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The Holocaust as Terrorism: Death to the Non-Believers
Richard A. Koenigsberg
Terroristic violence means: “As I submit, so shall you submit. You must sacrifice your life to my God.” Violence is designed to compel non-believer to become believers.

In the case of the Holocaust—a monumental form of terrorism—Jews were compelled to bow down to the German god. As Nazis had submitted to Hitler and Germany, so Jews would be forced to submit as well.
Ruth Stein
Ruth Stein
Richard Koenigsberg

The key to understand political violence is to recognize that it stems from submission. Historians and others have a wet dream of “male aggression.” This makes human beings feel good: to imagine violence as a form of potency; how delightful that we still possess our “animal nature.”

Actually, political violence derives from what may be characterized as a “metaphysical” root. It descends from belief—in some entity or object conceived as great than the self. In the name of this transcendent object, violent political acts are undertaken.

For Bin Laden, as we have observed, the transcendent object was “Allah.” For Hitler, this object was “Germany.” These men devoted their lives to the entities they worshipped. Bin Laden stated that his religion believes that Allah has “created us for the purpose of worshipping him.” Hitler insisted, “We do not want to have any other God, only Germany.”

Worshipping one’s god involves submission. Muslims bow down five times a day with the prayer “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest). The devoted SS-man vowed “obedience unto death.”

It would appear that believing in the greatness of the object one worships—and bowing down (submitting) to this object—are often one and the same. When the 9/11 terrorists plunged the airplane into the ground in Philadelphia, their final words were “God is great.” Sacrificial death and submission to Allah were not separate.

Acts of violence for the terrorists followed from belief in and devotion to Allah. They sought to kill “infidels”—people who disbelieve in Allah; refuse to submit to him. Violence has the purposing of compelling non-believers to submit to the god in which the believer believes.

Long before 9/11, the phrase “death to the non-believers” often came into my mind while studying the Holocaust. It became clear that the Jewish “race” contained profound symbolic meaning for the Nazis. Hitler conceived of Jews as a people incapable of attaching (and submitting) to a nation-state. Jews, Hitler believed, were hostile to the German nation: refused to recognize her greatness.

Killing Jews—the Holocaust—therefore had the meaning of destroying infidels: “Death to the non-believers.” Because Jews—unlike nearly every other “race”—refused to submit to a national community, they would be compelled to do so.

Ruth Stein observes that by instilling fear into their enemies, the terrorists strove to turn these enemies “into their own worshippers.” The victims were required to submit or bow down to the terrorists in a way analogous to “how the terrorists themselves worship God.”

Terroristic violence meant, in short, “As I submit, so you shall submit.” “You must sacrifice your life to my God.” This form of violence is designed to compel non-believer to become believers—insofar as the non-believer must submit to the god to which the believer has submitted.

Similarly, in the case of the Holocaust—a monumental form of terrorism—Jews were compelled to bow down to the German god. As Nazis had submitted to Hitler and Germany, so Jews would be forced to submit.

The essence of totalitarian thinking—exemplified by people like Bin Laden and Hitler—is that no one is exempt. These radicals don’t acknowledge the existence of a neutral space. One is either a believer or a non-believer. Believers thus may feel compelled to kill those who do not embrace their ideology. The purpose of this violence is to “convert” the infidel.

The 9/11 suicide bombers sought—by virtue of their radical actions—to demonstrate the power of Allah: convince non-believers that Allah indeed was “great”—by virtue of his capacity to guide the performance of such an extraordinary feat.

Similarly, the Final Solution was undertaken by Hitler to convey the greatness of Germany. Since he was leader of a nation-state, Hitler could perform his demonstration on a scale that dwarfs what the terrorists were capable of. However, the meaning was the same: “Do you doubt the greatness of Germany? Do you think we are not serious about our ideology?” The Holocaust was designed to persuade Jews—skeptics—that Nazi Germany was as powerful as Hitler claimed.

At the moment Zyklon-B seeped into the gas chambers, Jews would be compelled to abandon their skepticism—acknowledge that Hitler meant what he said. Hitler imagined that in the process of choking and suffocating, Jews—finally—would become “believers.”