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Plotting Genocide in Wansee and Tehran

Seventy years ago today, some of the German government’s top bureaucrats gathered in a Berlin suburb. The event, known to history as the Wansee Conference, after the name of the neighborhood in which these Nazi technocrats came together, was remarkable for the commonplace way in which the participants approached their problem as if it were a normal matter in which inter-governmental agency cooperation was necessary. But there was nothing normal about their task: the extermination of the Jews of Europe.

Lawrence Kadish notes the event today in an important article in the New York Post. But the point of the piece isn’t merely commemoration of a milestone event in the Holocaust. Rather, Kadish wisely compares the bureaucratic thoroughness with which much of the considerable power of the German state was put at the disposal of the Nazi death machine with the way Iran is currently marshalling its resources for a similar purpose: the construction of a bomb that might be used to eradicate the state of Israel.

Kadish’s comparison is apt and not just because both Nazi Germany and Islamist Iran are tyrannical states governed by vicious anti-Semites who scheme against the Jews. He rightly points out that just like Adolf Hitler, a man who made no secret of his plans for genocide, the Iranian regime has also not been shy about telling the world its intentions for dealing with Israel. But in both cases, much of enlightened opinion dismissed their warnings as being mere rhetoric intended for domestic consumption. Few took the Nazis at their word in the 1930s. The same is true about the West’s refusal to take the apocalyptic warnings of Israel’s destruction, ironically by leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who deny the original Holocaust while boasting of wishing to start another.

There may be those who will object to conflating the discussion of the Holocaust with concern about Iran, but any such complaints are without substance.

Holocaust remembrance is important, but any words spent lamenting the Six Million murdered by the Nazis without some reference to the need to defend the lives of the descendants of the Jews who survived is pointless. Kadish’s piece is a reminder that the best memorial to the Holocaust is not a speech, a statue or even a museum (however praiseworthy such things might be), but the state of Israel and the continuance of Jewish life there and elsewhere.

Tears shed for Hitler’s victims without a thought as to the potential for an equally great toll of victims of an Iranian nuke are of no use. And just as that tragedy might never have occurred had the Allies summoned the resolve to oppose Hitler before he struck, so too might the next great tragedy be averted if the West acts to stop Iran.

As Kadish writes:

This Third Reich milestone should serve as a cautionary tale for every 21st-century democracy. Middle East expert Bernard Lewis has observed that Islamist leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are little concerned with the mutual-destruction strategies that kept the Cold War from becoming hot. Instead, they welcome the martyrdom of their subjects.

History consistently reminds us that indifference in the face of an implacable enemy invariably leads to disaster. Further, more often than not, our enemies tell us exactly what they mean to do before they do it. Acting on their warning requires our collective insight, personal courage and national will.

This month, the world is still in doubt as to whether the United States will act to impose an oil embargo on Iran, the only measure short of war that has a chance to convince the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions. Yet even as President Obama dithers, Washington is sending signals it may be more concerned about an Israeli attempt to forestall the Iranian nuclear program and a possible rise in the price of oil, then it is in the cost of waiting until Tehran achieves its goal.

The Wansee Conference anniversary should alert us to the fact that such complacency can only lead to catastrophe.


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