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Factories of Death: Lessons from Auschwitz


Jan 11, 2012 / By: Michael Spielman
Category: Abortion Arguments

In 2005, the BBC produced a 6-part documentary on Auschwitz. I watched it this week while researching a new video for Abort73's "Personhood" page. It was a sobering and unpleasant five hours, but it was good for my soul. It makes the trials and tribulations of my life seem fairly laughable and exposes how grossly insignificant are so many of the things that occupy my attention.

Whether you agree with the comparison or not, the ideological connection between abortion and the Holocaust is a familiar one, aided of late by the release of Ray Comfort's 180. The basic similarities between abortion and the Holocaust are laid out on Abort73's page, "Systematic Injustice." By way of review, both involve the state-sanctioned extermination of a victim class that is considered "sub-human." Both involve a network of killing centers whose activities are largely hidden from public view, and both involve the brutal deaths of multiple millions of innocent and helpless victims. Critics of such a comparison will argue (among other things) that abortion clinics are not trying to exterminate all unborn babies, but this betrays an ignorance of who the victim-class is. Certainly, Planned Parenthood isn't trying to exterminate all unborn babies, but they are trying to exterminate (or "eliminate" as they call it) all unwanted, unborn babies.

The reason I revisited the Auschwitz documentary this week (which I viewed in part last year) is because of a Peter Singer quote that I plan to use in our new video. Singer is a bioethics professor at Princeton University who argues that unborn human beings should not be considered persons because they are functionality inferior to cows, pigs, and chickens. Elsewhere in his book, Practical Ethics, he says that killing a newborn baby is the moral equivalent of killing a snail. Though it's tempting to simply write off such a barbaric assertion, Singer is too influential to be ignored. Rather, we must point out that these arguments have been made before. The first episode in the BBC production includes a clip from a Nazi propaganda video for their Adult Euthanasia Program. The euthanasia program was created to exterminate the mentally and physically disabled, but was soon expanded to include prisoners who weren't fit for hard labor. Justifying the necessity of such a program, the Nazi video declares that the "gibbering idiots" targeted for extermination are "inferior to any animal" and are a "burden [to] future generations." Though Singer and his ideologic colleagues don't call unborn human beings, "gibbering idiots," they demean them with plenty of equally unflattering names. More to the point, they've borrowed the "inferior to animals" and "burden to society" arguments almost verbatim.

Though I've long been aware of the abortion/Holocaust comparison, watching Auschwitz revealed a host of more subtle connections that I hadn't noticed before. One of the biggest relates to the industrialization of the execution process. The Nazi state faced two practical obstacles to their vision of mass extermination. The first was the emotional toll it took on the executioners. In 1941, after Heinrich Himmler witnessed an execution of Jews in Minsk, he was told by the general on duty that there was a problem with the SS killers. They were becoming neurotics or brutes. According to the BBC, "Himmler realized he had to find a better way of killing." The second obstacle was their inability to execute and dispose of enough bodies at once. Not only did they need a way to make the killing more palatable for the executioners, they needed to make it more efficient as well. In the end, they graduated from firing squads and pits to a series of failed experiments with explosives (too many body parts in the trees) before finally landing on lethal doses of poisonous gas – a method accidentally discovered when an SS commander almost killed himself of carbon monoxide poisoning after passing out in his garage (in a drunken stupor) while his car was running.

Rudolf Höss was the commandant at Auschwitz during the height of the Holocaust. He was a family-man, living with his wife and four young children in a house just outside the gate at Auschwitz. And yet he directed the largest mass-murder in the history of mankind. One of the members of the Nuremburg prosecution team marveled at how "normal" Höss seemed. He was not the "monster" they expected him to be. Rather, he was "objective" and "matter of fact." He felt he "did his war duty" to the best of his abilities and "never expressed any remorse." Höss' only regret, according to his autobiography, was not having spent more time with his children. He was executed in 1947.

By creating a system that separated the killers from those being killed (Jewish prisoners were forced to carry the dead bodies to the crematorium), the SS was able to spare their members the emotional toil that would have absolutely crippled a firing squad. In the process, they were able to execute 2,000 people at a time – 10,000 per day during the height of Aushwitz's operations in 1944. How does this relate to abortion? It explains how and why the abortion industry can staff itself with "normal" people who go about their lives without exhibiting any sadistic tendencies or emotional instability. Because abortion is almost always a blind procedure, abortionists can do their work at a safe, emotional distance. Just as in Nazi Germany, technological advances have made the killing process much less traumatic for the one doing the killing. And the advent of the abortion pill provides even more separation from the victim. Think about it like this, how many abortionists would be able to continue performing abortions if they had to stare their victim in the face and put a bullet in their head? Abort73's most popular T-shirt asks the question, "Would it bother us more if they used guns?" It would almost certainly bother the abortionist more! Nazi soldiers couldn't handle the long-term, emotional strain of having to execute their victims by gunfire, but they had little problem dropping Zyklon B down a metal chute. For mass-murder to be sustainable in the world today, you have to mechanize the process, which abortion has done tragically well.

Another connection ties to some of the activities common to both the concentration camp and the abortion clinic. The BBC reveals that the soldiers at Auschwitz frequently gorged themselves on stolen food and drink, received a daily ration of alcohol, lived in wild drunkenness and made stealing from the Jews a common practice. Though the SS maintained a facade of professional discipline, the private reality was very different. Sexual assault was common and for two years, they ran a camp brothel – populated by the best looking among the female prisoners. When soldiers were too drunk to turn the lights off, they shot them out with their pistols. Having just updated Abort73's page on abortion clinic abuse, I'm well aware that many similar reports surround the abortion industry. Bernard Nathanson and Norma McCorvey both testified to rampant drug and alcohol abuse. More recent clinic headlines include sexual assault and fraud. When the war effort turned sour for the Nazis, they began burning their own buildings in mass to destroy evidence, which may be why the FBI was so interested to learn that the abortion clinic recently burned in Pensacola may have been owned by an abortionist on trial for five counts of murder in Maryland.

At one point in the documentary, the narrator observes that, "While the main motivation for the Final Solution was ideological, the Nazis were also well aware that they could benefit financially from the crime." To this end, the houses and businesses of deported Jews were seized and redistributed. All personal valuables from the millions of executed captives were sorted and pocketed by the guards or placed in a state treasury. The government of Slovakia even paid the Nazis for each of the 60,000 Jews it deported. When things turned particularly desperate on the Russian front, Nazi officials offered to sell one million Jews to Allied representatives. Certainly, there was an underlying hatred for the Jewish people driving these efforts, but they were also motivated by greed. Here too there are abortion-related overlaps. While there is certainly an underlying ideology driving many abortion advocates, there is no denying the financial windfall abortion provides. This should not be overlooked.

One of the most frequent objections to comparing abortion to the Holocaust is tied to the idea that abortion destroys still developing embryos and fetuses while the Holocaust destroyed fully-aware men and women, most of them with families. The implication is that the experience of death was much worse for these men and women than it is for aborted, unborn children. This is likely true, but does that make abortion any more justified? Is the death of a young child who doesn't know what's happening any less heinous than that of an adult who does know? What is lost in many discussions of the Holocaust is the violence leveled against children. Of the estimated 1.1 million Jews who were killed at Auschwitz, an estimated 200,000 were children. On average, 75% of the people on each transport were killed upon arrival. These were almost exclusively women, children, and the elderly. The rest would be worked and starved to death. When one of the former guards interviewed by the BBC was asked how he could justify the execution of even young children, he replied that though they weren't the enemy at the moment, they would grow up to be the enemy. And so long as they couldn't work, they were useless consumers. "Children entered the gas chamber playing with toys," wrote Rudolf Höss. "I looked upon them as enemies of our people… the reasons for their execution seemed right." In the same vein, it is commonly argued today that children born into poverty are better off dying in the womb. They haven't done anything wrong yet, but they'll grow up to! At best, they'll be a drain on society. At worst, they'll be criminals (as argued by the authors of Freakanomics, who believe abortion helps eliminate future crime).

In Nazi Germany, almost the only Jewish children not to be killed directly were those selected for medical experimentation by Dr. Josef Mengele, who set up shop at Auschwitz. He was especially interested in twins and subjected them to all sorts of genetic testing. Sterilization experiments were also common. This reveals another striking parallel with abortion. Socially, the Nazi party considered Jews to be sub-human, but medically, they were perfectly willing to recognize their humanity – and to put it to scientific use. By the same token, though human embryos and fetuses are considered socially sub-human, their full humanity is unquestionably recognized by the medical community that covets the use of their cells. Embryonic stem cell research and significant vaccine development is built upon the intrinsic humanity of aborted children. The BBC production laments the fact that so few of those employed at Auschwitz ever came to trial, but fails to mention that Dr. Mengele, the most brutal and notorious of all Nazi doctors, turned up years later in Buenos Aires – as an abortionist.

In the early 1940's, Auschwitz was home to the largest mass-murder in the history of the world. But it did not begin as a concentration camp. It began as a Polish army barrack. Today, Planned Parenthood is home to the largest abortion business in America, but it did not begin that way either. It began with birth control and sterilization and worked its way up from there. As noted in Abort73's "A Legacy of Eugenics," Planned Parenthood and the Nazi party were anchored on the same underlying principles. I suppose it's no wonder then that their histories bear so much in common. The BBC estimates that 1,300,000 prisoners were taken to Auschwitz during the four and a half years of its existence. Almost 85% (1,100,000) didn't make it out alive. In 2010, 361,384 unborn children were taken to Planned Parenthood. More than 91% (329,445) didn't make it out alive. Spread that out over four and a half years and the grand total is 1,482,502 – which is a number even Auschwitz would be envious of.

Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.

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