The German Connection: Kalichman’s not-so-Komical Kaper #3
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/03/21
That scientists are by “nature and training systematic and objective” brought me about equally guffaws and disbelief — guffaws at the absurdity of the assertion, disbelief that it could emanate from anyone who believes himself qualified to write about science. I found myself distinctly more disbelieving than chuckling, though, when I read (p. 54):
“much of the groundswell of support for Duesberg has come from his German colleagues, suggesting a nationalistic source for at least some of his support. As a German-born and German-trained scientist whose father served in the German Army during WW-II, Duesberg may evoke a sort of nationalist sentimental loyalty among some fellow countrymen. . . . The number of German colleagues who rally around Duesberg is notable: . . . [7 names] . . . Henry Bauer, Austrian born academic”.
Kalichman really believes this, repeating it elsewhere:
“Denialists . . . base their argument on the views of a group of German men born during the years of Nazism . . . .” (p. 145).
Let me emphasize at the outset that I feel genuinely honored to be associated for any reason with Duesberg and the others that Kalichman names in this connection. Let me state also that, to the best of my conscious knowledge, I have nothing against any individual generic German; indeed, I have some very good friends who are certifiably genuine born-in-Germany Germans.
I learned “at my mother’s knee”, on countless occasions, that Austrians are not Germans. That view was by no means idiosyncratic to my mother. Describing an Austrian as a German is perhaps analogous to calling a Canadian an American (meaning a citizen of the United States of America) — though even less acceptable. It’s perhaps analogous to telling a Moslem Kosovan that he’s really a Serb, though perhaps not quite as bad. Or think of telling a Turkish Cypriot that he’s really a Greek citizen. And so on.
Not, of course, that a professor of social psychology is under any obligation to know about such matters — unless, perhaps, if he chooses to write about them and to draw inferences which imply that he knows what he’s talking about.
But there’s more than that. My personal website has been up for many years, and by means of annotated maps it shows where I’ve lived. Vienna, Austria, it says, 1931 to 1939. Australia, it says, 1939-56 and 1958-65.
It would be natural to wonder, wouldn’t it, why a family might make the long move across the world from Austria to Australia?
Recourse to a history book or an almanac for “1939” might bring the clue that international events in 1939 included the outbreak of World War II. A more detailed enquiry into events concerning Austria and Germany might yield the information that Germany under Hitler had pressured Austria to become part of Germany, and Austria under Chancellor Dollfuss had resisted; whereupon Nazi thugs assassinated him. I say “thugs” advisedly here. Not all Nazis were thugs, some number of them were just taking the path of least resistance, not questioning the consensus beliefs, “going with the flow”, “doing what everyone’s doing”. As one of my friends says — a friend who himself survived Nazi concentration camps —, the guards were just ordinary people, some were quite nice and others weren’t so nice. But the thugs who assassinated the Austrian Chancellor, a devout Catholic, were so devoid of any humanity that they refused to let him have a priest to hear his last confession and obtain absolution.
Schuschnigg, successor to Dollfuss as Chancellor, also refused to have Austria annexed to Germany, and eventually scheduled a referendum on the issue. A few days before Austrians could make their choice by voting, German troops invaded Austria — the so-called Anschluss, March 1938. Schusschnigg went into a concentration camp.
I don’t need recourse to history books to recall all that because, throughout her life, my mother could hardly carry on a conversation for long without finding some connection to “the Nazis” and related matters. She, my father, my sister, and I were among the most fortunate, of course, to be able not only to get out in time but to be accepted into that wonderfully civilized country, Australia.
Anyone who noted the journey we made in 1939 could rather readily infer why we moved and why I would be unlikely to harbor toward things German “a sort of nationalist sentimental loyalty”. But I’d like to underscore that by offering an insight into why Kalichman’s inference strikes me as not only unwarranted but even offensive, re-awakening memories that were better left asleep.
We got out of Austria just in time, sure enough. But not before my mother had been forced by the Nazis to scrub off the streets, on hands and knees, Austrian emblems that the same Nazis had painted there for the very purpose of making Jewish women scrub them off. Nor did we get out before my father had spent a week locked up in a camp where some of the guards amused themselves by making selected groups — lawyers were a favorite — run gauntlets between lines of club-wielding thugs. Yes, thugs is again quite a proper term.
Since I was then only seven years old, I experienced lock-up or street-scrubbing only at close second-hand. Nevertheless, that close second-hand was rather traumatic, and it was also traumatic to be ejected from public school in the middle of 2nd grade because people like me were unfit to participate in normal human activities.
Altogether, it was not the sort of experience that would instill in most people “a sort of nationalist sentimental loyalty” toward the nation that had created those rules and unleashed those thugs.
The experience of emigration was also not what most people would welcome. We were torn away not only from home but from extended family; some of ours managed to get to England, Finland, India, or the United States. Our family had been comfortably middle-class in Austria. In Australia, we arrived with no knowledge of the English language beyond that gained in a couple of weeks in London and 6 weeks on a British ship. My father’s degree in agriculture brought him a job milking cows on a dairy farm, until he was allowed into the Australian Army. After the war he joined the civil service, entering there in his forties at the same grade and pay level as fresh high-school graduates. My mother worked as a seamstress and piece worker her whole life, at home and in factories. The first vacation my parents could afford, in Australia, was one that my sister and I arranged and paid for after we had begun to earn money.
This autobiographical interlude seemed to me necessary if readers of this blog are to be able to sense the degree of my astonishment and disbelief upon reading that, in Kalichman’s view, my alleged “support” for Peter Duesberg stems somehow and in some part from my “nationalist sentimental loyalty” to Germany and Germans.
Of course, there would be no reason for Kalichman to know anything about my personal experiences; but there is ample reason for him to put together “1939” and Austria-to-Australia and thereby gain a general awareness of the sorts of things families like ours experienced.
But might Kalichman perhaps be a denialist about the Anschluss, the German annexation of Austria? Might it even be that Kalichman is not only an Anschluss denialist but a closeted Holocaust denialist as well? After all, he wouldn’t be the first man to excoriate publicly what he practices privately. It would even be consistent with his predilection for assuming fake identities like “Joseph C Newton”.