Man Without Qualities

Sunday, June 19, 2005


When I was a kid growing up in New York, the World Jewish Congress fought a never ending battle to keep people from making movies and other entertainments about the Shoa. The Congress understood that such activities would inevitably degrade the reality through a process in some respects similar to the process that has caused the image of George Patton to be displaced in too many minds by that of George C. Scott. Many Long Island families, especially jewish families, imposed a dinner-table version of what Mickey Kaus calls the "Hitler Rule:"**
A politician must never, ever, compare anything or anyone to Hitler or the Nazis, no matter how apt the comparison.
The dinner-table version of the Hitler Rule held that anyone in a family argument seeking to advance his or her position by comparing anything or anyone to Hitler or anything Nazi automatically lost the argument (such a ploy was considered to be akin to dividing by zero).

But the Congress lost - defeated by worthy efforts like Schindler's List and Playing For Time. Nevertheless, the process has taken its course. Now, a dim-witted political fable dressed up as an expensive, special effects-laden summer movie, such as X-Men, draws hardly a comment for featuring as its villain a mutant Holocaust survivor outfitted with ersatz concentration camp (in both common meanings of that term) footage to demonstrate his "origins."

And as for the Hitler Rule, it's come to this!


**Mickey's readers also point to "Godwin's Law."

POSTCRIPT: Even sixty years later things keep happening that refresh the understanding that the Nazis really were different.

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