Recently, the famous actress, comedienne and talk show host Whoopi Goldberg dropped what could only be considered a clanger when she said:
The meat of her comments I want to tackle are this:
So, was Ms. Goldberg wrong when she said her now infamous comments? Were the Jews persecuted because of their race, or was race nothing to do with it and it was simply "man's inhumanity to man"?
From my perspective, saying that the Jews were persecuted because of "man's inhumanity to man" rather than race is like saying that "guns don't kill people - people do" - a somewhat correct (though asinine) statement that overlooks so many inconvenient truths.
Yes, the Jews (as well as other people groups) were rounded up by the Nazi forces because man has an ongoing history of treating their fellow men inhumanely - but it's also hard to ignore that race was a part of it. To me, the Holocaust was three-factored: race, religion and finance.
Let me fill in the picture for you:
We first have to consider the backdrop of Post-WW1 Europe. By the time Hitler rose to power around the 1930s, Germany was struggling to pay back the reparations forced on it as part of the Treaty Of Versailles. Inflation had spiralled out of control, the most profitable industrial areas had to be ceded to the French and unemployment was the norm, not an exception. If the Treaty of Versailles was designed to cripple Germany, consider it mission accomplished.
So what do you do when you see things are bad and you want to get to power? You create a scapegoat, and for various reasons, the Jews of Europe became that scapegoat. Hitler first took leadership of the NSDAP, then the NSDAP did well at consecutive elections by making various promises to the people to restore the country to its former glory (sound familiar?) and he eventually took power in Germany, all while maintaining and fuelling the rage of the lower-class and downtrodden - in much the same way that anarcho-communists today use the plight of those trodden over by Capitalism to make their points.
And so we come to the financial reason for what eventually became the Holocaust. The trope being spread (particularly via propaganda) was that Jews were making themselves rich at the expense of the Germans, especially the ones struggling to pay back the reparations.
So by having the Jews arrested and expropriating their property (ostensibly to help build up the war chest), you kill two birds with one stone - you get rid of the Jews, as well as get easy money.
We also need to consider the religious reason for what became The Holocaust. Even before his time, but most famously around the time Martin Luther was a thought leader in Christendom, Jews had suffered persecution in various forms. Luther, in his anger towards the Jews for not converting to Christianity en masse, wrote two books - "On The Jews And Their Lies" and "Of The Unknowable Name And The Generations Of Christ" which essentially set the stage for anti-Semitism in Germany going forward.
There is much debate about how sincere a Christian that Adolf Hitler was, but it's very hard to argue that he didn't have what we may call a cultural form of Christian identity, and it's even harder to argue that he didn't get inspiration from Luther's writings, to the point that Hitler was quoted as saying that Luther was the first "spiritual Fuhrer of Germany".
So now Hitler has a religious reason to persecute the Jews - get rid of the Jews, and allow Germany to become a proper Christian society!
And lastly, we have race, which I will touch on briefly again. Now, we have to acknowledge that race and ethnicity are very hard to both define and distinguish, and while Whoopi Goldberg may be kinda correct that it was "two White groups of people", again, it's not the whole picture. Hitler, but more so his inner-circle, believed that the Aryan race were the supreme race on earth. And what distinguished Aryans? According to Wikipedia:
The purest stock of Aryans according to Nazi ideology was the Nordic people of Germany, England, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. The Nazis defined Nordics as being identified by tall stature (average 175 cm), long faces, prominent chins, narrow and straight noses with a low bridge, lean builds, doliocephalic skulls, straight light hair, light eyes, and fair skin.
How many Jews do you know with light straight hair, light eyes, fair skin and tall stature? Not many. The Jews are essentially Middle-Eastern peoples who have a more olive complexion and darker features, not Nordics who are pale in comparison.
Goldberg may have been trying to infer that it was white people against not-quite-so-white people, but this is somewhat racist in itself because it assumes that all white people are all part of the same tribe who would normally get along, if it wasn't for that pesky inhumanity that keeps getting in the way.
Need I remind readers of the Troubles in Ireland (British Whites vs Irish Whites), the Civil War (Northern Whites vs Southern Whites), the 30-Years War (Catholic Whites vs Protestant Whites), as well as the ongoing tensions between Serbians (not-quite-so-whites) and Croatians (also not-quite-so-white).
So in essence, Hitler launched a persecution campaign against the Jews because they (apparently) had wealth, were causing problems for Christians, and were not like the European heroes of old - and who better to scapegoat when you want to make Europe a strong, prosperous and racially-superior society?
On a personal note, I don't think she should be cancelled. However, I think the suspension kinda had to be handed out to help the heat die down.
I also want to say that this episode highlights the dangers of live discussion on live TV about hot-button subjects - as a podcaster who has taken part in many live discussions and sometimes without proper preparation, I get that it's easy to be caught on the hop. It happens.
Anyway, let's live, love and learn, and til next time, stay safe.