Only a week before Holocaust Remembrance Day, news headlines report a statement to the effect that Hitler was right. The statement did not come from the Poway Synagogue shooter’s manifesto, which lists Adolf Hitler as one of his role models, but from a shiur (Torah class) given by Rabbi Giora Redler of Bnei David Mechinah in the settlement of Eli.
The story was broke by Channel 13 news, and here is literally what he said (translation is mine based on minutes 30:35-32:16 of the recording):
Let’s begin with the question of whether Hitler was correct or not. He was the most correct man that there is, certainly he was correct about every word he said. In his ideology, he was correct…. He had a better spiritual understanding, again in an instinctive way, than all our contemporary leaders. He was saying something very simple.
There is a world war between two camps. There is the side of the Jews, who enlisted the Christians in their camp as a fifth column. And there is our (=Nazi) camp, the others, and these are those who are pro-war, pro-army, pro-Sparta, pro-Rome, pro those who fight. There is a masculine world that fights, whose interests are glory and the brotherhood of warriors. And there is a feminine world, soft and ethical, blah blah blah [he uses a mocking feminine voice here to capture Hitler’s ostensible feeling of contempt] where one turns the other cheek.
We (=Nazis) are against this, since it goes against our tradition, and we think that Jews are the ones who carry this tradition, are trying, in our words, to destroy all of humanity and that is why they are the true enemy.
He was 100% correct, except for the fact that he is on the wrong side. In truth, the Jews are his real enemies…. The Jews are the ones who will force him to become that which he is not, and he doesn’t want it. Everything he said was true except that he is on the other side…. His concept is right, but he is on the side of evil and not the side of good.
Putting aside the distasteful rhetorical ploy, at first this doesn’t sound so terrible. Apparently, Judaism, in Rabbi Redler’s thinking, is a religion of peace, trying to instill this value in the world, and even Hitler realized this. He was not agreeing with Hitler’s ideology, only claiming that Hitler parsed things correctly. The world is divided between good and evil, peace and war. Jews and Nazis find themselves on opposite sides of this divide, hence the animosity of the latter for the former.
This is why, after the story broke, Rabbi Redler accused the newspapers of cynically taking his comment out of context to cause an unfair backlash, as if he actually agrees with Hitler. (Obviously, he does not.) And yet, Rabbi Redler’s point cannot really be reduced to rhetorical flourish about good vs. evil in this world.
What was Hitler right about exactly in Rabbi Redler’s analysis? Hitler divided the world based on races and he saw Jews as the race that posed the greatest danger of overtaking and dominating his own due to the culture clash Rabbi Redler outlined above. Thus, Hitler had no choice but to stamp out this virus of a nation permanently, lest the Aryans end up dominated by the Jews.
In fact, Rabbi Redler argues (around minute 27), what the Torah commands Israel to do to the Amalekites (Deut 25:19) and what Hitler wished to do to the Jews is the same thing, when viewed through the Germans’ and Israelites’ respective lenses. The only difference is that the Israelites were right about the Amalekites deserving extinction, but the Germans were wrong about Jews.
It would seem that, according to this theory, the key factor in the struggle between good and evil in this world is racial. Although Rabbi Redler falls shy of actually saying this, his colleague at the same academy, Rabbi Eliezer Kashtiel, reflecting on the question of Israeli-Arab relations, says something like this explicitly (the quote is from channel 13 news, translation is mine):
The best thing [for an Arab] is to be a slave to a Jew. They are happy to be slaves. There are nations around us with genetic problems. Arabs want to be conquered, since they have a genetic problem. They don’t know how to run a country…We believe in racism. There are races in this world and peoples have genetic traits, and this requires us to think about how to help them. Jews are a more successful race.
When asked about this quote, Rabbi Kashtiel responded that the statement has been taken out of context. “My usage of terms such as race and slavery, was not meant to invoke the degrading and cruel treatment that we and all of humanity experienced.” In other words, he does not want to recreate the abuses known from American black slavery or the stories of Israel’s slavery in Egypt. Instead, Rabbi Kashtiel envisions Jews as a peaceful and kind race of overlords in a benign but permanent dictatorship.
To be fair, I do not know if this is also how Rabbi Redler thinks, but in a philosophy in which Hitler is “right” in the sense that the world is really a battleground between the races, and nations act how they act because that is who they are essentially, what other future is there to envision?