The Swastika’s Darkening Shadow – Voices From The Holocaust
By Monty Noam Penkower
Palgrave Macmillan – £20.00
The Nazi regime’s firm conviction, driven by a pathological view of the Jew as the incarnation of evil threatening German and world survival, was expressed and progressively implemented with shameless candour. Writing in his diary on September 5, 1944, Victor Klemperer, a Romance languages Professor in Dresden who had converted to Protestantism and married an ”Aryan” piano teacher, captured this reality in a telling metaphor: ”The Jewish problem is the poison gland of the swastika viper.”
As can probably be surmised before even having read a word, The Swastika’s Darkening Shadow – Voices From The Holocaust, depicts the ghastly ideology of escape-goatism in all its truly fundamentalist, nasty, myopic glory. Time and again throughout what is a very fair and accurate analysis of that which the title proclaims, author Monty Noam Penkower reminds us that during the thirties, Central Europe – not to mention the world as a whole – was inextricably aligned with Germanic (political) wrong doing and impending doom for European Jewry: ”With ever thickening shadows of war clearly visible on the horizon, realpolitik reigned supreme in these corridors of power. As a consequence, Europe’s defenseless Jews, facing unprecedented anguish, would find few allies to answer the call of conscience.”
Not only is this self-evident in the opening quote – especially the utterly moronic depiction of the situation as pronounced by Klemperer – it is further, succinctly underlined by ”Germany’s most illustrious novelist and a non-Jew married to a Jewish woman who had converted to Lutheranism, Thomas Mann,” who in chapter two (‘The Vise Tightens: 1936-1937’), decried: ”God help our darkened and desecrated country and teach it to make its peace with the world and with itself!”
Whether Germany has done so or will indeed, ever be able to do so, is, like an array of countless socio-religiously induced, thorny issues, open to much deliberation.
The continuing trajectory of such deliberation is a colossal understatement – as these 255 pages readily substantiate. The mere fact that the continuation of the opening quote reads: ”Remarkably, but commonly overlooked, Poland and Romania were home to far more virulent assaults against Jews in the 1930’s until Kristallnacht, while mounting legislation and brutal anti-Jewish attacks could readily be seen elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe.”
The Swastika’s Darkening Shadow finds Penkower leaving no political nor theological stone unturned; the result of which is a book that occasionally reads more like an exceedingly well researched document, which, given the subject matter, is utterly understandable. And given the approach, almost desirable.
Part of the reason for this being said approach lends itself to an openness, not to mention pin-point accuracy – as it absolutely does not allow for cover up, nor bias.
Surely it wasn’t rocket science to ascertain that Hitler ””had ceased to be normal” as regards the treatment of the Jews,” but still much of the civilised world declined to heed the aforementioned call of conscience. To my mind, this was and will forever remain, a devastating disgrace so far as global morality is concerned. How will we ever be able to live with the following: ”We scream, we groan, blood mixes with earth, we die, and a whole generation is destroyed. Then there is silence, while waiting for history to open a window to salvation at the moment when the whole world is choking to death.”
This book is indeed something of a tough read – not due to the way it’s written, but rather, some of its seemingly out of control subject matter.
Once this is realised and placed alongside the gritty and altogether, internationally enlightening substance, it’s easy to applaud the comments made by Anthony McElligot, Professor of History at the University of Limerick in Ireland: ”In The Swastika’s Darkening Shadow, not only does Monty Noam Penkower provide us with an important collection of little known documents charting the worsening condition of Europe’s Jews, while the international community either ignored their plight or dithered in the six years or so preceding the outbreak of war in 1939, he prefaces this with a masterful analysis, rich in detail and with panoramic brush strokes. Elegantly written, The Swastika’s Darkening Shadow is going to become an essential reference for anyone studying the Holocaust.”