Finkelstein's background

C. G. Estabrook galliher at
Tue Aug 29 01:32:58 PDT 2000

I can't think that you've read this passage very closely. Finkelstein's argument here is a reductio ad absurdum. He is saying that, if you regard Goldhagen's disingenuous and contradictory thesis logically, then you will have to conclude that it provides an alibi for all Germans -- a manifest absurdity.

And, far from holding that Goldhagen does not have a theory of collective guilt, Finkelstein thinks that Goldhagen's theory of collective guilt is so extensive as to include all gentiles, thus justifying whatever Jews and the Jewish state might do in defense (pp. 93ff.).

C. G. Estabrook

On Mon, 28 Aug 2000, Brad DeLong wrote:

> > ... I think Norman's point (I don't have the book nearby,
> >so I can't check the context) is that a theory of collective guilt
> >absolves anyone of personal or collective political responsibility
> >and absolves the analyst of having to explain why the Nazi holocaust
> >happened. That's not far from the Elie Wiesel line that to try to
> >explain the Holocaust is to demean it.
> >
> >Doug
> If that was his point, it was badly expressed:
> "The merit of his thesis, Goldhagen contends, is that it recognizes
> that 'each individual made choices about how to treat jews'. Thus, it
> 'restores the notion of individual responsibility'. Yet if Goldhagen's
> thesis is correct, the exact opposite is true. Germans bear no
> individual or, for that matter, collective guilt. After all, German
> culture was 'radically different' from ours. It shared none of our
> basic values. Killing Jews could accordingly be done in 'good
> conscience'. Germans perceived Jews the way we perceive roaches. They
> did not know better. They could not know better. It was a
> homogeneously sick society. Moral culpability, however, presumes moral
> awareness. Touted as a searing indictment of Germans, Goldhagen's
> thesis is, in fact, their perfect alibi. Who can condemn a 'crazy'
> people?"
> Finkelstein's complaint (one of them, at least) is that Goldhagen does
> not have a theory of collective guilt...

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