Lemony Snicket penned thirteen fictional tomes chronicling the “Series of Unfortunate Events” involving the Baudelaire Orphans. Central to his saga is the relentless villain Count Olaf, determined to appropriate the fortune of three children whose parents he first murdered. Foiled in his initial attempt to seize their inheritance, Olaf repeatedly disguises himself hoping that, transformed, he will eventually circumvent the Orphan’s defenses.
Count Olaf’s dubious talent for hiding his true identity by superficial disguise is shared by intellectual villains lurking on the fringe of public discourse, Holocaust Deniers. The gentle passing of Miep Gies, the brave woman who risked her life hiding Anne Frank and her family, will provide crass deniers an opportunity to display “skin-head” style neo-Nazism. Easily identified and unable to attract serious support, open Holocaust Denial disgusts, but is not the true “villain.”
The Denial that retains its essence while presenting itself as legitimate historical inquiry or broad-minded psychological analysis is growing in influence and acceptability.
Speaking of his newest documentary, “The Secret History of America,” Oliver Stone announced his intention to “put Hitler in context.” This might be the classic Hollywood stunt to draw attention by generating controversy, but his statements familiarize the audience with a tactic of confirmed Holocaust Deniers.
“Stalin, Hitler, Mao, McCarthy — these people have been vilified pretty thoroughly by history, we can’t judge people as only ‘bad’ or ‘good.’ Hitler was an easy scapegoat.”
Oliver Stone supported Holocaust Denial, perhaps without realizing it, in a way that rivals the most Olafian metamorphosis. What is disturbing is that Stone cannot be considered a Holocaust Denier in the classic sense of the term. His comments are worthy of note because, while they do not deny the event of the Holocaust, they diminish its significance.
“Hitler is the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect. People in America don’t know the connection between WWI and WWI. I’ve been able to walk in Stalin’s and Hitler’s shoes, to understand their point of view. You cannot approach history unless you have empathy for the person you may hate.”
Stone applies a thick layer of psychological make-up to the aberrant physiognomy of a monster, leaving the reader with this impression that Hitler was the victim, not the perpetrator. Stone is likely to project a Shakespearian figure of Hitler battered by the cosmic forces of History, paternal abuse, maternal overindulgence and, of course, the demon of Western Democratic corporate greed masquerading as patriotic defense of freedom.
Aristotle would have a field-day with Stone’s concept of valuable Historical critique. The objective judgment of human actions based on immutable criteria of virtue or vice cannot be lightly tossed aside without compromising both present and future.
The director suggests that intellectually enlightened elite are able to transcend the simplistic Western weighing of human actions as deliberate conformity to or rejection of a code of just behavior, considering instead only infinitely subjective contextual reactions to cultural influences.
The Secret History of America was no doubt conceived as another Leftist attack on American values, institutions and historical importance. Stone appears prepared to recast World War II, not as the logical consequence of immoral choices made by accountable, evil human beings, but rather as the some-how justifiable, or at least understandable reactions to over-reaching imperialism and subconscious conditioning. In his rush to besmirch America’s role in liberating the world by trivializing Hitler, Stone questions the intentionality of the Holocaust itself.
If Hitler was driven to the War, not by his own thirst for world dominance and the eradication of all Jews, but by a combined political-psychological predestination, then the murder of six million Jews was not a crime, but a mere, regrettable, somehow understandable accident.