Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Auschwitz, Germany, and 1968

. Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I recently watched the excellent The Baader Meinhof Complex, about the wing of the sixty-eighters in Germany that eventually morphed into the Red Army Faction of domestic and international terrorists. I was originally turned onto the film by this Hitchens review of it. Like him, I highly recommend it, and it's available on Netflix Instant for those who subscribe.

Anyway, I didn't know much about the group before watching the film, and it sent me on one of those down-the-Wikipedia-wormhole jags that sucked up an evening. So I was pleased to find this excellent review in the recent n+1 by Yascha Mounk of Utopia or Auschwitz, a recent Columbia UP book by Hans Kundnani on the sixty-eight generation, its origins, its politics, and how it all went wrong. In a byte:

The violent fringes of the 1968 movement eventually even invoked the name of Auschwitz to justify lethal attacks on Jews. Identifying fascism with capitalism, capitalism with the Federal Republic, the Federal Republic with the US, the US with Israel, and Israel with all Jews, they soon came to think of Jews as the true fascists. This may sound like the tortured logic of your average antisemite, but the RAF started from an unusual premise: it was precisely the concern with the injustices their parents had perpetrated against Jews that led these young Germans to kill more Jews.

This was but one of several pathologies operating in German society at the time. But eventual statesmen like Gerhard Schröder and his foreign minister Joschka Fischer learned from them, and used them to further the rehabilitation of Germany as an important nation-state.

The government, along with other NATO countries, planned to use military force to protect Kosovar Albanians against Serbia. Fundamentalists within the [Green] party were outraged. On their view Germany’s history mandated pacifism. Fischer, by contrast, derived from his own understanding of German history an imperative to stop genocide by whatever means necessary.

“I didn’t just learn ‘Never again war,’” he told activists at a tense party conference, “I also learned, ‘Never again Auschwitz.’” In the end Fischer narrowly prevailed over the fundamentalists in his party. Under his leadership—and in the name of Auschwitz—German planes assisted in bombing Serbia. It was the first offensive mission of the German Army since World War II.

It's a fascinating review of what appears to be a fascinating book. I'm looking forward to reading it.


Auschwitz, Germany, and 1968




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