleash the same scandalous international
as do similar efforts on the part of historians negotiating a revision of German
history. The genocide against the Jews is considered an ugly chapter in Ger-
many’s past and acknowledged internationally as one of the gravest crimes
against humanity in the twentieth century. But while the whole fabric of Ger-
man culture remains “under the shadow of Hitler,” the genocide against in-
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/ VOL. 24, NO. 3
355digenous populations in North America is still today denied or dismissed as the
inevitable prelude to the rise of the greatest nation on Earth.
Reactionary historian James Axtell, in his 1992 study, Beyond 1492: Encoun-
ters in Colonial North America, writes:
We make a hash of our historical judgments because we continue to feel guilty
about the real or imagined sins of our fathers and forefathers … [We] can
stop flogging ourselves with our “imperialistic” origins and tarring ourselves
with the broad brush of “genocide.” As a huge nation of law and order and
increasingly refined sensibility, we are not guilty of murdering Indian women
and babies, of branding slaves on the forehead, or of claiming any real estate
in the world we happen to fancy.16
Statements like this, when proffered in defense of Germany’s genocidal history,
elicit vehement opposition from the academic and intellectual community,
yet, with regard to America’s tragic past, go virtually unchallenged and are in-
tegrated into the canon of acceptable discourse.
As the success of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s indictment of the German
people in Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust il-
lustrates, public flogging of the German people for their willing participation
in the melee represents an acceptable and indeed lucrative form of public and
academic discourse. The 1996 publication of Goldhagen’s Ph.D. dissertation
thrust the previously little-known Harvard professor into the international
limelight. His thesis, that widespread “eliminationist anti-Semitism” among
the ordinary men and women of Germany, not the ruthless racial policies of
the Nazi regime, was the sole cause of the extermination of the Jews, has been
contested by Holocaust scholars and historians the world over. But the book,
translated into thirteen languages, became an international bestseller and se-
cured for Goldhagen the prestigious German Democracy Prize in 1997. It also
unleashed an international debate that has been dubbed “The Goldhagen
Wars,” not to mention a series of highly paid speaking engagements for its au-
thor throughout the world. Goldhagen’s staunchest opponent has been Nor-
man Finkelstein, the Jewish scholar whose rebuttal of “the Goldhagen thesis”
first appeared in The New Left Review (July/August 1997) under the title “Daniel
Goldhagen’s ‘Crazy’ Thesis.” 17 In a statement printed by the Pittsburgh Post-
Gazette on 21 April 1998, Goldhagen proudly asserts: “My book has sold more
copies in Germany than anywhere else. It’s been embraced by the German
people.” It is interesting to note, in this context, that Native American scholar
Ward Churchill’s stellar and seminal piece of scholarship on Holocaust and de-
nial in the Americas, A Little Matter of Genocide, did not meet with the same
degree of public success.
Friedberg: Americanizing the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTaking the American people to task in the little matter of genocide against
indigenous populations of North America remains a terrible taboo registered in
the “Don’t you Dare” category of “Academic Do’s and Don’ts.” Like any taboo,
this act of transgression does not derive from a vacuum but rather emanates
from a specific social consciousness–or lack thereof. As journalist William
Greider notes in One World, Ready orNot: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism:
German social consciousness
was anchored in the country’s
tragic knowledge
of guilt and defeat, a humbling encounter with self-doubt that Americans
have so far evaded in their national history…. American history did provide
ample basis for humility and social introspection:
slavery and the enduring
wounds of race, “winning”
the West by armed conquest, Hiroshima and the
nuclear potential for mass destruction,
the bloody failure of the neocolonial-
ist war in Vietnam. … The social meaning of these experiences
was usually
deflected, however, and repackaged
by the optimistic American culture as
stories of triumph. … Thus, Americans generally managed to evade any na-
tional sense of guilt or defeat. Critical reflection on the national character
Dominick LaCapra has established a clear relationship between the impli-
cations of the Historians’ Debate for American scholars and objections raised
by German scholars on the left-wing side of the skirmish. He states that liberal
historians may have had
strategic as well as more deep-seated philosophical reasons for not placing
too much emphasis on the ambivalence
of Western traditions and the possi-
in lessening awareness
of the im-
bly dubious role of a critique of revisionism
or even genoci-
plication of other Western countries in massively destructive
dal processes. Given the history of the United States, this danger is clear and
and identification
with Habermas’s
present for an American,
position may be
and self-justificatory
by the narcissistic
gains it brings.19
But even before the Historians’ Debate, the relative singularity of the Nazi
Holocaust had long been the center of international debate. Uniqueness pro-
ponents such as Deborah Lipstadt, Steven Katz, Saul Friedlander, Michael
Marrus, Yehuda Bauer, Lucy Dawidowicz, and others share an insistence on
the exclusivity of the Nazi Holocaust as an unparalleled event in the history of
the twentieth century. This view has been challenged by survivors and schol-
ars, among them a number of Jewish intellectuals such as Hannah Arendt, Irv-
ing Louis Horowitz, Israel Charny, Helen Fein, Simon Wiesenthal, Norman
Finkelstein, Peter Novik, and others. Increasingly, Native American scholars
and their allies have entered the conversation, pointing out that the historical
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/VOL. 24, NO. 3
357archive of the American Holocaust has been compiled, collated, and indeed
constructed to a large degree by perpetrators, their descendants, and beneficia-
ries writing from a subject position inflected with a vested interest in main-
taining the illusion of innocence concerning the “facts of the case.”
The exclusivists’ most compelling argument against the comparability of
the two acts of genocide has been that the decimation of the American Indian
population, unlike the extermination of the Jews, was unintentional-“caused
by microbes, not militia … that is, this depopulation happened unwittingly
rather than by design.”20 Preeminent uniqueness proponent Steven Katz, in
The Holocaust in Historical Context, while documenting the fact that the Amer-
ican Holocaust far exceeded the Nazi Holocaust in scope, at the same time re-
duces the American travesty to a mere case of “depopulation.”21 These con-
clusions are drawn from comparisons not of a simple corpse count but rather
of the rate of extermination experienced by each group. Recent studies dem-
onstrate that precontact population estimates generated by historians and de-
mographers from the subject position of the perpetrators have been egre-
giously low. It is today commonly assumed that precontact populations were
far and above the one-million figure that has acted as a standard of measure
for centuries. More recent and more honest studies estimate the precontact
civilization to have been between nine and eighteen million. This standard of
measure puts the rate of attrition of indigenous populations at between 98 and
99 percent-that is, near total extermination. The rate of attrition of Jewish
populations in Europe is commonly calculated at between 60 and 65 percent.
Put in terms of survival rates, this means that two-thirds of the global Jewish
population and about one third of the European Jewish population survived
the Nazi Holocaust, whereas a mere remnant population of 1 to 2 percent sur-
vived the American Holocaust. This seriously calls into question any notion of
“unparalleled” or “total extermination” of the Jews in the Nazi Holocaust.
Katz argues that the Nazi Holocaust is “phenomenologically” unique based
on the “merciless, exceptionless, biocentric intentionality of Hitler’s ‘war
against the Jews.'” 22 Katz’s argument centers on documented intentionality and
governmental policy in the Nazi period. What Katz does not take into account
is that a twelve-year period in a twentieth-century industrialized society lends
itself more readily to documentation than a five-hundred-year period, most of
which is historically and geographically situated in the midst of a preindustrial
“virgin wasteland,” nor does he significantly engage the discourse generated by
Native American scholars in recent years. It does not, however, take a paragon
of intellectual prowess to deduce an implied intent to “destroy, in whole or in
part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group,” from the events that tran-
spired in the process of “depopulating” the New World-a slaughter that Katz
patently refuses to define as “genocide” even though it conforms precisely to
Friedberg: Americanizing the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionsthe definition of the phenomenon as outlined by Raphael Lemkin, who coined
the term in his 1944 Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.23 The murder of 96 percent
of any given population does not occur “inadvertently,” especially when mem-
bers of that group are viewed by their assassins as belonging to a separate (and
inferior) national, ethnic, racial and religious order.
Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that the introduction of diseases
to the Native populations of North America was anything but an incidental by-
product of “westward expansion.” In what is likely the world’s first documented
case of genocide accomplished by bacterial means, Lord Jeffrey Amherst sug-
gested that smallpox-infected blankets be distributed to the Ottawa and Lenape
peoples, stating in a 1763 letter to his subordinate, Colonel Henry Bouquet,
“You will do well to [infect] the Indians by means of blankets as well as to try
every other method that can serve to extirpate this [execrable] race.”24 This
statement indicates that the annihilation of the Indian population by way of
disease was neither arbitrary nor incidental to the aims of the European settler
population and its government. Even as early as 1763, the settler population
and its sovereign representatives acted in full cognizance of the impact their
introduction of disease would have on the Native populations. Stannard points
out, with regard to the “enemy microbe” argument, that
by focusing almost entirely on disease, by displacing responsibility for the
mass killing onto an army of invading microbes, contemporary authors in-
creasingly have created the impression that the eradication of those tens of
millions of people was inadvertent-a sad, but both inevitable and “un-
intended consequence” of human migration and progress. This is a modern
version of what Alexander Saxton recently has described as the “soft side of
anti-Indian racism” that emerged in America in the nineteenth century and
that incorporated “expressions of regret over the fate of the Indians into nar-
ratives that traced the inevitability of their extinction. Ideologically,” Saxton
adds, “the effect was to exonerate individuals, parties, nations, of any moral
blame for what history had decreed.” In fact, however, the near-total de-
struction of the Western Hemisphere’s Native people was neither inadvertent
nor inevitable.25
Survivor testimony and statistical records from the Nazi death camps reveal
that the uncontrolled spread of disease among inmates was also a major factor
contributing to the death toll during the Nazi Holocaust, but that argument
has never been forwarded in favor of exonerating the perpetrators-at least
not in serious scholarship on the subject.
If, as Yehuda Bauer contends, “[t]here was no governmental intention to ex-
terminate the victim population” in the Americas, how else are we to understand
the now well-known statement attributed to General Philip Henry Sheridan at
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24, NO. 3
359Fort Cobb in January of 1889: “The only good Indian is a dead Indian?”26
While Bauer concedes that “important figures in the U.S. administration ex-
pressed genocidal hopes and intentions,” he still insists that “there was no clear
governmental policy of total murder.” 27 It would seem redundant, in this con-
text, to point to the innumerable studies that have been conducted since 1945
in the attempt to ascertain whether or not Adolf Hitler himself had issued the
order for the Final Solution.
The introduction of diseases to indigenous populations was accompanied
by a systematic destruction of “the indigenous agricultural base [in order to]
impose starvation conditions upon entire peoples, dramatically lowering their
resistance to disease and increasing their susceptibility to epidemics.”28 What
is more, the ideology of Manifest Destiny is itself founded on an implied intent
to kill-it is the “central constituent ideology translated into action” that
Bauer posits as the defining characteristic that sets the Nazi Holocaust apart
from all other genocidal campaigns in the history of humanity.
Fortunately, pseudoscholarly revisionists who would deny the Nazi atroci-
ties have been properly (and legally) excluded from legitimate academic and
public discourse in many countries- Germany, Austria, France and Canada
among them. But, As Ward Churchill has argued in A Little Matter of Genocide:
Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492-Present: “the ugly enterprise of
Holocaust denial has a flip side-indeed, a mirror image-which is equally
objectionable but which has been anything but marginalized by the academy,
popular media, or the public at large.”29 According to Churchill, exclusivists
insisting on the uniqueness of the Nazi Holocaust succeed in “outstripping the
neonazis” in terms of denial:
Whereas the latter content themselves with denying the authenticity of a
single genocidal process, exclusivists deny, categorically and out of hand, the
validity of myriad genocides. Yet, unlike the neonazis, those holding to the
postulates of Jewish exclusivism are not only treated as being academically
credible, but are accorded a distinctly preferential treatment among the ar-
biters of scholarly integrity.30
Cogent arguments have been made to suggest that the same notion of creating
space for the “master race” is as germane to the ideological framework of Hit-
ler’s Lebensraumpolitik as it is to the U.S. government’s doctrine of Manifest
Destiny: In each instance, the extermination of “inferior races” is justified in
the interest of making way for a “superior race” of peoples.31 According to
Americanizing the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsHitler biographer John Toland, the Fiihrer is known to have “expressed admi-
ration for the ‘efficiency’ of the American genocide campaign against the Indi-
ans, viewing it as a forerunner for his own plans and programs.” 32 Even Steven
Katz concedes that the “depopulation of the New World” was a “salient pre-
cursor” to the Nazi Holocaust.33 Thus, the American Holocaust might be
viewed as the prototype for the extermination of the Jews in Europe. At the very
least, the event must be seen as a predecessor to the Nazi Holocaust.
While Hitler’s policy of Lebensraumpolitik has been vilified and condemned
for the toll it took in terms of human lives-even in the Historians’ Debate,
the essential criminality and moral reprehensibility of the Nazi regime was not
challenged-heroes are made of men in America whose words were inspired
by the same kind of thinking and whose actions resulted in the murder of mil-
lions of human beings considered to be members of “inferior” civilizations.
Theodore Roosevelt, in The Strenuous Life, writes, in 19oi0:
Of course our whole national history has been one of expansion … That the
barbarians recede or are conquered, with the attendant fact that peace follows
their retrogression or conquest is due solely to the power of the mighty civi-
lized races which have not lost the fighting instinct, and which by their ex-
pansion are gradually bringing peace to the red wastes where the barbarian
peoples of this world hold sway.34
Hannah Arendt, in the Origins of Totalitarianism, identifies metaphysical Jew-
hatred as one element in the “subterranean stream of Western history” that sub-
sequently translated into the political anti-Semitic consciousness in Europe and
constituted the defining principle of Hitler’s Nazi regime.35 Similarly, Richard
Drinnon argues that the “national metaphysics of Indian-hating was central to
the formation of national identity and political policy in the United States.” 36
The crucial issue at stake here is that, according to Drinnon’s analysis, this
national metaphysics of Indian-hating rested on the “collective refusal to con-
ceive of Native Americans as persons.” 37 Had the people of Europe-Jews and
Gentiles alike-recognized these “barbarians” to be human entities and em-
braced them as siblings in the “family of man,” they might well have foreseen
the fate that would befall civilized populations in Europe just a few short years
later because, as Richard Drinnon points out in Facing West: The Metaphysics
ofIndian-Hating and Empire Building:
The sober truth was that the white man’s burden of Winning the West was
crushing global folly. The West was quite literally nowhere- or everywhere,
which was to say the same thing. For Homer’s Greeks and North American
tribal peoples alike, the West was the land beyond, Spiritland, the land of
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/ VOL. 24, NO. 3
361mystery, of death and of life eternal. It was not a Dark and bloody Ground to
be “won.” But for Anglo-Americans it was exactly that, the latest conquest.
Yet how could they conclusively “win” it? If the West was at bottom a form of
society [as James Turner contended in “The Problem of the West”] then on
our round earth, Winning the West amounted to no less than winning the
world. It could be finally and decisively “won” only by rationalizing (Ameri-
canizing, Westernizing, modernizing) the world, and that meant conquering
the land beyond, banishing mystery, and negating or extirpating other peo-
ples, so the world would be subject to the regimented reason of one settle-
ment culture with its professedly self-evident middle-class values.38
Hitler’s Lebensraumpolitik was not without precedent or parallel. Four cen-
turies after Columbus, the ideology of a master race had firmly established it-
self on American soil. A “color line” had been drawn, and it was clear that, in
the national consciousness as in public policy, “Native Americans were natives
and not Americans … the irreducible prerequisite of being an American, was
to be of European stock.” 39 The color line drawn between the
Children of Light, the light of the Gospel, of Enlightenment institutions, law
and order, progress, philanthropy, freedom, Americanization, moderniza-
tion, forced urbanization … and the Children of Darkness, “savages” who
stood in the way of the redemption and the rationalization of the world …
unmistakably shaped national patterns of violence by establishing whom one
could kill under propitious circumstances and thereby represented a prime
source of the American way of inflicting death.40
The hidden narratives of the master race and Manifest Destiny governing
our understanding of American history distort perceptions of our own histo-
riography. The ideology of Manifest Destiny-the fantasy and the fancy of the
master race–is transferred from one generation to another so that there is no
need for the kind of propaganda machinery required to make “willing execu-
tioners” of “ordinary men” and women in Germany. Americans, in their drive
to forge “one Nation under God,” fought with “God on their side.”41 Stan-
nard, in this regard, explains that
the Eurocentric racial contempt for the indigenous peoples . . . reflected in
scholarly writings of this sort is now so complete and second nature to most
Americans that it has passed into popular lore and common knowledge of the
“every schoolboy knows” variety. No intent to distort the truth is any longer
necessary. All that is required, once the model is established, is the recitation
of rote learning as it passes from one uncritical generation to the next.42
the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsGiorgio Agamben has argued against the use of the term Holocaust as a de-
scriptor for the Nazi extermination of the Jews because “Jews were extermi-
nated not in a mad and giant holocaust but exactly as Hitler had announced,
‘as lice,’ which is to say as bare life.” 43 The notorious California Indian-killer
H. L. Hall justified the murder of Native infants based on the argument that “a
nit would make a louse.” John Chivington, commanding colonel in the infa-
mous Sand Creek Massacre, reformulated the sentiment to justify similar ac-
tions with the statement “Nits make lice.”44 Perplexing in this context is that
Hitler’s perception of the Jews as “life unworthy of living,” that is, as “lice” or
“bare life,” is received with moral outrage in the scholarly community and in
public consciousness in the U.S. and elsewhere. But when Indians are placed
on the same level of the “evolutionary scale” and assigned the same status in
the biopolitical order, it becomes a justifiable sacrifice made in the name of
Hitler’s willing executioners and the ordinary men and women of Germany
had to be convinced that the Jewish population was not human; they had, af-
ter all, for centuries prior, lived and worked side by side with these people who
were systematically exterminated as “like lice.” Before the Final Solution could
be implemented, the Jewish population of Europe had to be reduced to the
level of “bare life.” But for the American settlers, the notion that the life form
to be clear-cut from the vast, “unpopulated” wilderness in order to make way
for their American way of life was somehow not human ranked among those
truths held to be self-evident; the “execrable race” of red men and women was
viewed from the very onset as existing at the level of “bare life.” And yet, from
a perspective that acknowledges the essential humanity of indigenous popula-
tions and the sophistication of the established forms of social organization,
governance, and religious ritual prevailing among the indigenous populations
at the time of contact, it becomes clear that, while the Nazi Holocaust was in-
deed unique in scope and in kind to the twentieth century, the American
Holocaust was, as Stannard has stated, “far and away, the most massive act of
genocide in the history of the world.” 45
Fortunately, Hitler was stopped before he could consummate the Final So-
lution. But some contend that Uncle Sam’s willing executioners are still today
engaged in the effort to eradicate what remains of the indigenous population
in North America. For others, the loss of Native lives and lifeways cannot be
acknowledged as homicidal, genocidal, or suicidal because the “savage” is
not-however ostentatiously liberal-minded individuals and institutions in
this country may contend otherwise- considered fully human: “we” are not
related. While a revisionist narrative of the West would attempt to suffuse its
world-view with a politically correct moral underpinning by making super-
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24, NO. 3
363ficial linguistic concessions, no longer applying such terms as “savage” and
“primitive” to indigenous peoples, contemporary scholarship still draws its in-
sights and impulses from the same body of research and the same doctrine of
universal superiority it now seeks to disavow and revile. The appearance of eu-
phemisms such as “ethnocide” and “depopulation” applied to the genocide
committed against Native populations is just one index of the continued re-
sistance to the notion that this devastation involves a human tragedy.
Nominally, indigenous peoples have been grudgingly adopted into the “fam-
ily of man” in the prevailing paradigms of Western thought. Phenomenologi-
cally, they are still today perceived not as human others, but in fact as a sepa-
rate (and inferior) “species.” Depending on one’s interpretation of the Latin
siluaticus (of the wood; belonging to a wood), from which the term “savage” is
derived, one might suspect that, in the Western biopolitical order, the “savage
life” acquires the status of one less than bare life or Homo sacer. If that is the
case, then what occurred in this country must be viewed as a gigantic bonfire
in which neither mice, lice, nor men, women or children were sacrificed and
burned for the sake of clear-cutting a space for the master race-what was
sacrificed here were merely logs. Driftwood. Dead weight. Useless waste. In the
world of the uniqueness proponents, the “depopulation” of the New World is
on a par with “deforestation.”
What is perhaps “unique” about the Nazi Holocaust is that it represents the
first incidence in history of genocidal assault directed at an assimilated, “civi-
lized” (and therefore human) population in central Europe.46 Katz refers to the
phenomenon as one of “Judeocide.” It might, however, more accurately be
termed fratricide-brothers killing brothers -squabbling sons of the same
God in a serial rerun of Cain and Abel. This is not to imply that fratricide is any
less grievous a crime against humanity than genocide, merely to clarify the re-
lationship of spiritual kinship existing between perpetrators and victims in the
Nazi Holocaust and the way this works to influence our perception of the
event’s primacy. It could in fact be argued that fratricide is indeed the more
heinous crime since it involves the extermination of life that is clearly defined as
“human” in the Judeo-Christian paradigm. Brothers killing brothers is classi-
fied as a mortal sin by the religious doctrines governing moral standards in both
religions, but brothers killing savages is apparently sanctioned by the moral
dictates of both these dominant world religions. If the ideology of Manifest
Destiny is, on the other hand, subsumed under the mandate to “be fruitful and
multiply,” then the extermination of indigenous populations is indeed ordained
by the supreme deity common to the Christian and the Judaic faiths. From this
perspective, mass murder is the implied mandate of Manifest Destiny.
Churchill speaks in terms of the need for a “denazification … a fundamental
alteration in the consciousness of this country.”47 I WOuld suggest that “de-
the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionsmanifestation” is a more apt designation for the paradigmatic shift requisite for
decentering the hegemonistic reign of the “master narratives” of Manifest Des-
tiny and the master race that govern our understanding of history as it relates to
national identity in the United States. Thinking in terms of “de-manifestation”
has the advantage of disaggregating the specific modalities of similar, but not
identical, historical phenomena and of dislocating-geographically and intel-
lectually-the source of the “problem” from the site of European history to
that of American history. What follows is an attendant shift in temporal focus
that allows us to properly place the postulates of Manifest Destiny and the mas-
ter race in historically correct chronological order with relation to the subse-
quent emergence of theories of Lebensraumpolitik and the assumed superior-
ity of the Aryan race on the European continent. Whereas “de-nazification”
clearly connotes a “thing of the past,” “de-manifestation” implies a present,
“manifest” reality. From this vantage point, the German Sonderweg is rerouted
and an already trammeled trail of rampant plundering, pillage, and mass mur-
der is revealed to have been blazed in the forward wake of the historical caesura
that the Nazi Holocaust represents.
Most importantly, perhaps, what distinguishes the American Holocaust from
the Nazi Holocaust is what is at stake today. The Nazi Holocaust represents a
historical event that threatened the entire Jewish population of Europe. Rele-
gating this event to the archive of oblivion would involve a fatal miscalculation
resulting in wholesale moral bankruptcy for the entire Western world. But the
worldwide Jewish population can hardly be said to be at risk of extermination
today- certainly not in the United States. American Jews stepped up their ef-
forts to direct attention to the Nazi Holocaust at a time when they
were by far the wealthiest, best-educated, most influential, in-every-way-
most-successful group in American society-a group that, compared to most
other identifiable minority groups, suffered no measurable discrimination
and no disadvantages on account of that minority status.48
Norman Finkelstein cites the Jewish income in the United States at double that
of non-Jews and points out that sixteen of the forty wealthiest Americans are
Jews, as are 40 percent of Nobel prizewinners in science and economics, 20 per-
cent of professors at major universities and 40 percent of partners in law firms
in New York and Washington.49
Native Americans, by contrast, have long been subject to the most extreme
poverty of any sector in the present North American population, and still have
the highest rate of suicide of any other ethnic group on the continent.50s High-
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24, NO. 3
365school dropout rates are as high as 70 percent in some communities. As Ani-
shinabeg activist and Harvard-educated scholar Winona LaDuke notes with
regard to the Lakota population in South Dakota: “Alcoholism, unemploy-
ment, suicide, accidental death and homicide rates are still well above the na-
tional average.”5′ Alcoholism, intergenerational posttraumatic stress, and a
spate of social and economic ills continue to plague these communities in the
aftermath of the American Holocaust.
As Peter Novik has made abundantly clear in his study of the way the Holo-
caust functions as a sort of “civil religion” and signifier of identity for American
Jews, much of the commemoration rhetoric and practice propagated in this
country centers on maintaining a consensual symbol of unity for American
Jews who thus experience the Holocaust “vicariously.” As Novik states, while
most American Jews (and Gentiles) may be saddened, dismayed, or shocked by
the Nazi Holocaust, there is little evidence to suggest that they have actually
been traumatized by it.52 The Americanization of the Holocaust, according to
Novik’s analysis, serves a symbolic function for American Jews, ascribing vic-
tim status to a community that demonstrates little sign of actual victimization
in a culture where the victim is victor. Norman Finkelstein, the vociferous
Goldhagen critic who lost most of his family in the death camps and ghettoes
of Nazi-occupied Europe, has expressed similar views. His forthcoming pub-
lication asserts that the “Holocaust industry” was born with the Six-Day War
in June of 1967. Before that, there was little mention of the Holocaust in Ameri-
can life. He argues that the development of the “Holocaust industry” in the
United States is part of a strategic campaign to justify American political in-
terests in Israel.53
This is not to deny or diminish the clear and present danger in the ominous
resurgence of anti-Semitic sentiments reflected in isolated incidences of racial
violence against Jews and Jewish institutions both here and abroad. However,
the material realities confronting the Native American population remain, in
many instances, comparable to those prevailing in Third World countries. The
Native American experience of persecution is not a vicarious one. For sub-
stantial portions of this population, it is a lived reality.
What is more, an unrelenting sentiment of Indian-hating persists in this
There is a peculiar kind of hatred in the northwoods, a hatred born of the
guilt of privilege, a hatred born of living with three generations of complicity
in the theft of lives and lands. What is worse is that each day, those who hold
this position of privilege must come face to face with those whom they have
dispossessed. To others who rightfully should share in the complicity and the
guilt, Indians are far away and long ago. But in reservation border towns, In-
the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionsdians are ever present…. The poverty of dispossession is almost overwhelm-
ing. So is the poverty of complicity and guilt. In America, poverty is relative,
but it still causes shame. That shame, combined with guilt and a feeling of
powerlessness, creates an atmosphere in which hatred buds, blossoms, and
flourishes. The hatred passes from father to son and from mother to daugh-
ter. Each generation feels the hatred and it penetrates deeper to justify
a myth.54
Attempts on the part of American Indians to transcend chronic, intergener-
ational maladies introduced by the settler population (for example, in the highly
contested Casino industry, in the ongoing battles over tribal sovereignty, and
so on) are challenged tooth and nail by the U.S. government and its “ordinary”
people. Flexibility in transcending these conditions has been greatly curtailed
by federal policies that have “legally” supplanted our traditional forms of gov-
ernance, outlawed our languages and spirituality, manipulated our numbers
and identity, usurped our cultural integrity, viciously repressed the leaders of
our efforts to regain self-determination, and systematically miseducated the
bulk of our youth to believe that this is, if not just, at least inevitable.” 55 Today’s
state of affairs in America, both with regard to public memory and national
identity, represents a flawless mirror image of the situation in Germany vis-a-
vis Jews and other non-Aryan victims of the Nazi regime.56
Collective indifference to these conditions on the part of both white and
black America is a poor reflection on the nation’s character. This collective re-
fusal to acknowledge the genocide further exacerbates the aftermath in Native
communities and hinders the recovery process. This, too, sets the American
situation apart from the German-Jewish situation: Holocaust denial is seen by
most of the world as an affront to the victims of the Nazi regime. In America,
the situation is the reverse: victims seeking recovery are seen as assaulting
American ideals.
But what is at stake today, at the dawn of a new millennium, is not the cul-
ture, tradition, and survival of one population on one continent on either side
of the Atlantic. What is at stake is the very future of the human species. LaDuke,
in her most recent work, contextualizes the issues from a contemporary
Our experience of survival and resistance is shared with many others. But it
is not only about Native people. … In the final analysis, the survival of Na-
tive America is fundamentally about the collective survival of all human be-
ings. The question of who gets to determine the destiny of the land, and of
the people who live on it-those with the money or those who pray on the
land-is a question that is alive throughout society.57
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/VOL. 24, NO. 3
367″There is,” as LaDuke reminds us, “a direct relationship between the loss of
cultural diversity and the loss of biodiversity. Wherever Indigenous peoples
still remain, there is also a corresponding enclave of biodiversity.”’58 But, she
The last 150 years have seen a great holocaust. There have been more species
lost in the past 150 years than since the Ice Age. (During the same time, Indi-
genous peoples have been disappearing from the face of the earth. Over 2,000
nations of Indigenous peoples have gone extinct in the western hemisphere
and one nation disappears from the Amazon rainforest every year.) 59
It is not about “us” as indigenous peoples-it is about “us” as a human spe-
cies. We are all related. At issue is no longer the “Jewish question” or the “In-
dian problem.” We must speak today in terms of the “human problem.” And
it is this “problem” for which not a “final,” but a sustainable, viable solution
must be found-because it is no longer a matter of “serial genocide,” it has be-
come one of collective suicide. As Terrence Des Pres put it, in The Survivor: “At
the heart of our problems is that nihilism which was all along the destiny of
Western culture: a nihilism either unacknowledged even as the bombs fell or
else, as with Hitler or Stalin, demonically proclaimed as the new salvation.” 60
All of us must now begin thinking and acting in the dimension and in the
interest of the human species-an intellectual domain of vita activa that in-
digenous people have inhabited since time immemorial. It is this modality of
thought as a process of reflection that the “civilized” nations must learn from
the “savage” ones. Vine Deloria, in “Native American Spirituality,” has at-
tempted to clarify this distinction:
American Indians look backwards in time to the creation of the world and
view reality from the perspective of the one species that has the capability to
reflect on the meaning of things. This attitude is generally misunderstood by
non-Indians who act as if reflection and logical thought were synonymous.
But reflection is a special art and requires maturity of personality, certainty of
identity, and feelings of equality with the other life forms of the world. It con-
sists, more precisely, of allowing wisdom to approach rather than seeking an-
swers to self-generated questions. Such an attitude, then, stands in a polar-
ized position to the manner in which society today conducts itself.61
It is not a matter of moral bookkeeping or of winners and losers in the battle
of the most martyred minority. It is not a matter of comparative victimology,
but one of collective survival. The insistence on incomparability and “unique-
ness” of the Nazi Holocaust is precisely what prohibits our collective compre-
hension of genocide as a phenomenon of Western “civilization,” not as a re-
iterative series of historical events, each in its own way “unique.” It is what
Friedberg: Americanizing the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionsinhibits our ability to name causes, anticipate outcomes, and, above all to en-
gage in preemptive political and intellectual action in the face of contemporary
In Tabori’s 1990 production Weisman and Rotgesicht, the “calculus of
calamity” is taken to hilarious heights to reveal the grave truth of the matter.
In his 1994 discussion of “The Contemporary German Fascination for Things
Jewish,” Jack Zipes states of Weisman und Rotgesicht:
The resolution that Tabori offers, though hilarious, is meant to be taken se-
riously: a verbal duel so that both sides can expose themselves and realize
how ridiculous it is to quarrel with one another. Hilarity becomes a nomadic
means of questioning majority culture and of reversing identities so that un-
derstanding between different groups can be generated.62
Ultimately, fostering a “solidarity of memory” that might fundamentally
challenge majority culture must be the aim of any comparison of “minority”
situations, but the conclusion Zipes draws from this particular conflation of
identities in conflict is flawed by a misapprehension of the play’s historically
and culturally specific geographic setting in the Western wilderness and its re-
lationship to indigenous peoples. As I have argued elsewhere, while Tabori
does not specify the site of the duel in the desert, the play could be interpreted
to be set in what is now the state of Colorado.63 This is the site of the Sand
Creek Massacre-a historical event with culturally specific meaning to the
Native American people. It is at once a site of sanctity, of sacrifice, and of sac-
rilege. It represents the rampant desecration that has devastated an entire civ-
ilization and its way of life. But according to Jack Zipes’s analysis: “There are
many parallels that one can draw with the conflict in this play: Jews and blacks
in the States, or blacks and Koreans; Jews and Turks in Germany; Jews and
Arabs in the Middle East.”64 Clearly, other subaltern Others share similar re-
lationships to other, more distant desert lands and wilderness landscapes, but
Zipes’s analogies are flawed on several counts.
In the case of the conflicts between the first two groups cited, the element of
violent conquest and the dispossession of lands at the heart of the American
Indian-European immigrant “dispute” is absent: Jews and blacks, like Jews and
Koreans, are engaged in a struggle for cultural, racial, economic, and social eq-
uity in territories to which they have been introduced as Others-either as
slaves, immigrants, or refugees. In the German-Turkish situation, the “minor-
ity” group is the “alien element” or, as the German euphemism would have it,
“guest workers.” None of these struggles involves legal agreements between sov-
ereign nations-that is to say treaties between sovereign political entities-
the terms of which have not been upheld by an outlaw state whose
as a “world power” is nevertheless recognized by the international community.
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24, NO. 3
369As Seth Wolitz has stated in this regard, “the text can also be read allegorically
as a version of the Israeli-Palestinian encounter between two subalterns squab-
bling over land which the ‘Gewittergoi’, the imperialist powers, can always re-
gain and control.” 65 The problem with this allegory, though, is that the North
American territories that function as the setting and backdrop for the territo-
ries at issue in the Indian-immigrant conflict have yet to be manumitted from
colonialist bondage. The lands remain in control of the “imperialist power.”
Precisely this is central to understanding the double-edged ironies and con-
flicts addressed in Weisman und Rotgesicht. The setting involves a geographical
site that is readily associated with the actual site of a massacre and, as such, the
site itself is ambiguous: it signifies both a site of (ongoing) sanctity and one of
(ongoing) desecration. If the parallel is to be drawn between the Jewish and
American Indian subaltern situations, the course of history as well as the pres-
ent state of affairs must be taken into account: the fact is that Hitler lost the war
and the State of Israel was formed as partial reparation for the losses sustained
by the Jewish population as a result. However, the United States government,
even as it sought to help absorb the losses sustained by the Jewish population
in Europe not only through its support of Israel, but by offering refuge to Jew-
ish immigrants in territories seized from the indigenous populations, won its
war against the Indians.66 The crucial difference between a regime whose de-
mise was rooted in genocide and one for whom genocide was its foundational
principle and the prerequisite to its existence is elided by this analogy.
Moreover, at the level of sheer abstraction, the solidarity between subaltern
groups that the Jewish-American tradition of “spoofing” Jewish-Indian rela-
tions seeks to evoke is marred by its unilateral initiative- emanating from the
Jewish perspective in the context of a Judeo-Christian framework that demon-
strates little regard for or knowledge of the cultural and religious world-views
of Native Americans, either as a collective entity or as heterogeneous individ-
ual nations- each with its own relationship to specific geographic sites within
the boundaries of occupied territories now defined as the United States.
The land, “the Wilderness” or “the Desert” which has come to signify a
“wasteland” in the symbolic and spiritual orders of other peoples, has never
been associated with anything but abundance and eternal sustenance for in-
digenous peoples because revelation is rooted in the life of reflection on and
with the land, not in catastrophic upheaval or divine intervention. Vine Deloria
explains the “problem” of misconstrued understandings of this relationship in
this way:
Almost every tribal religion was based on land. … Some of the old chiefs felt
that, because generations of their ancestors had been buried on the lands and
because the sacred events of their religion had taken place on the lands, they
Friedberg: Americanizing the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionswere obligated to maintain the tribal lands against new kinds of exploita-
the Pueblos, Hopi, and Navajo, the lands of the
…. Especially among
creation and emergence traditions are easily identified and are regarded as
places of utmost significance. … Government officials have ruthlessly disre-
garded the Indians’ pleas for the restoration of their most sacred lands, and
the constant dispute between Indians and whites centers around this subject.67
If anything sets the American Indian apart from other victims of genocide
or oppression in this country, it is this: Native Americans are not, in the
strictest sense of the word, a “diasporic” people.68 While the policies of Indian
Removal certainly served to disperse, displace, disparage, and dislocate Native
cultures and identities from coast to coast, imposing upon Native North
American peoples conditions of existence that might be described as “dias-
poric” in a Judeo-Christian or postcolonialist context, I would caution against
the appropriation of the diasporic metaphor with regard to the state of Native
North America. The traditional Deuteronomic narrative of the Diaspora im-
plies divine punishment in response to a breach of covenant. In order for a “di-
asporic” situation to prevail, the peoples of the diaspora must have entered
into a contract with the divinely intervening deity. But indigenous peoples of
this country stood in no such relationship to the Judeo-Christian God and his
sovereign representatives on Earth. The notion of a “Native Diaspora” in the
United States presupposes an adherence to the doctrine of Manifest Destiny as
divine intervention on the part of the Judeo-Christian God in His effort to cre-
ate “living space” or Lebensraum for His children-“chosen” and “unchosen”
alike. Even if we were to accept the contemporary permutations of the concept
in the postcolonialist attempt to subvert and decenter traditional narratives of
nationalism and imperialism as these relate to identity formation and the lo-
cation of culture, the diasporic metaphor is inapplicable because the peoples
and lands at issue here have yet to be manumitted from neo-colonialist
Uprootedness, homelessness, exile-these are maladies forced upon Native
North American populations by the invading Europeans. What Simone Weil
has written about this affliction in reference to Euro-African relations in Africa
applies equally to the situation on Turtle Island.
[T]he white man carries [uprootedness] about with him wherever he goes.
The disease has even penetrated the heart of the African continent, which had
for thousands of years, nevertheless, been made up of villages. These black
people at any rate, when nobody came to massacre them, torture them, or re-
duce them to slavery, knew how to live happily on their land. Contact with us
is making them lose the art. That ought to make us wonder whether even the
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24, NO. 3
371black man, although the most primitive of all colonized peoples, hadn’t after
all more to teach us than to learn from us.69
Native Americans have been “extirpated”
as “savages”
and as “barbarians”
on their own soil. That soil has been contaminated by pestilence, poisons, tox-
ins, oil spills, nuclear waste dumps and all the other deadly by-products West-
ern “civilization”
inevitably leaves as its legacy. Sacred sites have been effaced;
Synagogues and churches can be rebuilt, but Mount
Rushmore is not likely to be restored to its original glory by geological cos-
metic surgery. Taken literally, James Young’s figurative language in “America’s
Holocaust: Memory and the Politics of Identity,” is laced with mordant irony:
By themselves monuments are of little value, mere stones in the landscape.
as part of a nation’s rites or the objects of a people’s national pilgrimage,
are imbued with national soul and memory. For traditionally
the state-spon-
sored memory of a national past aims to affirm the righteousness
of a nation’s
monuments emplots the
over barbarism,
and recalls the martyr-
events, of triumphs
story of ennobling
dom of those who gave their lives in the struggle
existence-who in
the martyrological
In assuming the
idealized forms and meanings assigned this era by the state, memorials tend
to concretize particular
historical interpretations.
They suggest themselves in
even geological
in time, such
idealized memory grows as natural to the eye as the landscape in which it
70 [emphasis mine]
The irony of his statements is certainly not lost on Young, who concludes his
discussion with a section titled “Against a Culture of Competing Catastrophes,”
and states: “In the end we must recognize that memory cannot be divorced
from the actions taken in its behalf, and that memory without consequences
even contain the seeds of its own destruction.”71
The “national monument” at
Mount Rushmore represents the geographic and symbolic site in which the
principles of Manifest Destiny and the master race are literally set in stone.72
Only when the sanctity in the hearts and minds of the indigenous popula-
tion of this “vast, untamed wilderness” itself has been duly acknowledged-
when the dominant culture finally comes to grips with the fact that the ground
they walk upon is not like a temple to the American Indian-it is the temple-
then, and only then, will the nature of the devastation and desecration be driven
home to them. Once that has been established, the essentially suicidal nature
of Western intellectual endeavor will also become apparent. The savage-an
entity reduced in the Western scheme of things to the level of “bare (and hence
the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionsdisposable) life” on a par with the plant-reveals himself, in the Native Ameri-
can world-view, to be precisely that: nothing more and nothing less than the tree
itself–equals in a covenant and an evolutionary chain that does not shackle
or bind, but merely bonds. To the Native American sense and sensibility, the
tree represents life itself, and there is no split between the life of the tree and
the life of the human. They are holistically, historically, and happily related in
the nexus of mutually sustainable symbiosis.
If, following Agamben, “homo sacer is life that may be killed but not sacri-
ficed … life that may be killed by anyone without committing homicide,” then
no crime has been committed in the American Holocaust, nor is the dearth of
“academic moves,” “scholarly turns,” and “paradigmatic shifts” toward a fun-
damental rethinking and reshaping of American national identity of any con-
sequence in global, local, or national terms.73 There has been no “human”
sacrifice in the conquest of the West. Nothing but the forest has been lost to the
victor culture. But, if Native theorists, religious leaders, and activists who have
survived the holocausts are correct in asserting, as they do, that the fate of the
forest will be that of man, then the master race is, in fact, engaged in the specter
of committing collective suicide- exercising the authority of the sovereign
over life and death on all our behalf.
If we are to divert the disaster, Mount Rushmore must be placed on a par
with burning synagogues, whose fires can never be extinguished, and with black
churches in the South subjected to racially motivated acts of arson. If the “Jews
are the Indians of Germany,” then Mount Rushmore is Bitburg, writ large and
indelible, engraved not only in our collective memory, but spat on the very
floor of the temple-a civic memorial to a people and a way of life sacrificed
to someone else’s “God.”74 But it is also here that the master race, ex altera
terra, has signed and sealed its own fate on this continent as that of homo sacer:
A life that, excepting itself in double exclusion from the real context of both
the profane and the religious forms of life, is defined solely by virtue of hav-
ing entered into an intimate symbiosis with death without, nevertheless, be-
longing to the world of the deceased.75
The stones speak volumes that continue to fall on the deaf ears of an Amer-
ican public more German than the Germans in its persistent refusal to come
to terms with a “little matter of genocide,” choosing instead to adopt as its own
the foundling stone of a historical marker-that coveted historical caesura
everyone wants to have, but no one wants to own in the “Americanization of
the Holocaust.” 76 But in the canyons of deep memory, the song of the stones
still echoes and rings true for the three million survivors of the American
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24, NO. 3
1. The reader of this paper is instructed to note that the linguistic and literary intent
of the writer includes a deliberate transgression of traditional boundaries in scholar-
ship. This paper thus combines and at the same time challenges elements of various
genres: from personal narrative, to scholarly discourse, to critical analysis and creative
writing in a parodic idiom that, at times, borders on the “sacrilegious.” It is written
from the subject position of a German-Jewish-Native-American- (Anishinabe) -Female
and, as a “cross-genred” literary experiment, seeks to reflect the cultural hybridity of
its author.
2. Seth Wolitz, “From Parody to Redemption: George Tabori’s Weisman und Rot-
gesicht,” in Verkbrperte Geschichtsentwiirfe: George Taboris Theaterarbeit, ed. Peter
H6yng (Tibingen:
Francke Verlag, 1998) 151-76, 163.
3. Mark Slobin, “From Vilna to Vaudeville: Minikes and Among the Indians,” The
Drama Review 24, no. 3 (September 1980): 18.
4. Raphael Seligmann, Mit beschriinkter Hoffnung: Juden, Deutsche und Israelis
(Hamburg: Hoffman und Campe, 1991), 97-8; cited in Sander L. Gilman, Jews in To-
day’s German Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 19.
5. Lucy Dawidowicz, The Holocaust and the Historians (Cambridge: Harvard Uni-
versity Press, 1981), 17. In Dawidowicz’s earlier work The War against the Jews 1933 -1945
(New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975), her discussion of the Madagascar Plan
speaks in terms of the “Madagascar reservation … a reservation for Jews that would be-
come truly their final destination” (150 -66) [emphasis mine].
6. Cited in Peter Novik, The Holocaust in American Life (New York: Houghton
Mifflin, 1999), 200.
7. Novik, The Holocaust in American Life, 198.
8. See also Henry R. Huttenbach, “The Psychology and Politics of Genocide Denial:
A Comparison of Four Case Studies,” in Studies in Comparative Genocide, eds. Levon
Chorbajian and George Shirinian (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), 216: “Denial has
become an integral part of genocide; not to take this aspect into consideration is to fail
to comprehend a major component of the dynamics of extermination.”
9. At the time of this writing, Finkelstein’s most recent work The Holocaust Indus-
try: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering was scheduled for publication by
Verso in July 2000. Citations here are from an 11 June 2000 review by Bryan Appleyard
published in the online version of The Sunday Times (http://www.Sunday-times.co.uk/
news/pages/sti /2ooo/o6/11/stirevnwso2oo6. html).
1o. Novik, The Holocaust in American Life, 13.
11. Saul Friedlander, Memory, History, and the Extermination of the Jews of Europe
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 23.
12. Ernst Reinhard Piper, ed., Historikerstreit:
Die Dokumentation der Konstervers um
die Einzigartigkeit der national-sozialistischen Judenvernichtung (Munich: Piper Verlag,
the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions1987); in English, James Knowlton and Truett Cates, trans., Forever in the Shadow of
Hitler? Original Documents of the Historikerstreit, the Controversy Concerning the Sin-
gularity of the Holocaust (Atlantic Highlands NJ: Humanities Press, 1993).
13. Gerald Vizenor, Manifest Manners: Narrative on Postindian Survivance (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1994), 4.
14. George Tabori, “Hamlet in Blue,” Theatre Quarterly 20 (1975): 117-32.
15. Henryk Broder, “Die Germanisierung des Holocaust,” in Volk und Wahn (Mu-
nich: Goldman Verlag, 1996), 214. English-language translations of “The Germaniza-
tion of the Holocaust” and other essays by the same author are forthcoming in Lilian
M. Friedberg and Sander L. Gilman, eds., To Each His Own: Selected Essays by German-
Jewish Essayist Henryk Broder. Indeed, as Broder’s essay implies, a veritable cottage in-
dustry has developed around the Holocaust. Titles like Edward Alexander’s “Stealing
the Holocaust,” (Midstream [November 1980]) reflect the lunatic proportions that
characterize the debates. See also Norman Finkelstein at note 9 above.
16. James Axtell, Beyond 1492: Encounters in Colonial North America (New York: Ox-
ford University Press, 1992), 262-63.
17. Finkelstein’s article was subsequently reprinted-together with an equally
scathing critique of Goldhagen’s thesis and methodology by Ruth Bettina Birn, a rec-
ognized authority on the archives Goldhagen cites as sources for his research-in
A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth (New York: Henry Holt,
18. William Greider, One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 368.
19. Dominick LaCapra, Representing the Holocaust: History, Theory, Trauma (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1996), 57.
20. Steven Katz, “The Uniqueness of the Holocaust: The Historical Dimension,” in
Is the Holocaust Unique?: Perspectives on Comparative Genocide, ed. Alan Rosenbaum
(Boulder co: Westview Press, 1996), 21.
21. See Katz’s chapter on “The Depopulation of the New World in the Sixteenth
Century” in The Holocaust in Historical Context: Volume I: The Holocaust and Mass
Death before the Modern Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 87-91.
22. Katz, The Holocaust in Historical Context, 59.
23. Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington Dc: Carnegie En-
dowment for International Peace, 1944), cited in Katz, Holocaust in Historical Context,
125. Lemkin’s definition has been reprinted in most standard works on genocide. For
the reader who may be unfamiliar with the text of Article 2 of the UN Convention on
Genocide adopted by the General Assembly in November 1948, which was based on
Lemkin’s original delineation of the term and the crime’s parameters, I reprint it here:
“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with
intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,
as such:
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24, NO. 3
3751. Killing members of the group.
2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring
about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. (cited in Katz,
Holocaust in Historical Context, 125)
Ward Churchill’s A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas
1492-Present (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1997) firmly establishes, point by
point, the manner and degree to which policies and actions on the part of the U.S. gov-
ernment and its people conform to the definition of genocide as outlined by Lemkin
and by the UN convention.
24. Lord Jeffrey Amherst, cited in Churchill, Matter of Genocide, 154.
25. David E. Stannard, American Holocaust (New York: Oxford University Press,
1992), xii.
26. While sources may disagree on the exact wording of Sheridan’s now infamous
statement, the sentiment, regardless of wording, is always the same. My source here is
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955), 499. The
examples cited here reflect but the tip of the iceberg in a documented litany of official
and unofficial statements issued by governmental authorities and representatives of the
people of the United States, which express clear and unequivocal intent to exterminate
the entire indigenous population of North America.
27. Yehuda Bauer, “Comparison of Genocides” in Chorbajian and Shirinian, Stud-
ies in Comparative Genocide, 38.
28. Lenore A. Stiffarm with Phil Lane, “The Demography of Native North Amer-
ica,” in The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance, ed. Annette
Jaimes (Boston: South End Press, 1992), 33.
29. Churchill, Matter of Genocide, 63.
30. Ibid., 64.
31. Ibid., 147. See also Reginal Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of
American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981); Frank
Parella, “Lebensraum and Manifest Destiny: A Comparative Study in the Justification
of Expansion” (master’s thesis, Georgetown University, 1950); Albert K. Weinberg,
Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalist Expansion in American History (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1935); Frederick Merk, Manifest Destiny and Mission
in American History: A Reinterpretation (New York: Knopf, 1963).
32. John Toland, paraphrased in Stannard, American Holocaust, 153.
33. Katz, Holocaust in Historical Context, 97.
34. Cited in Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and
Empire Building (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980), 232.
the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions(New York: Harcourt Brace,
35. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
race as an element of the
same “subterranean
stream,” but her American exceptionalism renders her comments
in this regard of little use to an analysis of the notion of “one nation under God” as a
euphemistic veil for the concept of a master race. See Arendt, Origins, 152, 206.
36. Drinnon, Facing West, 463.
37. Ibid., 463.
38. Ibid., 465.
39. Ibid., 462.
40. Ibid., 463.
41. A discussion of the role Christian ideals played in the genocide of both the Jews
and the indigenous populations of the Americas oversteps the scope of this study. Elie
Wiesel, unaware perhaps of his own profundity in this matter, sums up the gist of the
argument quite well when he states: “All the killers were Christian…. The Nazi system
was the consequence of a movement of ideas and followed a strict logic; it did not arise
in a void but had its roots deep in a tradition that prophesied it, prepared for it, and
brought it to maturity. That tradition was inseparable from the past of Christian, civi-
lized Europe” (in Irving Abrahamson, ed., Against Silence: The Voice and Vision of Elie
Wiesel [New York: Holocaust Library, 1985], 33).
42. Stannard, American Holocaust, 13.
43. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel
Heller-Roazen (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1998), 114.
44. Churchill, Matter of Genocide, 229.
45. Stannard, American Holocaust, x.
46. See also Terrence Des Pres’s (The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death
Camps [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976], 207) assertion that “[the survivor] is
the first of civilized men to live beyond the compulsions of culture” [emphasis mine].
47. Ward Churchill, “A Summary of Arguments Against the Naming of a Univer-
sity Residence Hall After Clinton M. Tyler” (report prepared at the request of the as-
sistant vice chancellor for academic services, University of Colorado at Boulder,
July 1981, cited in Annette Jaimes, ed., The State of Native America, 5).
48. Novik, Holocaust in American Life, 9.
49. See note 9 above.
50. Eduardo and Bonnie Duran, Native American Postcolonial Psychology (New
York: SUNY
Press, 1995), 40.
51. Winona LaDuke, All Our Relations: Native Struggles
for Land and Life (Cam-
bridge, MA: South End Press, 1999), 148.
52. Novik, Holocaust in American Life, 9.
53. See note 9 above.
54. Winona LaDuke, Last Standing Woman (Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, 1997),
reference here is to the state of Minnesota. Her discussion centers on the
127. LaDuke’s
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24, NO.
377particularly virulent strain of metaphysical Indian-hating that permeates those areas in
direct proximity to reservations.
55. Annette Jaimes, “Sand Creek-The Morning After,” in Jaimes, The State ofNa-
tive America, 8. A detailed discussion of the “legal” means employed by the U.S. gov-
ernment in outlawing and criminalizing various elements of native culture far exceeds
the scope of this study. Churchill states, in this regard,
It may seem curious that American Indians, who had mandatorily become U.S.
citizens by 1924, should “need a special statute passed in the late 1970’s [The
American Indian Religious Freedom Act, 1978] to be able to utilize the Free Ex-
ercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.” A number of statutes
and regulations promulgated during the late nineteenth and early twentieth cen-
turies, however, effectively criminalized a range of indigenous spiritual practices
extending from the Lakota sun dance to the potlatch ceremonies of the nations
of the Pacific Northwest. Further, given that many native traditions embody a
concept of sacred geography, loss of lands had by the late twentieth century seri-
ously curtailed site-specific practices of Indian spirituality (Ward Churchill, cited
in Jaimes, The State of Native North America, 17).
Native and non-Native scholars have conducted a substantial amount of research on
these issues.
56. The “New Age” spiritual movement’s fascination and appropriation of things
Indian also presents a mirror image of the “contemporary fascination for things Jew-
ish in Germany.” See article of the same title by Jack Zipes, in Sander Gilman and Karen
Remmler, eds., Reemerging Jewish Culture in Germany: Life and Literature since 1989
(New York: New York University Press, 1994), 15- 45; cf. Wendy Rose, “The Great Pre-
tenders: Further Reflections on Whiteshamanism,” in Jaimes, The State ofNative North
America, 403-21.
57. LaDuke, All Our Relations, 5.
58. Ibid., 1.
59. Ibid., 1.
6o. Des Pres, The Survivor, 207.
61. Vine Deloria, For this Land: Writings on Religion in America (New York: Rout-
ledge, 1999), 130.
62. Jack Zipes, “Contemporary Fascination,” 36.
63. Lilian Friedberg, “Mule Minus Forty Million Acres: Topographies of Geographic
Disorientation and Redface Minstrelsy in George Tabori’s Weisman und Rotgesicht”
(master’s thesis, University of Chicago, May 2000).
64. Zipes, “Contemporary Fascination,” 36.
65. Wolitz, “From Parody to Redemption,” 166.
66. Ward Churchill, speaking at the University of Chicago on 21 January 2000 made
the Holocaust
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionsthis point in his lecture on “A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the
Americas 1492-Present.”
67. Deloria, For this Land, 127.
68. Any significant discussion of indigenous peoples and their relationship to the
lands currently inhabited by other diasporic peoples is glaringly absent, for example,
in Michael Galchnisky’s discussion of diasporism with regard to multicultural identity
in the United States. See “Scattered Seeds: A Dialogue of Diasporas,” in Insider/Out-
sider: American Jews and Multiculturalism, eds. David Biale, Michael Galchinsky, and
Susan Heschel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 185-212.
69. Weil, The Need for Roots, 77.
70. James E. Young, “America’s Holocaust: Memory and the Politics of Identity,” in
The Americanization of the Holocaust, ed. Helene Flanzbaum (Baltimore: The Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1999), 69.
71. Ibid., 82.
72. While opinions in Native communities are divided with regard to the “Rush-
more alternative”- the “Crazy Horse Monument”-it is the view of many that this
monumental undertaking, initiated by European immigrants, constitutes an equally
atrocious assault on the land, which only adds insult to injury, especially since Crazy
Horse, throughout his life, had insisted that no graphic representations of his person
be made.
73. Agamben, Homo Sacer, 101-3.
74. This is a reference to the international scandal surrounding then President Ron-
ald Reagan’s conduct at the cemetery in Bitburg, Germany, where former ss soldiers are
buried and were commemorated in 1986. For a more detailed discussion of the event
and its meaning, see also David Singer, ed, Bitburg in Moral and Political Perspective
(Bloomington: University Press of Indiana, 1986) and Ilya Levkov, ed., Bitburg and Be-
yond: Encounters in American, German, and Jewish History (New York: Shapolsky, 1987).
75. Agamben, Homo Sacer, too.
76. Russel Means, 12 October 1992, American Indian Movement: “All my life, I’ve
had to listen to rhetoric about the United States being a model of freedom and de-
mocracy, the most uniquely enlightened and humanitarian country in history, a ‘na-
tion of laws’ which, unlike others, has never pursued policies of conquest and aggres-
sion. I’m sure you’ve heard it before. It’s official ‘truth’ in the United States. It’s what is
taught to schoolchildren and it’s the line peddled to the general public. Well, I’ve got a
hot news flash for everybody here. It’s a lie. The whole thing’s a lie, and it always has been. Leaving aside the obvious points which could be raised to disprove it by blacks
and Chicanos and Asian immigrants right here in North America-not to mention the Mexicans, the Nicaraguans, the Guatemalans, the Puerto Ricans, the Hawaiians, the
Filipinos, the Samoans, the Tamarros of Guam, the Marshall Islanders, the Koreans,
the Vietnamese, the Cubans, the Dominicans, the Granadans, the
Libyans, the Pana-
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/VOL. 24, NO.
379manians, the Iraqis, and a few dozen other peoples out there who’ve suffered Ameri-
can invasions and occupations first hand-there’s a little matter of genocide that’s got
to be taken into account right here at home. I’m talking about the genocide which has
been perpetrated against American Indians, a genocide that began the instant the first
of Europe’s boat people washed up on the beach of Turtle Island, a genocide that’s con-
tinuing right now, at this moment. Against Indians, there’s not a law the United States
hasn’t broken, not a Crime Against Humanity it hasn’t committed, and it’s still going
on” (cited in Churchill, Matter of Genocide, frontispiece).
the Holocaust

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