Uncovering a California librarys affinity for Nazi racism
by Anthony M. Platt with Cecilia E. OLeary, Paradigm Publishers, 2005, paperback, 267 pages, $18.95
Sidebar: No Skeletons
The Huntington Library, located in Los Angeles, is one of the oldest and most distinguished private institutions in the United States. It is a library recognized for its rare books, distinguished collection of fine art, and elegant gardens. In June 1999, the library made news when it announced that it was lending the Skirball Jewish Cultural Center, located in Sepulveda Pass, the original copy of the Nuremberg Laws as well as other documents of the Nazi regime. The authors of Bloodlines: Recovering Hitlers Nuremberg Laws, from Pattons Trophy to Public Memorial, both academics, were surprised to learn that the Huntington had kept the Nuremberg materials off the books since 1945 without disclosing their presence to scholars or the public.
How is it possible that an institution like the Huntington withheld from view such an important document for so many years? That certainly was the question that motivated the authors of this riveting work of investigative history. What they discovered was more than they expected: Their research uncovered disturbing similarities between the sordid racist and anti-Semitic beliefs of southern Californias proponents of eugenics in the decades both before and after World War II and those of their Nazi counterparts who used racial pseudo-science to promulgate the Nuremberg Laws.
What Platt and OLeary discovered was that the leaders of the Huntington, at the time they received the Nuremberg Laws in 1945 as a gift from Gen. George C. Patton, knew full well their importance and that they were in possession of a document of great historical significance.
The authors produce a photograph documenting the transaction between Patton and then Huntington chair Robert Millikan under a portrait of George Washington, which shows both men handling the Nuremberg Laws as if they were in possession of a holy relic. According to the authors, Patton had no right to appropriate the Nuremberg Laws and was in violation of a military law that forbade the personal acquisition of such important evidence of Nazi perfidy.
Patton deposited the Nuremberg Laws in the Huntington, state the authors, to avoid embarrassment and possible punishment for looting. As Platt and OLeary explain the circumstances surrounding the gift to the Huntington: General Patton deposited the Nuremberg Laws at the Huntington because he could count on the boards discretion.... It must have been reassuring for Patton to leave his trophy with a group of powerful men who shared similar views about the important issues of the day: the global threat of communism, the importance of close ties between government and the military, the dangerously liberal legacies of the New Deal, the need to keep a watchful eye on Jewish upward mobility, and the necessity of preserving Anglo-American society from racial contamination by African-Americans, Mexicans and Asians.
Platt and OLeary state that Patton had very little patience for democratic values and that he hated Jews more than he hated Germans. In fact, in his diary he denounced Jews as lower than animals. As for Millikan, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1925, his ideological assumptions were the same as those that guided the Nuremberg Laws, a belief in the existence of distinct biological races...a commitment to the superiority of Anglo-Saxon stock as the bedrock of modernity, and a defense of policies of segregation and apartheid. As for Jews, he personally distrusted and disliked them. In his capacity as chairman of the Huntington board, Jews were not hired on his watch and staff were expected to identify potential researchers who might be Jewish.
This valuable tome exposes the link between some of America most distinguished personages and their deep affinity for the dastardly measures the Nazis were advancing on the eve of the Final Solution. The authors find little difference between the concepts that led to promulgation of the Nuremberg Laws and the racial ideas of prominent Americans such as Patton, Millikan, and hundreds of other like-minded American proponents of racial hygiene.
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