Saturday, November 1, 2014

How the forced march of Navajos to Bosque Redondo provided a vision for Hitler



I have previously written on Hitler's vision of the American west as a model, almost since his childhood, of what to do with Jews and others that he persecuted. See here. Moriah Lee, a student in my course on Plato who is Osage, listened to a lecture of Ari Kelman on Sand Creek last week, and sent me a wonderful - and horrifying - article by Lia Mandelbaum from The Jewish Journal, June 18, 2013, on how Hitler identified with the 1864 expulsion of the Navajo to Bosque Redondo, based on the documentary "Broken Rainbow." Reservations were meant, by General Carleton, to starve Indians while seizing their rich lands.

Hitler sometimes referred to concentration camps as "reservations" and to the Soviets, in his massive invasions, as "redskins."

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Socrates in the Republic discusses a founding "Phoenician" myth, a "noble lie" (that there is something satirical in this will be clear to those who listen to it deeply). But the idea itself is relevant for the founding myths of the United States and Colorado or what I call Founding Amnesias about slavery. For instance, contra the amnesia, the President was a slave-owner for 52 of the first 72 years of the "republic," a fact that should be recounted in high school history courses - and presided over a longterm extermination of indigenous peoples.

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As Mandelbsum puts it,

"The film talked about The Long Walk of the Navajo, which was the 1864 deportation and attempted ethnic cleansing of the Navajo people by the U.S. government. 8,000 Navajos were forced to walk more than 300 miles at gunpoint from their ancestral homelands in northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico to an internment camp in Bosque Redondo, which was a desolate tract on the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico. Many died along the way. From 1863 to 1868, the U.S. Military persecuted and imprisoned 9,500 Navajo (the Diné) and 500 Mescalero Apache (the N’de). Living under armed guards, in holes in the ground, with extremely scarce rations, it is no wonder that more than 3,500 Navajo and Mescalero Apache men, women, and children died while in the concentration camp."

***

It is the 150th anniversary of that forced march in Arizona as it is the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek massacre with its central role in the founding of Denver and Colorado as well as the University of Denver (Evans, Chivington and William Newton Byers, publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, were all on the original, 1864 Board of the Colorado Seminary).

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That Bosque Redondo - and the treatment of indigenous people across the West and across America (from 1638, the Pequot Massacre) provided a model for Hitler is a rich topic for potential research. I would be very interested in learning more about it (any one who has further information or intuitions, please write to me).

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Mandelbaum movingly pleads, among Jews and others, to recognize the American holocaust toward indigenous people as a parallel (and precursor) to the Nazi holocaust.

***

As "Broken Rainbow" indicates, Hitler also learned from English concentration camps for the Dutch during the Boer War. The colonialism of so-called liberal democracies - they were anything but liberal as colonizers and imperialists - played a major role in Hitler's bringing these horrors home to Europe. This has long been clear to me about the international role of eugenics and IQ testing - America was the leader for eugenic research; it also implemented federal laws about immigration calling for "preservation of the pure Nordic stock of the United States" (1924) and had laws on the books of some 30 states mandating sterilization of so called "low IQ" women (some 100,000 were sterilized in California alone), and laws against interracial marriage ("miscegenation"). Germany surpassed it in the 1930s. But the 1933 Nazi sterilization and anti-miscegenation laws were modeled on those of Virginia and Indiana...(Stephan L. Chorover, From Genesis to Genocide, pp. 98-102).

***

The direct vision of reservations as camps and particularly Bosque Redondo (Hitler could also have seen the expulsion of the Cherokees from Georgia, the "trail of tears") as a model for Nazis is something novel, fully to be explored. As John Toland puts it,

"Hitler's concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America's extermination—by starvation and uneven combat—of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.

He was very interested in the way the Indian population had rapidly declined due to epidemics and starvation when the United States government forced them to live on the reservations. He thought the American government's forced migrations of the Indians over great distances to barren reservation land was a deliberate policy of extermination [this is a question worth considering...]. Just how much Hitler took from the American example of the destruction of the Indian nations is hard to say; however, frightening parallels can be drawn. For some time Hitler considered deporting the Jews to a large 'reservation' in the Lubin area where their numbers would be reduced through starvation and disease."

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Yet Toland just touches on this theme. It is, as it were, a not yet explored continent for future research (something to which, as in the case of eugenics, many could contribute).

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One cannot rule others in this way and it not harm many among the so-called "master race." even the beneficiaries become small and monstrous, in many ways less than human, exemplars of the worst that humans may make of themselves; workers and others in the so-called advantaged group are, in fact, often hurt by these things.

***

David Ben Gurion, first Prime Minister of Israel, too, saw indigenous people - the Palestinians - in the light of the American "clearing" of the West (violent "transfer" - see Henry Siegman here).

***

"Hi Alan,

I'm so sorry you didn't get to ask your question tonight! We were all patiently waiting. You know my great grandmother was Osage, and she used to love a joke I thought you may appreciate:

An old Native chief sat in his hut on the reservation, eyeing two U.S. government officials sent to interview him.

"Chief Two Eagles," asked one official, "you have observed the white man for 90 years. You've seen his wars and his technological advances. You've seen his progress, and the damage he has done." The chief nodded in agreement.

The official continued, "Considering all these events that you have witnessed, where did the white man go wrong?"

The chief stared at the officials for over a minute and then calmly replied: "When the white man came to this land, Indians were running it.

No taxes!
No debt!
Plenty Buffalo.
Plenty Beaver.
Women did all the work.
Medicine Man free.
Native men spent all day hunting and fishing."

Then the chief leaned back and smiled..... "Only white man dumb enough to think he could improve system like that."

I read this a while back.

http://www.jewishjournal.com/sacredintentions/item/hitlers_inspiration_and_guide_the_native_american_holocaust

My grandparents took my to Bosque Redondo when I was a child, and it sunk in why my great grandmother was still ashamed of her Native American blood. She was embarrassed because it was shameful in her husband's (my great grandfather's) family to be associated with the "savage". Also, that "Tales of the American West were very popular among boys in Austria and Germany" sickens me. Acknowledging the folly at best and evil at worst of expansionism in our early history is to face ourselves.

see you next week,
Moriah"

***

"Dear Moriah,

The story about your grandmother and great-grandmother is very moving. Transgenerational trauma is what has been inflicted by the genocide on indigenous people, in a predecessor of/direct parallel to what happened to jews in Europe (or is happening to Tibetans and Palestinians now)...

All the best,
Alan"

***

Here is the article from the Jewish Journal:

"Hitler’s Inspiration and Guide: The Native American Holocaust
by Lia Mandelbaum
June 18, 2013 | 11:28 am

While attending the annual Garifuna Film Festival held here in Los Angeles, we watched films about indigenous cultures, and saw the 1985 Academy Award-winning documentary Broken Rainbow, directed by Victoria Mudd, which discusses the history of injustice towards the Native American people. The film talked about The Long Walk of the Navajo, which was the 1864 deportation and attempted ethnic cleansing of the Navajo people by the U.S. government. 8,000 Navajos were forced to walk more than 300 miles at gunpoint from their ancestral homelands in northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico to an internment camp in Bosque Redondo, which was a desolate tract on the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico. Many died along the way. From 1863 to 1868, the U.S. Military persecuted and imprisoned 9,500 Navajo (the Diné) and 500 Mescalero Apache (the N’de). Living under armed guards, in holes in the ground, with extremely scarce rations, it is no wonder that more than 3,500 Navajo and Mescalero Apache men, women, and children died while in the concentration camp.

During the film I learned about something that shook me to my core that I had not heard before. I learned that the genocidal mentality and actions of the U.S. policy makers would find similar expression years later when the Nazis, under Hitler, studied the plans of Bosque Redondo to design the concentration camps for Jews.

As Pulitzer Prize-winning author, John Toland, notes in his book Adolf Hitler (pg. 202):

Hitler's concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America's extermination—by starvation and uneven combat—of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.

He was very interested in the way the Indian population had rapidly declined due to epidemics and starvation when the United States government forced them to live on the reservations. He thought the American government's forced migrations of the Indians over great distances to barren reservation land was a deliberate policy of extermination. Just how much Hitler took from the American example of the destruction of the Indian nations is hard to say; however, frightening parallels can be drawn. For some time Hitler considered deporting the Jews to a large 'reservation' in the Lubin area where their numbers would be reduced through starvation and disease.

David A. Meier notes in Hitler's Rise to Power:

His favorite game to play outside was cowboys and Indians. Tales of the American West were very popular among boys in Austria and Germany. Books by James Fenimore Cooper and especially German writer Karl May were eagerly read and re-enacted. May, who had never been to America, invented a hero named Old Shatterhand, a white man who always won his battles with Native Americans, defeating his enemies through sheer will power and bravery. Young Hitler read and reread every one of May's books about Old Shatterhand, totaling more than 70 novels. He continued to read them even as Führer. During the German attack on the Soviet Union he sometimes referred to the Russians as Redskins and ordered his officers to carry May's books about fighting. [May admired native americans, more than cowboys; what Hitler took from May was different from what other German readers do]

Parallels

Some of the parallels include the death marches when the Nazis forced hundreds of thousands of prisoners from Nazi concentration camps and prisoner of war camps near the eastern front to camps inside Germany away from front lines and allied forces. I saw an image from May 11, 1945, where German civilians were walking past bodies of 30 Jewish women starved to death by German SS troops in a 300-mile march across Czechoslovakia. It made me think about how The Long Walk of the Navajo was also 300-miles, and many of the Native Americans died of starvation.

I thought about how the Nazis were burning Jewish books and burying bodies in mass graves, and the parallels of how Indian cultures were also erased, libraries of oral tradition functionally burned, and many were buried in mass graves under bibles.

Map of the Long Walk:

We must listen…

We don’t talk about the correlation as much as we should between the Native American Holocaust and the Jewish Holocaust. I often hear people dismiss the correlation between the suffering of our people and that of others. They felt that there is no comparison between the magnitude of horror and death that happened during the Jewish holocaust. I am by no means saying that the Jewish Holocaust was not one of humanity's darkest hours, but I believe that we must put down our measuring stick of who had it worse.

I've witnessed this attitude within many different cultures. Although not always, when I hear people say “ours was worse then theirs,” I see it as ultimately a lack of empathy and an attitude of indifference towards a grouping of people who have suffered from the same evilness that Hitler was fueled by. And like Elie Wiesel said, “Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.” These conversations of “ours is worse then theirs” in regards to any grouping of people who have suffered from such evilness, MUST stop.

Open discussions about the Native American Holocaust need to happen, so that we may understand the very blueprint of Hitler’s reign. To truly achieve “Never Again” we must hear the stories of others who have also endured humanity's darkest times, especially in the land in which we reside."

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