Never Again

One of the demeaning aspects of discussing the Holocaust and other similarly (but not, apparently, identically) emotionally-charged subjects is the need to tread lightly lest one provoke censure based on second-order interpretation ("You shouldn’t say that because bigoted/ignorant/stupid/inattentive people will misinterpret you as endorsing their position").  Over at the Conspiracy, Sasha Volokh has been rigorously defending his remark (prompted by the Gibson Passion Play) that he doesn’t subscribe to the notion that the Holocaust is/was "morally unique" (follow-up posts are here, here, here, and here).

While I both sympathize with some of the negative or guarded reactions from others and despise those who breezily conclude that the distinctions Volokh draws are a species of Holocaust denial (or "minimization"), I must admit to an emotional/political cavil at those who would insist on the Holocaust’s uniqueness, moral or otherwise.

Since long before the formulation of Godwin’s Law, I have argued against fixing Hitler and the Nazis at the end of any moral/ethical/political spectrum.  While the Nazis’ crimes (and the contemporaneous advent of motion-picture technology) will secure them immortal infamy, establishing the Nazis as the ultimate evil excuses us from trying to understand why they did what they did and therefore leaves us ill-prepared to prevent similar (but, again, unidentical) atrocities in the future.  Note that this is not a rigorous refutation of arguments that classify the Holocaust as morally unique (Volokh does an admirable job on his own); it is rather an emotional/political conviction that a society (or a global community, or a species) that has already been party to one Holocaust cannot afford the conceit that it was a one-off.

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