What Eric Kurlander’s ‘Hitler’s Monsters’ offers to the civilizational debate.
Nazis play a major role in the culture wars. Anyone arguing for the value of Western Civilization, the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Enlightenment, and the heritage of the Ancient Greeks will eventually be confronted with the Nazis. If cultural relativism is wrong, if it is wrong to say that Islam or Communism or New Age are not all equally valuable options on the cultural menu, then what about the Nazis? After all, the Nazis were Christians, weren’t they? Wasn’t the Holocaust informed by Christian theology? How dare Western Christians criticize jihad or communism’s purges? You have the worst crime in history on your team’s scorecard.
About that claim that the Nazis were the worst. The Nazis were compulsive record keepers. Hollywood directors and Soviet cameramen participated in the liberation of concentration camps. Their films have been required viewing for generations of students. We lack comparable documentation for others’ crimes. When I inform students of the cost of the establishment of communism or the advance of jihad, they indicate to me that they have never been exposed to these facts before. Historian Stephen Kotkin’s conservative estimate is that communism cost 65 million lives, while historian David Satter estimates that “the greatest catastrophe in human history,” killed 100 million. Bill Warner estimates that the death toll from jihad is 270 million.