Professor Bruno Bettelheim's Foreword To "Auschwitz"

by Albert Weisbord
(From the magazine "La Parola del Popolo" August/September 1961)

"AUSCHWITZ" (published by Fawcett Publications, Inc., New York) is an eyewitness account of the most terrible of Hitler's death camps. Its author is Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a Jewish victim who was made part of the Sonderkommando, the Nazi name for the corps of Jewish prisoners assigned to carry the still warm dead from the gas chambers to the Auschwitz ovens. The story is indeed a terrible one that deserves to be indelibly engraved in the hearts and minds of all.

Professor Bruno Bettelheim was invited to write a foreword for this book. Bettelheim is a recognized authority in the field of psychology, has worked for Jewish organizations and is the author of a number of books and articles on anti-Semitism and prejudice. He was supposed to draw some lessons from the Nyiszli narrative.

As the first lesson, we might expect to read some remarks on the subject how could the Germans have committed such a terrible crime as to send to their death six million Jews and untold other millions in such places as Auschwitz. But Bettelheim does not find this mass murder very strange. He writes: The history of mankind, as of the Western world, abounds in persecutions for religious or political reasons. Large numbers of men were exterminated in other countries too. Germany itself was depopulated by the Thirty Years War, during which millions ofcivilians died. So there is nothing remarkable in what the Nazis did; it is par for the course. The Nazis were but human and man's inhumanity to man is a well known story. (Permit us to ignore as beneath comment Bettelheim's comparative reference to the Thirty Years War.)

But if the Nazis acted quite normally within the bounds of history, what then was strange about Auschwitz? The Jew Bettelheim will tell you: The unique feature of the extermination camps is not that the Germans exterminated millions of people --- that this is possible has been accepted in our picture of man, though not for centuries has it happened on that scale, and perhaps never with such callousness. What was new, unique, terrifying, was that millions, like lemmings, marched themselves to their own death. This is what is incredible; this we must come to understand.

So, then, the Nazis were normal human beings; it was the Jewish victims who were abnormal, who are to be compared with the animal lemmings in Scandinavia which apparently for no reason at all at certain seasons all rush down to the sea in hordes there to commit suicide by drowning. The Jewish victims wanted to commit suicide, that is why they got themselves finally into the camps and went quietly to their death. It was the Jews' own fault that they got themselves murdered the way they did; like lemmings they gave up the fight against the death instinct.

Other people fought the Nazis, but not these Jewish victims. They did not fight at all. One would think that if they had to die they would have died fighting, but they did not. They could have fled the Nazis but they did not. They worked together with the Nazis for their own destruction because they were like lemmings. All this according to Bettelheim.

Bettelheim states that the Germans did not want to kill the Jews, they really were forced to do so because of Jewish stubbornness and wish to die. But let us hear him directly: As a matter of fact the discriminatory laws against the Jews were meant to force them to leave Germany, leavingmost of their possessions behind. For a long time the intention of the Nazis (so Bettelheim even knew the intentions of Hitler! --- AW) was to force undesirable minorities, such as the Jews, into emigration. Only when this did not work was the extermination policy instituted, following also the inner logic of the Nazi racial ideology.

Furthermore, because the Jews never fought back they provoked the Nazis into harsher and harsher treatment that otherwise never would have been undertaken. I quote the Professor: It may have been Jewish acceptance, without retaliatory fight, of ever harsher discrimination and degradation that first gave the SS the idea that they could be gotten to the point where they would walk to the gas chambers on their own. If the Jews had fought back, then the SS would not have had this idea, apparently.

According to Bettelheim the Jews did not fight back against the Nazis because Jews thought more of their property and of their money than they did of their lives. This was the form in which their wish to die operated. In fact the Jewish life has no meaning without money and property. By definition Jew means money and property before life. The Jew is so dedicated to this idea that
business as usual comes first that he continues this course even when it means going to his death. To all this Hitler could say amen.

Bettelheim: In Buchenwald, I talked to hundreds of German Jewish prisoners who were brought there in the fall of 1938. 1 asked them why they had not left Germany because of the utterly degrading and discriminating conditions they were subjected to. Their answer was: How could we leave? It would have meant giving up our homes, our places of business. Their earthly possessions had so taken possession of them that they could not move; instead of using them, they were run by them . . . Those who stayed on to continue business-as-usual moved toward their own destruction and perished. Thus in the deepest sense the walk to the gas chamber was only the last consequence of a philosophy of business-as-usual.

A good example, according to Bettelheim, is the Anna Frank story. She and her family, it seems, also wanted to die. They could EASILY (note this "easily") have escaped if they really had wanted to. Again I quote this fantastic Jewish "champion" Herr Professor Bettetheim: All the Franks wanted was to go on with life as much as possible in the usual fashion. The Franks could have faced the facts and survived, as did many Jews living in Holland. Anna could have had a good chance to survive, as did many children in Holland. But for that she would have had to be separated from her parents and gone to live with a Dutch family as their own child. . . . . The Franks, with their excellent connections among gentile Dutch families should have had an easy time hiding out singly, each with a different family. . . . So good Dr. Bettelheim insists that "many" Jews survived in Holland, "many" Jewish children had a "good" chance to survive, that the Franks would have had an "easy" time hiding, and that the Franks were caught because they really wanted to be caught. (The 1950 report showed that of the 140,000 Jews in Holland before the war, about 116,000 were caught and slaughtered with only 4,000 Jewish children "saved," many turned over to Christians but refused return to Jewish life after the War was over.)

Again, here is Bettelheim: It was similar inertia if not also the "business as usual" attitude that postponed the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto till hardly any people or any strength was left for fighting and certainly far too few to make a break through that might have saved thousands of lives. But the Warsaw uprising could never have and was never meant to save Jewish lives. It was designed to kill Nazis and it can be criticized only from the angle that more Nazis should have been killed and not that more Jews could have been saved!

So much for Bettelheim, Doctor of Psychology, or better, Doctor of Dreck! This "scientist" takes clinical technique used in cases of individual treatment to "explain" mass phenomena for which these historical techniques are worthless. He places the Jew on his couch not to cure the victim but to commit sodomy!


IS IT TRUE that the Jews could not master their own death instinct but continued to operate along the lines of "business as usual" when they knew this would lead to their destruction? Is it true that, as Bettelheim writes: Inertia it was that led millions of Jews into the ghettos the SS created for them. It was inertia that made hundreds of thousands of Jews sit home, waiting for their executioners when they were restricted to their homes? Why did not the Jews try to escape and emigrate from Central and Western Europe? Why did they not go underground and into hiding taking arms with them and preparing for an uprising?

It is so easy to be smart after the event, so easy to blame the victims and concoct insurrectionary organizational units in a dream world. As part of the events of World War I it is estimated that about three million Armenians were massacred and destroyed by the Turks. Why did the Armenian victims not rebel and form underground movements? Why did they submit to such a massacre? Why did they not fight better? And yet they were a nation concentrated in one area on which they had lived and driven off others for many hundreds of years! For one thing, they did not know the massacres were to take place. For another, without arms they were overwhelmed by superior forces that simply destroyed them en masse. If they fought back at all it was because the massacres were not prepared systematically over the years but were committed all in one swoop without any great forethought and planning. And to where could three million Armenians have run? That they died without any significant casualties to the Turks does not at all mean they had a wish to die. This would be a terrible slander which no one has attempted on the Armenian people. But the Jew Bettelheim does not hesitate to slander the Jews a la Hitler.

Let us leave the Jews for a moment and see what happened to others at Auschwitz. I quote from the narrative of Dr. Nyiszili: Annihilation time had come for the 4,500 inhabitants of the Gypsy Camp. The measures taken were the same as those taken for the liquidation of the Czech Camp. All the barracks were quarantined. SS guards, leading their police dogs, invaded the Gypsy quarters and chased the inhabitants outside, where they were made to line up. Rations of bread and salami were distributed. The gypsies were made to believe that they were being shipped to another camp, and they swallowed the story. A very easy and efficacious way of calming their fears. No one thought of the crematoriums, for then why would rations of food have been distributed?

This strategy on the part of the SS was dictated neither by pity nor a regard for those condemned to death, but merely by their desire to expedite a large group of people, without any unnecessary incidents or delays, to the gas chambers, guarded by a relatively small patrol. The strategy worked to perfection. Everything went off as planned. Throughout the night the chimneys of number one and two crematoriums sent flames roaring skyward, so that the entire camp was lighted with a sinister glow. And these gypsies were the same who had been used as gleeful guards to send the Jews to their death. Does any one insist that the gypsies had a suicidal urge, or is this urge reserved only for Jews?

The fact that the Jews were picked out for extermination by Hitler was not because of the passivity of the Jew and his wish to die, but, precisely because of his tenacity for life. The fundamental attack of Hitler was not against the Jew as such but against Marxism or Communism. He was led to fight the Jews because, for one thing, the Jews played such a leading role in international communism. His first concentration camps were not for Jews but for Marxists and labor leaders, an overproportionate number being Jews in those movements.

What was the role of the Bettelheims and wealthy Jews against such Jewish communists and militant labor leaders at that time? The interests of the wealthy and middle class Jews compelled them to join hands with Hitler against the Communists even though preponderatingly led by Jews. It was the Jewish Legion, for example, that hailed the bombing of the socialist cooperative houses in Vienna and helped to destroy the militant section of the Jews in the communistmovement that was fighting Hitler to the death. Bettelheim, we can be sure, was not part of the communist movement and therefore it can be said that it was HE who was showing HIS death instinct in refusing to fight Hitler in any truly militant manner. He should have known that only the communists could have destroyed Hitler as they offered to do repeatedly hand in band with the German workers. And it was HE who was showing himself as a psychopath in plying his profession of psychologist with an eye to "business as usual." (But, if Bettelheim had fought Hitler as a Communist, would he now be a "Professor" in Chicago University?)

A disproportionately large number of Jews fought Hitler in Spain. They fought him in France. They fought him in underground movements linked up with the people of different countries everywhere in Europe. They did not fight him as Jews, they fought him as anti-Nazi revolutionists. These noble people should be remembered as typifying the Jews, not only the unfortunate prisoners left behind.

COULD all or most of the Jews have fled? But whither? What countries would have taken them: the United States, Great Britain, Russia? How would they have got there and, yes, how would they have lived? Apparently, they should have fled before the war. But did they not have a right to believe that the German workers would resist war and bring on revolution? Did they not also have the right to believe that the U. S., Chamberlain, and Deladier wanted Hitler to fight the war only against Russia and that if Russia were broken then Hitler would be appeased and tension lessened. Was it a wish to die that led the Jews to have faith in the hundreds of years old
co-existence of Jew and German and to fear the pogroms, on the other hand, that had flourished in Hungary, in Poland, and in Russia? Since the Germans had never exterminated Jews before why was it most natural to think complete extermination was to be the lot not only for German Jews but for all the Jews found all over the world in countries overrun by the Nazis? It is so easy to be smart after the event, especially if you are a "wiseguy." But even our wiseguy Bettelheim in another part as quoted stated his opinion that the "original" intention of the Nazi had NOT been extermination.

How could the petty bourgeois Jews, many of them boasting that they were completely assimilated with others, and scattered as minorities all through Europe, have revolted on their own? Even the large German Communist Party which had openly boasted it would revolt once war was declared against the Soviet Union, whose units were used to underground and revolutionary organization work, and whose leaders were also murdered, did not revolt. Did this show a wish to die on the part of the German Communists or just a colossal betrayal of the communist movement by the Stalinists, as the (Jew) Trotsky had predicted?

According to Bettelheim the Jews hung on to their property, their businesses, their money but should have given it all up and fled rather than suffer the humiliation and degradation they endured before the Nazis reached their final solution --- the liquidation of all Jews. But humiliation and degradation was nothing new to the Jew --- he had suffered this for hundreds of years in all countries of Europe, from England to Russia. And how had the Jew managed to endure all this --- and survive? Precisely because he had held on to money and carried on his "business as usual." With this money he had bribed and bought off his enemies who were, in truth, really interested not in him but in precisely his money and wealth that they wished to appropriate. Why should the Jews then have believed the Nazi robbers and ghouls would be different. And when they found out the Nazis were different --- thanks to the war --- it was then too late. Many years had then gone by with systematic destruction of the Jews' power of resistance.

Dr. Nyiszli reports: In the Czech Camp both the children and aged had been greatly weakened by their two-year ordeal: the children's bodies were mere skin and bones, and the elderly prisoners were so weak they could scarcely walk. Both had to relinquish their places to new arrivals who were still strong enough to work....

Hunger had reduced the prisoners to raving, moaning maniacs. Within a few days their already weakened organism had disintegrated entirely. Diarrhea, dysentery and typhus had begun their deadly work. Fifty or sixty deaths a day was normal. Their last days were spent in indescribable suffering, till at last death came and set them free.

Dr. Nyiszli describes the long journey before the victims were actually slaughtered: And what a long road they had traveled in coming here! How filled with unimaginable sorrow each lap of that journey! First, their warm, comfortable homes had been invaded and pillaged. Then, together with their husbands, children and parents, they had been taken to the brick-kilns on the far edge of town, where for weeks they had been made to live and sleep in the swamps born of the spring rains. These were the "ghettos," from which, in small groups, they had been taken every day to the specially designed torture chambers, outfitted with all the latest instruments conducive to making people "talk." There they had been questioned, until half dead with pain, they had confessed either the hiding place of their valuables, or the name of the person to whom they had confided them. Many had died from these interrogations. Those who survived had been almost relieved to find themselves being loaded into boxcars, eighty or ninety to a car, for it had meant they were leaving the torture chambers far behind. Or so they had thought. For four or five days they had lived in these cars, watching the dead pile up around them, till at last they reached the Jewish ramp of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Once in the camp they were given insufficient food to keep them really alive. Their limbs became heavy as lead due to insufficient albumin; they had perpetual drowsiness and partial amnesia, often they could no longer remember the names of the streets where they had once lived, or their house numbers. Thus they lived for the short time until cremated. These wretches, already destroyed before even they had reached the concentration camp, are the ones Bettelheim is berating for having death wishes.

But perhaps Betteleheim is berating not the starved, demented, diseased regular inmates waiting death but the Sonderkommandos, the 850 inmates specially selected to do the work of burning the bodies. Why did not these people revolt since they knew they would be regularly liquidated anyway after four months work. But if these men had not volunteered for this work would they not have been slaughtered immediately until others came for their places? The question is whether this volunteering was a manifestation of a wish to die or a will to live? Only a fool would think that the seizure of the opportunity to live four months longer than the others was a manifestation of the wish to die.

Four months is a long time to live during a war like that of World War II. We cannot blame some if they thought that within the four months they might be liberated by the Russians. Bettelheim was not there to tell them that partly because Jews like Bettelheim had fought and weakened communism over the years did the Red Army arrive later than they otherwise would have. The false evaluation of the Sonderkommandos was matched by the pernicious influence of the Bettelheims.

One Sonderkommando group did revolt. But this group had been given arms and grenades secretly delivered to them by partisan forces, most likely communist partisan forces that the Bettelheims would have destroyed if they could. With these weapons the 12th Sonderkommando group staged a revolt that will go down in history in the same manner as the brave revolt of the Warsaw Ghetto.

There was a Jew, Trotsky, following in the footsteps of another Jew, Karl Marx, who before the Nazis took power, called on the Jews to join forces with the revolutionary communists to fight side by side with the German workers against Nazi victory. There is another Jew, Bettelheim, following another Jew, Freud, who, in line with his own decadent psychology believed the call of Trotsky was essentially suicidal and who supported the Jewish bourgeoisie in having illusions about Hitler, before the event of his victory. What a monumental evidence it is that it is the Jew Bettelheim and not the Jew Trotsky that should be alive to write "for" the Jews!

One final point. It was the will to live apparently that prevented Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, who knew all about these events taking place at the time they occurred, from broadcasting the truth to the world and by leaflets and propaganda showering the whole of Europe with the essential facts. It is the will to live (well), apparently, that prevents Bettelheim from bringing out the point in his foreword that had the Allies showed any interest in the question the Jews might have been able to revolt more and better. It is also the will to live, (from American handouts) that today prevents the Israeli bureaucrats from bringing out the moral complicity of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin to the crimes of Hitler. But these people are standing on their heads. History will prove soon enough that their will to live was only an historic expression of their wish to die, since they will be buried in contumely and disgrace by history.

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