Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Controversial Decision on Smuggled Rosenberg Diaries

Risking more conflict with what proved last time I expressed my opinion on this (Smuggled Alfred Rosenberg Diary Found in US Monday, 10 June 2013) to be a smug, superficial and patronising lunatic fringe, I have to raise a few questions on this again. The Alfred Rosenberg diary, taken out of Germany in unclear circumstances (he said he had permission from a US official) and hidden away by Robert M.W. Kempner, has today been deposited by US federal authorities in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington (ICE press release):
Kempner had access to seized Nazi documents in his official capacity as an employee of the U.S. government. At the conclusion of the Nuremberg Trials, Kempner returned to the United States and lived in Lansdowne, Pa. Contrary to law and proper procedure, Kempner removed various documents, including the Rosenberg Diary, from U.S. government facilities in Nuremberg and retained them until his death in 1993.
ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale said:
“ICE remains committed to protecting the world’s cultural heritage by investigating looted or stolen property and art like the diaries and returning them to their rightful owners.”
And who is "the rightful owner" of this document? Note that it explicitly said that the material was in private hands "contrary to law and proper procedure" and as a result of a government contract (not normally associated with people walking off with official records in my country at least). The reasoning behind the deposition of the document in Washington is, apparently, its author
"was privy to much of the planning for the Nazi racial state, mass murder of the Jewish people and other ethnic groups, planning and conduct of World War II and the occupation of Soviet territory" [...] “The finding and return of the Rosenberg Diary is one more small but significant step towards a full and complete understanding of the depraved mindset of those responsible for the mass killing of Jewish people and ethnic groups during World War II,” said U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III, District of Delaware.[...] As Reich Minister, Rosenberg played a significant role in the mass murder of the Jewish people in the Occupied Eastern Territories, as well as the deportation of civilians to forced labor camps to support the German war effort. Rosenberg also established and headed an organization, Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce), the mission of which was to loot cultural property from all over Europe [...] Rosenberg served as head of the Nazi party's foreign affairs department and as the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, which included the Baltic States, Ukraine and parts of Belorussia.
and there's the rub, it's not just about the Jews, but has a much wider context. Is  the best solution placing it in a museum dedicated to just one of the topics it potentially considers? Where should cultural property' of wider importance to the history of Nazism be kept? In Washington? Or maybe Moscow or London? Or maybe back in Germany from which Kempner removed it as a trophy back in the 1940s?

Surely people recognize that one cannot pigeonhole the genocides (for its not just about the Jews)  in Nazi-run Europe to be due to the private opinions of a handful of evil men and a number of otherwise-good-guys-just-following-orders. There was (and is) something more complex going on, at the time and in later trying to rationalise it. The events cannot be understood by chopping up the evidence (the Rosenberg diary is divided now between at least two US institutions) and scattering it between continents. No understanding of anything will emerge from examining fragments of one document in isolation from other material of various sources relating to surrounding events held in archives back in the Europe where that document arose. Unless the US has the ambition to garner the rest of that material too, including diaries and memoirs, letters etc of the people taking part in these events (as well as the victims and onlookers), then the research argument really should not be being used. This object in fact serves as nothing more than a trophy. It is a crowd-pleasing symbol of domination, and it is a shame that people are not recognizing that instead of complacently applauding it.

Exceptionally, I am not accepting comments to this post. On this subject, I've had enough of name-calling based on a superficial understanding of what I wrote. If the nasties only want to shout me down, they can do it on other blogs, not here.

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