Antisemitic Regimes Should be Taken at Their Word, says Jeffrey Herf, Historian of Holocaust and Islamic Radicalism

Historians in the News
tags: Iran, Obama, nuclear deal



University of Maryland Prof. Jeffrey Herf is the author of acclaimed works on the Holocaust, modern European history and antisemitism. These include Reactionary Modernism, The Jewish Enemy, and Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World among others. His July 2 essay for The Times of Israel, “Taking the Ideas of Others Seriously: A Lesson From German History and the Iran Nuclear Issue,” is based on Herf’s May 3, 2015 address to CAMERA’s annual board luncheon in New York City. The essay relates to the current debate over the agreement reached between the United States, Germany, France, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and the Islamic Republic of Iran over the latter’s purported nuclear program—and what Herf insists is the concurrent need to heed Iranian rhetoric that is a “mix of Nazi propaganda, Islamist ideology, and a peculiarly Iranian vision of world domination.”

“The Iran debate has never been about Right and Left in any conventional sense of those terms,” Herf observes, “It has been about whether the leaders of the United States government actually believe that the Iranian leaders believe what they say again and again.”

Herf warns that the Islamic Republic—which regularly calls for “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”—should be taken at its word.

The professor notes that “the problem of underestimating the role of ideology in politics remains very much with us.” It’s a problem evidenced in Adolf Hitler’s rise and simultaneous inability of “intellectuals and policymakers” to take the German dictator’s Jew-hatred seriously.

“On numerous occasions beginning in 1939,” the CAMERA speaker noted, “Hitler publicly announced that he intended to ‘exterminate the Jewish race in Europe.’…Contrary to some conventional wisdom, he did not keep his policies about the Jews a secret, nor did he speak in euphemisms. He spoke bluntly and often about his intention to exterminate the Jews.” In a Jan. 30, 1941 speech the dictator proclaimed that “the role of Jews in Europe would be finished.”

Herf notes that in an editorial the next day, The New York Times brushed off Hitler’s proclamation, calling the dictators words “worthless.” Why did it do so? Why—he wonders—did so many feel that Hilter could be appeased and his threats were meaningless?...




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