Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Human Rights Watch has been posting a response to revelations that one of their top staffers is an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia with a statement posted to a number of blogs, including this one. Click the link to read the statement. They are in heavy spin mode, as well they should be, because things are not getting any better. Here's a picture (I have obscured the child's face) and brief exchange [via Dave] from one of the forums Garlasco frequents [link via Carl]:
As commenter Paula notes, if Garlasco's "monograph" (the 430 page book he authored) was such an accomplishment, why isn't it mentioned in his HRW bio...or much of anywhere else? I understand other online statements indicate he knew it could be a problem.
And, contrary to the HRW spin, the fact is he's not a serious of collector of non-German items as far as I've seen. German stuff is his thing. Nor do I accept the spin (HRW spin no less) of this great separation between "Nazi" and non-Nazi items and admiration. I've heard that 1000 times and never bought it. They were all part of the same machine, if the Wehrmacht had won it would have been Hitler's triumph, and the Generals who turned against Hitler didn't do it until it looked like an impending disaster for the Reich. If either Garlasco or his gramps were such pacifists and so turned off by this militarism thing...then why on earth is he honoring gramp's memory by glorifying his army service? People do compartmentalize, and today we can separate the moral issues from the boyish interest in things military to a certain extent, but you can't seriously expect everyone else to do the same or to understand it.
I will state again that I, personally, do not find this hobby so horrifying in and of itself. Not at all. I'm sure you can pursue this without admiring or meaning to glorify Nazism (one way is to accept that justification that HRW tries to propagate and that I say I've never completely accepted in the paragraph above), and I'm certain that many, many people on the discussion forums Garlasco frequents are perfectly fine people who simply share an interesting hobby and don't mean harm. I'm also sure it attracts a lot of the wrong type of person and that the moderators there must be ever vigilant to maintain the proper tone on their forums.
A lot of other people feel differently, however.
Thing is, if you're going to do this to the extent he does, you are sort of limiting your future options somewhat -- like a neck tat. There might be situations you would want to recuse yourself from, at least for appearances' sake. I mean, can you imagine the scene in Human Rights Watch's office?
Ken Roth: Marc, can you come in please? Marc...very important....we've just had an incident in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinians and we need you to fly out at once.
Garlasco: Oh...uh...where did you say again?
Roth: Gaza. Incident with the Israelis...
Garlasco: That's what I thought you said. See...uh...well, there's something I've been meaning to tell you...and...say, got anything going on in Congo by any chance?
Roth: No. Gaza. Listen, what's the problem?
Garlasco: Well, see I have a potential issue...
Roth: What, knocked-up a Hamas girl did you? Hahahahaha! Listen, whatever it is, the Israelis (who we're gonna give a good screwing to, btw...get it? "Knocked-up...screw..." I kid...) will protect you. Don't worry, you're a human rights worker, it's not like you're a...a NAZI or something!
Garlasco: NO! Oh no...[aside] well, not exactly...
Roth: Well, whatever it is, I'm sure it can wait. Now get out there kid. We have complete faith in you!
He can't have been sleeping comfortably at night.
HRW now has to spend time in spin mode rather than just asking Garlasco to resign in the same way that if you owe the bank $100k, the bank owns you, but if you owe the bank $100million, you own the bank. Garlasco and HRW are so intertwined they can't just dump him now without a major shakeout.
Dave responds to HRW here:
HRW are (deliberately?) missing the point. The question raised by his Nazi obsession is valid: is there a connection between his Israel bashing and his obsession with memorabilia associated with Jew-hating mass-murderers?
Imagine for a second if someone claiming to be objective had a penchant for collecting IDF memorabilia. If this person came out repeatedly with reports favorable to Israel, wouldn't people have reason to question their objectivity?
You also have to question how someone working for a human rights organization - and claiming to really care about people - can look at Nazi memorabilia and not feel repulsed.
These are valid questions, and HRW's informal response is nowhere near adequate.
Elder of Ziyon has a good response, here. Read it all, but here's a snip:
... Saying that this is him doing "research" is an insult to everyone's intelligence. He is a collector of Nazi-era German objects like daggers, Iron Crosses, swastikas. He has written hundreds, maybe thousands, of posts on forums dedicated to the topic. He has written a 400 page book on the topic. Writing a monograph on German medals does not make one a "historian" in any real sense; it makes him a rabid collector. I am fairly sure that his purchase of many of these items would be illegal in many European countries. To deflect those disturbing facts by saying that he also owns a few American air force memorabilia is to dodge the real issue.
It is extraordinarily bad taste and truly offensive that the same person who habitually castigates the Jewish state to a worldwide audience has a creepy obsession with the symbols of those who tried to destroy all Jews...
Yaacov minces no words. A snip:
HRW Press office should be aware that form letters containing platitudes and bland denials do not work when real issues are on the table. The historical value of the flak 88 batteries medals is about as important as the historical value of recording the color of the manure of the Carthaginians' war elephants as they changed altitudes in crossing the Alps. The detailed immersion in the stylization and lurid imagery of the Nazi medals betrays a mania that is simply not explainable as a normal hobby- especially given the ideology and ethos they represent. These are not treasures nor are they of any historical value they are lustrous totems of an inhumane totalitarian regime that should be, rightly forgotten and dishonored rather than worshipped...
See? That's what I'm talking about.
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Human Rights Watch Responds to Garlasco Revelations.
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