In a somewhat mindboggling development, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach’s approving retweet of a Piers Morgan interview with Douglas Murray from the Israel-Gaza border has caused a stir in Germany and even given rise to scattered calls for the minister to resign. The since-deleted tweet can be seen below with a Google translation.
Murray is one of the journalists to have been shown footage of the October 7th Hamas massacre of Israeli civilians. The supposedly incriminating passage in the interview is the following one and it refers to this footage.
The thing that struck me about seeing the October 7th footage was that even the Nazis were actually ashamed of what they did. You know, SS battalions who spent their days shooting Jews in the back of the head and pushing them into trenches had to get very, very drunk in the evening to forget what they had done… I tell you one very big difference. If you look at the footage, the raw footage… If [people] see it, they will see something that is at least as barbaric as what the Nazis did. But here’s the difference. They did it with glee. They were deeply proud. You see people taking the head off a young Israeli man with a shovel and then calling their parents back in Gaza and telling them: “Father, Father, I’ve killed 10 Jews of my own hands. Get Mother on the phone, I want to tell her.” … The Nazis… also were a genocidal anti-Semitic organisation. But they tried to cover their crimes up. Hamas are actually proud of them.
Note that in his post, Lauterbach already in fact took his distance from precisely these remarks, writing “The trivialisation of the Nazis vis-à-vis Hamas is wrong. Such crimes should not and cannot be compared.” But apparently it was not enough for Lauterbach to flag this and, in effect, accuse Murray of such “trivialisation”. Per his critics, he ought not to have reposted the video at all.
But, in any case, it is difficult to understand in what mental universe Murray’s remarks could be construed as trivialisation of Nazi crimes. Indeed, Murray explicitly says that Hamas’s actions were “at least as barbaric as what the Nazis did”, which means, needless to say, that he regards the latter as barbaric. It should be recalled, moreover, that the footage to which he refers is reported to document civilians being shot at point-blank range, families being burned alive in their homes, and even, as touched upon by Murray, decapitations. How is comparing Nazi crimes to such atrocities trivialising anything at all?
The word that Lauterbach uses in fact literally means “to make harmless” (verharmlosen). In what world are point-blank shootings, burning people alive and beheadings “harmless”?
Murray merely added that the Hamas perpetrators in the videos appeared to be proud and happy about their crimes, whereas, on his understanding, the German perpetrators of Nazi crimes felt bad about them.
Now, that is indeed a contestable claim. As the German historian Jürgen Zimmerer notes in a tweet, “There are 100s of photos of SS men and soldiers posing in front of corpses”, and even in the English-language discussion, at least since the publication of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners, it is well-known that many ordinary Germans took part in the Holocaust with gusto. The grinning faces of the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 in the below photo do not reflect remorse.
But what does this prove other than that the German historian knows somewhat more about Nazi crimes than the British journalist? And, in any case, how does observing the depravity of Hamas’s crimes make Murray an “Islamophobic Right-wing radical”, as Zimmerer accuses him of being? Zimmerer is not alone, moreover. Numerous of the disapproving German tweets describe Murray as “far-Right”, “racist” and the like.
The real, underlying message of the German critics of Lauterbach and indeed of Lauterbach himself, in light of his own remarks on “trivialisation”, appears to be that Nazi crimes can never be compared to contemporary acts, no matter how depraved. But what then of the famous dictum ‘never again’? Is not the whole point of the latter that it could happen again and that we have thus to be vigilant? Or are we supposed to wait for the German Minister of Health or other self-appointed German experts to tell us when the appropriate threshold has been reached and we are thus permitted to make the comparison?
For both Lauterbach and his ostensible critics, it would seem that “merely” burning Jews alive or beheading them is not sufficient. The fact of the matter is that by accusing Murray of trivialising Nazi crimes, it is they who are trivialising the crimes of Hamas.