Black Armbad versus White Blindfold: Genocide and Denial in Australian History

This essay shall investigate the application of the term genocide to chapters in Australian history.  In concert with an exploration of possible genocidal movements in
Australia, this essay will also consider the national reception and understanding of possible genocide in an Australian context.  The matter of genocide is in any case, incredibly complex, whilst in Australian context, it becomes a necessarily political endeavour.  Thus, I have attempted to isolate significant instances of possible genocide, outline their historical circumstances and consider whether or not these episodes are indeed genocidal.  Following this, I will consider the prominent case of denial that operates within Australian society.  This say be performed in reference to both political and economic motivations, and questions of national identity. 


It is clear that the ‘invasion’ of
Australia by English colonialists resulted in the commencement of the imposition of a foreign system upon Indigenous Australians.
[1] The system included government policies such as dispossession of land, protection, assimilation, integration and the stealing of children which resulted in inequality and denial of basic human rights for Indigenous Australians.  Recently historians and other cultural commentators have begun to question whether or not this process of colonisation resulted in genocide, or at least the attempted genocide of the Indigenous peoples of
Australia.  Questions of genocide can be divided into two distinct historical phases: that of dispossession and dispersal, and later processes of assimilation, culminating in the ‘Stolen Generation.’ 


Commentators who advocate the stance of genocide in relation to the first phase of colonist-Indigenous contact primarily refer to Tasmania and
[2]  Initial Indigenous-colonist contact in
Tasmania can be characterised benign in comparison to latter action.  The Indigenous peoples were categorised as ‘savages’ who were in dire need of European guidance in civilisation and Christianity.
[3]  Thus, there were a number of attempts to civilise and educate the Indigenous population; however, they were in nearly every case unsuccessful.  The source of conflict between the two inhabiting populations is regulated to the control and use of land; meaning access to food and water.[4]  This is supported by the coinciding increase in deaths and a dramatic increase in colonial immigration, resulting in the European population growing by over 100% between 1815-1830, with pastoralists claiming large areas of land.[5]  Agriculturally processing Aboriginal hunting land necessarily resulted in severe food shortages for the Indigenous population, thus guerrilla warfare ensued.  The interaction between the two populations intensified in violence, culminating in the “Black War” between 1824 and 1830.  The official record of death is placed at a rate of 1:4 Europeans to Aboriginals killed.[6]  Eventually, in 1834 the remaining population of Tasmanian Aboriginals, est. 200, were placed on Flinder’s
Island.  Here, in what one academic terms, “the first concentration camp” in human history, the population rapidly declined, with only 80 of the original 200 remaining in 1847.


The issue of genocide in
Queensland is primarily related to the actions of the Queensland Native or Mounted Police.  The concept of ‘Native Police’ originated in the Southern states in the 1830s; involving the use of a number of non-local Indigenous men, led by a white officer.  In reaction to increasing violent interaction between the two occupying populations, whose causes are naturally similar to the Indigenous peoples of Tasmania, a
Queensland force was formed in 1848, led by Fred Walker.  A. D. Moses notes that under
Walker the Native Police, despite the use of a degree of physical violence, were relatively benign.
[8]  However, due to this lack of violence,
Walker was dismissed due to pressure by local pastoralists in 1855.
[9]  Consequently, the Native Police, along with local militias, became active in killing any discovered congregation of Indigenous peoples.  It is interesting to note that in official discourse, the activities of the Native Police were referred to as ‘dispersing’, however it was widely and publicly acknowledged that this was referring to physical extermination.[10]  Indeed, the murder of the Indigenous population was general public knowledge, and to some regarded almost as a sport.  This is eloquently displayed in the writing of the British High Commissioner in 1883, Arthur Gordon: “the habit of regarding the natives as vermin, to be cleared off the face of the earth, has given the average Queenslander a tone of brutality.”[11]  Whilst it is clear that large-scale slaughter was enacted upon the Aborigines, it is exceedingly difficult to estimate the totality of deaths.  However, a widely accepted estimate places Aboriginal deaths at 10, 000.[12] 


Perhaps the most controversial issue of genocide in
Australia is the matter of the ‘Stolen Generations’.  This term refers to the often forcible removal of part-Aboriginal children from their natural families.  The official dates normally allocated to the ‘Stolen Generation’ are 1900 to 1969, however as Colin Tatz relates, this process began in
Victoria in the 1840s.
[13]  The removal of children from their natural families was a process enacted within a wider ideological framework.  Rather than an isolated attempt at assimilation, the removals were an integral part of an attempt to ‘breed out’ the Aboriginal population.[14]  In that, part-Aboriginal children would be given the appropriate chance to assimilate into white culture, whilst eugenically based laws prevented and limited the procreative abilities of the ‘full-blood’ Indigenous population.[15]  Through this joint process, notes A. O. Neville to the 1937 Conference of the Protectors of Aborigines:  

Are we going to have a population of one million blacks in the Commonwealth, or are we going to merge them into our white community and eventually forget that there were any Aborigines in

It is evident that Neville is arguing for the latter outcome.  Furthermore, this statement by Neville is consequential in that it offers the ‘smoking gun’ required to meet a legal definition of genocide.  Despite the government enquiry, Bringing Them Home: The ‘Stolen Children’ Report, as with other instances of Aboriginal history, discovering the number of children who were removed from their natural family is controversial and inexact.  The report itself estimated that one in three part-Aboriginal children were removed, however other sources estimate one in ten. 


The application of the term genocide to Indigenous Australian history is not isolated to these three ‘instances’.  Despite the above scenarios being the most cited occurances of genocide, there exists a degree of debate over the application of the term, even amongst the so-called, ‘black armband’ historians.  When working within the legal definition of genocide as outlined by the UN Convention, it is increasingly difficult to apply genocide to the first phase of Indigenous-colonist contact.  The issue of Tasmanian Aboriginals demonstrates a case in point.  Although the Aboriginal population suffered near total decimation after the arrival of the colonists, it is not clear that this is genocide.  Firstly,  a large number of Aboriginal deaths may be regulated to introduced foreign disease and malnutrition.  It may be argued that in preventing the Indigenous population access to land, which was essential to their hunter-gatherer economy, that the coloniser’s enacted Article II section C. of the UN Convention on Genocide.  However, there is ample evidence that initially, the colonisers did attempt to ‘teach’ the Indigenous population farming techniques.  The colonist practice of restricting access to water and land was economically derived: dispossession, yes.  Genocide, no.  Furthermore, the murder of large numbers of Aboriginals during the Black War also does not allow for consideration under the UN definition of genocide.  Whilst the technicalities of the war were clearly unfair, and would ultimately result in Aboriginal slaughter, the Indigenous population did actively engage in the conflict.[17]  Concerning the relocation of Tasmanian Aboriginals to Flinder’s
Island, the so-called, “first concentration camp,” the matter of intent is highly ambiguous, and perhaps unlikely.  The figure largely responsible for this relocation, George Robertson, has been largely judged to have not intended to destroy the remaining indigenous population.


The problematic nature of declaring the Tasmanian ‘episode’ is also reflected in the
Queensland case.  As with
Tasmania, both disease and malnutrition were a significant contributor to Aboriginal death.  Similarly, the Indigenous population clearly involved itself in the conflict.  Indeed,
Queensland represents the highest mortality rate for colonists.  However, within
Queensland, one can perceive a large degree of intent to destroy or eliminate within both historical records, and the method of destruction.  One such records has a pastoralist stating: “Desperate disease calls for strong remedies, and while we may regret the need for a war of extermination, there exists…a cruel..but necessary need for it.”
[19]  However, it would seem that the ‘genocidal’ intent and action of the colonists was driven by the notion that the Indigenous population posed an economic obstacle; once the Aboriginals no longer posed such a threat, this genocidal action abated.[20]  Despite this, it seems reasonable to assert that this ‘episode’ was indeed, genocidal: there is both intent and action to eliminate the Indigenous peoples. However, Justice Wilcox, in the case of Nulyarimma & Ors. Vs. Thompson states:


“there is an element of intent in all the killings.  A squatter who shot at the Aboriginals in reprisal for them spearing his cattle must be taken to have intended to kill individuals…it cannot be necessarily presumed that he intended to destroy the group, as such.[21] 


However, it can equally be argued that the massacre of Aboriginals in
Queensland was State supported, although at times only implicitly: thus, there is both intent to eliminate the group, and an, if multifaceted, agent. 


In contrast, it would largely seem that the matter of genocide in relation to the

‘Stolen Generation’ and the eugenic policies surrounding are indeed a case of Australian genocide.  These practices can be said to adequately meet the definition of Article II of the UN Genocide Convention  B., D., and E.  In that, these practices resulted in a catastrophic amount of “serious mental harm” to the group, acted to restrict its procreative capacity and involved the forcible transfer of children.[22]  Thus, this episode of Indigenous-colonist interaction can be stated to be a definite source of genocide in Australian history.


            Despite the surmounting evidence for genocidal chapters in Australian history, there exists an active intellectual, political and social body that denies the use of this term in Australian historiography.  Perhaps most prominent amongst the academic or intellectual white blindfolders, is Keith Windschuttle.  Windschuttle passionately decries the use of ‘genocide’ in relation to Australian history:


There was no genocide in
Australia. The idea that
Australia, as some writers have said, was the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany in its treatment of the Aborigines – I think that view is completely false. In fact, I think it’s grotesquely false. The original settlers, and the colonial authorities, wanted to civilise and modernise the Aborigines. The last thing they wanted to do was exterminate them. There was no policy about this. There was no policy at either the government level or amongst the settlers themselves, to wipe out the Aborigines, to drive them off the land.


Windschuttle’s first mentioned cause of concern is that in utilising the term, ‘genocide’
Australia is being compared to the machinations of Nazi Germany.
[24]  Indeed, there exists a wide resistance to the use of the term genocide in Australian history due to its connotations with the Holocaust.[25]  For historian Inga Clendinnan, the use of the term is utterly inappropriate: “I remain persuaded that the…invocation of genocide…was not only ill-judged, but a moral intellectual…and political disaster.”[26]  However, for Clendinnan, the issue is that in using this term in an Australian context, one is diminishing the experience of the victims of the Holocaust, whilst Windschuttle is concerning with a sullying of the Australian name. 

As stated above, there exists a great resistance to genocidal history in
Australia.  For political actors, such as John Howard, there is obvious political and financial incentive in denying a genocidal chapter to Australian history books.  Indeed, it would appear that this financial/political aspect has also filtered through to Australian society at large.  The ‘fear’ of reparation and land rights notes Andrew Gunstone, is voiced by both politicians and their voting public: “there is a fear of Indigenous rights…manifested in the notion that Indigenous rights would result in a separate nation…and would disadvantage whites.”
[27]  It is clear that finance and politics provide a degree of motivation for denial, however, it is possible to detect a strain of rhetoric in denialism that is located within the realms of national identity and remembrance. 


The existence of Aboriginal history, whether inadvertently, acts to question and challenge the legacy of non-Indigenous past in
Australia.  John Howard has vocalised his unease with the challenging question that the consideration of Indigenous history in general, and the matter of genocide in particular poses to the non-Indigenous population who wish to take pride in their national past in which he refutes the use of “silly terms” such as genocide, and is appalled at the historians attempt to induce shame upon current Australian’s for past wrongs.


Various dissenter’s on the genocidal debate seem over achingly concerned that Australian genocide is at odds with the Australian national character that is comprised of egalitarianism, mateship and morality.[29]  As Colin Tatz notes, for many Australian’s it is impossible to conceive that our (non-Indigenous) national ancestor’s committed genocide as this is in opposition to our (non-Indigenous) national ‘pioneering legend’ of mateship and morality.[30]  Indeed, this allergy to Indigenous history in general on the basis of a national identity can be seen in Wayne Goss’s demand that the term, ‘invasion’ be removed from
Queensland school textbooks.  The importance of morality to national identity is also displayed in such arguments that deny genocide on the basis, that if it were committed, ‘we’ would have prosecuted it.
[31]  Denialist’s display the classic behaviour of individual’s who attempt to overcome cognitive dissonance by rejecting the factor that produces this troublesome position:  the denialist finds it impossible to reconcile the positive aspects of Australian history with its accompanying negative facets. Thus, the denialist rejects any historical evidence that contradicts their absolutionist, positive historical identity. 


            Although at times ambiguous, it can be reasonably stated that
Australia history does entail genocidal moments.  The actions and policies of the Queensland Native Police, in addition to local militias, can be stated to be genocidal acts that involve State sanction.  Furthermore the ‘Stolen Generation’ and the eugenics program that surrounded it are also another example in which the relations between Indigenous and colonist became genocidal in nature.  Yet, in spite of the dedicated research of the so-called ‘black armband’ historians and the Human Rights Commission, that genocide has been committed against the Indigenous peoples of
Australia is denied.  The reasons for this denial are multifaceted, however it is clear that they are motivated by both financial and political issues, in addition to an attempt to maintain an obscure ‘pioneering’ legend.  The issue of genocide in
Australia will likely be an ongoing debate, as both the black armbanders and white blinfolders are unlikely to disappear into the bush.  It is hoped that this endeavour may continue to provide insight into Australian past and future. 






























Attwood, B. 2001. “The Stolen Generations and Genocide: Robert Manne’s In Denial: The Stolen Generations and the Right” Aboriginal History. vol. 25.  pp. 163-173.


Brautlinger, P. 2004. “Black Armband Versus White Blindfold: History in
Australia” Victorian Studies. Summer 2004. pp. 655-675.


Breen, S. 2003. “Fabrication, Genocide and Denial” History
vol. 1 no 1. pp. 73-85.


Brehrendt, L. 2001. “Genocide: The Distance Between Law and Life” Aboriginal History. vol. 25. pp. 131-147


Corthoys, A. & Docker, J. 2001. “Introduction. Genocide: Definitions, Questions, Settler-Colonies” Aboriginal History. vol. 25. pp. 1-15.   


Fabricating Aboriginal History  accessed on 22/10/06 at 10:00 am.   


Gigiotti, S. 2003. “Unspeakable Pasts as Limit Events: The Holocaust, Genocide and the Stolen Generations” Journal of Politics and History. vol. 49 no. 2. pp. 164-181.

Gunstone, A. 2004. “Reconciliation, Nationalism and The History Wars” Paper for the Australasian Political Studies Association Conference.

University of
Adelaide. 29/9/04-1/10/04.



History News Network.  accessed on 20/10/06 at 1: 20pm. 



Larbalestier, J. 2004. “White over Black: Discourses of Whiteness in Australian Culture” Borderlands E-Journal. vol. 3 no. 2.   accessed on 20/10/06 at 2:00 pm.   


Minogue, K. 1998. “Aborigines and Australian Apologetics” Quadrant. September 1998. pp. 11-21.


Markovich, D. 2003. “Genocide, A Crime of Which No Anglo-Saxon Nation Could Be Guilty”

Electronic Journal of Law. vol. 10 no.3.  accessed on 22/10/06 at 3:00 pm. 


Markus, A. 2001. “Genocide in
Australia” Aboriginal History. vol. 25. pp. 57-70.


Moses, A.D. 2001. “Coming to Terms With Genocidal Pasts in Comparative Perspective: Germany and
Australia” Aboriginal History. vol. 25 pp. 91-115. 


Moses, A. D. 2002. “An Antipodean Genocide? The Origins of the Genocidal Moment in the Colonisation of
Australia” Journal of Genocidal Research. vol. 2 no. 1. pp. 89-106.


Palmer, A. 1998. “Colonial and Modern Genocide: Explanations and Categories” Ethnic and Racial Studies. vol. 21. no. 1 pp. 89-115. 


Tartz, C. 2001. “Confronting Australian Genocide” Aboriginal History. vol. 25. pp. 16-36.





[1] I have placed ‘invasion’ in such grammatical marks in order to recognise that the use of this term is highly contested in Australian society.  However, it would seem that invasion is indeed the correct term for the instance of English arrival upon Australian shores. 

[2] Naturally, other states are also discussed, however it would seem that attention is primarily placed upon these two states.  The focus on
Tasmania can be possibly regulated to the attention it is given by Keith Windschuttle in The Fabrication of Aboriginal History.  

[3] In this way, European superiority was defined within Ethnocentricism: on the notion of superiority by culture and civilisation, rather than race. 

[4] Moses, A. D. 2002. “An Antipodean Genocide? The Origins of the Genocidal Moment in the Colonisation of
Australia” Journal of Genocidal Research. vol. 2 no. 1. pp. 89-106. p. 96. 

[5] Moses. “An Antipodean” p. 91

[6] Ibid. 

[7] Brautlinger, P. 2004. “Black Armband Versus White Blindfold: History in
Australia” Victorian Studies. Summer 2004. pp. 655-675. Quoting Lloyd Robson. p. 660.  Moses. “An Antipodean” p. 99. 

[8] Note the emphasis upon relatively.  It is difficult to present an argument concerning the Aboriginal Australians without using language that is offensive or racist, or at the very least may come to resemble right-wing rhetoric.  However, the emphasis here is upon genocidal acts, and thus those activities which operate outside this sphere are considered to be less damaging in nature. 

[9] Moses. “An Antipodean” p. 100. 

[10] Moses. “An Antipodean” p. 100; Brautlinger. “Black Armband” p. 663;

[11] Tartz, C. 2001. “Confronting Australian Genocide” Aboriginal History. vol. 25. pp. 16-36. p. 25.

[12] Moses. “an Antipodean” p. 100. Brautlinger. “Black Armband” p. 663; Tartz, C. “Confronting Australian” p. 25.

[13] Tatz. “Confronting” p. 24. 

[14] Markus, A. 2001. “Genocide in
Australia” Aboriginal History. vol. 25. pp. 57-70. p. 65. 

[15] See Tatz. “Confronting” especially pp. 24-25. 

[16] History News Network.  accessed on 20/10/06 at 1: 20pm. 

[17] Brautlinger. “Black Armband” p. 666. 

[18] Moses. “An Antipodean” p. 99.  However, Robertson in viewed negatively historically.  This stance is taken by Henry Reynolds, who argues that despite the outcome, the government did not intend to exterminate the Tasmanian Aborigines.  Lyndall Ryan however, argues that there is a clear case of intent within the actions and policies of the Tasmanian Europeans.  See Fabricating Aboriginal History.  accessed on 22/10/06 at 10:00 am. 

[19] Moses. “An Antipodean” p. 100. 

[20] See Moses. “An Antipodean” pp. 99-101.  Also see: Palmer, A. 1998. “Colonial and Modern Genocide: Explanations and Categories” Ethnic and Racial Studies. vol. 21. no. 1 pp. 89-115. 

[21] Brehrendt, L. 2001. “Genocide: The Distance Between Law and Life” Aboriginal History. vol. 25. pp. 131-147. p. 140. 

[22] For an excellent discussion of how these practices meet the legal requirements of the UN definition see: Markovich, D. 2003. “Genocide, A Crime of Which No Anglo-Saxon Nation Could Be Guilty”

Electronic Journal of Law. vol. 10 no.3.  accessed on 22/10/06 at 3:00 pm.  For the purpose of this essay, I have simplified the argument.  However, it must be noted that it may be the case that not all of the children were forcibly removed.  Yet, it is clear that many were forcibly removed, resulting in alarmingly detrimental affects to Indigenous peoples involved.  For the problematic nature of ‘forcible removal’ see:  Attwood, B. 2001. “The Stolen Generations and Genocide: Robert Manne’s In Denial: The Stolen Generations and the Right” Aboriginal History. vol. 25.  pp. 163-173. p. 167

[23] Fabrication.

[24] Interestingly, and quite possibly not coincidental, Ann Corthoys and John Docker in their introduction to the Aboriginal History issue on genocide provide a detailed analysis of ways in which Australia’s policy and interaction with the Indigenous peoples does in fact merit comparison with Nazi Germany.  See Corthoys, A. & Docker, J. 2001. “Introduction. Genocide: Definitions, Questions, Settler-Colonies” Aboriginal History. vol. 25. pp. 1-15. 

[25] Breen, S. 2003. “Fabrication, Genocide and Denial” History
vol. 1 no 1. pp. 73-85. p. 77.  For a discussion that echoes Windschuttle, see: Minogue, K. 1998. “Aborigines and Australian Apologetics” Quadrant. September 1998. pp. 11-21. p. 14. 

[26] Quoted in Gigiotti, S. 2003. “Unspeakable Pasts as Limit Events: The Holocaust, Genocide and the Stolen Generations” Journal of Politics and History. vol. 49 no. 2. pp. 164-181. p. 165.  Also quoted in Larbalestier, J. 2004. “White over Black: Discourses of Whiteness in Australian Culture” Borderlands E-Journal. vol. 3 no. 2.   accessed on 20/10/06 at 2:00 pm. 

[27] Gunstone, A. 2004. “Reconciliation, Nationalism and The History Wars” Paper for the Australasian Political Studies Association Conference.

University of
Adelaide. 29/9/04-1/10/04.
p. 6. 

[28] Bautlinger. “Black Armband” pp. 658-660. 

[29] Gunstone. “Reconciliation” p. 6; Moses, A.D. 2001. “Coming to Terms With Genocidal Pasts in Comparative Perspective: Germany and
Australia” Aboriginal History. vol. 25 pp. 91-115. 

[30] Tatz. “Confronting:” p. 17.  Larbalestier. “White over Black” p. 26.  

[31] Tatz. “Confronting” p. 30. 


November 8, 2006 at 5:04 am 5 comments

An Authentication Message


[Hide Quoted Text]

Hi Natalie,

I’m quite puzzled. Could you explain to me how come what you handed   in as “your”
essay, is found on the web?

I would appreciate a (good) explanation.


I have posted my final essay for reln2310 on my blog  .
I regularly post my work on the  internet on the basis that a) I have posted it on there
after I have  handed in the assignment, it wouldn’t be deemed that I had  plaigairised
it.   b) I thought it would be very unlikely that another  essay would be on the internet
that fat the exact contours of the  essay topic – or would begin with stating the
provided esssay topic.   Further, if you look at the “Most recent posts” sidebar on the
right  of my blog, I have posted the short pieces written for this course,  from week
2-6.  Including, “2006-08-14
4:05:10 am Fundamentalism”, “2006-08-15
2:48:55 am Science and religion: philosophy”, “2006-08-28
1:12:08 am Psychology of Apocalyptic Fundamentalism Review”, “2006-08-29
2:40:04 am Review: Authoritarian or Authority-Minded”.  These were all  posted after
handing my assessment in.  I have also placed other  essays that I have written for other
courses, – for example, the essay  on the holocaust – gypsies, the disabled and
homosexuals, was written  for HIST2704 – Genocide, Persecution, Reonciliation and Revenge.

Further to my defence, it is very difficult to get fully referenced  and lengthy essays
on the internet, for free – aside from sites like,  ‘Religion-Online’, or other free
academic sites.  However, my blog is  obviously not one of these sites, nor have I stolen
articles from any  of these sites.

I post my assessment onto my blog to have an audience wider than  myself and the
appointed marker.  Although not every post is commented  on, it is interesting and
enjoyable to have someone to comment and  perhaps challenge my interpretation on a given

I am sorry if this has caused any confusion.  In future, I will wait  until it is marked
before I post any of my assessment onto my blog.

November 5, 2006 at 1:19 am 2 comments

North American Protestant Fundamentalism

“Fundamentalism is a religious belief, a political movement and a ‘state of mind’.” This essay shall attempt explore this statement in relation to North American Protestant Fundamentalism (NAPF).  In essence, this essay is concerned with exploring exactly what fundamentalism is through the example of a fundamentalist movement.  Thus, I shall begin with offering an exploration of the term itself, arriving at an appropriate definition.  Utilising this definition, I will consider NAPF in three aspects, the religious, the political and the psychological.  This essay shall demonstrate the validity of the described definition of fundamentalism through a consideration of how NAPF adheres to such a definition. 

The term, “Fundamentalist”, first appeared when Curtis Lee Laws, the editor of the Northern Baptist newspaper, The Watchman Examiner,  stated that a ‘Fundamentalist’ is an individual who is willing to perform, “the battle royal,” for the fundamentals of faith.[1]  Laws is here referring to the doctrines outlined in the publication and of “The Fundamentals” which was distributed between 1910 and 1915.  In this context, Fundamentalist designated the tension between conservative and modernistic interpretations within the Protestant movement.  However, fundamentalism has come, in both popular and academic usage since the approximately the 1980s, to refer to the development of a particular form of religiosity, that is not restricted to Protestant Christianity.  The term fundamentalism is extremely contentious and ultimately ambiguous.  Contention exists around whether or not the term should only be applied to Christianity or more broadly, only applied to Abrahamic traditions.[2]  Further, the use of the term altogether, is rejected by some on the basis that it is inherently negative and its usage is often used to devalue and dismiss the group in question.[3] 

However, I agree with Martin Reisebrodt among others, in the conceptualisation of ‘fundamentalism’ as a sociological term that denotes a particular form of religiosity that is inherent to modernity.[4]  First and foremost, a fundamentalist group is a religious group.[5]  Religiously, these groups react to both internal and external changes of modernisation and secularisation that dominantly challenge their accepted worldview.[6]  Fundamentalist groups endeavour to return to an idealised past religious and social order, that is typically characterised as patriarchal and hierarchical.  Comparatively, fundamentalist groups adhere to literal and strict interpretations of the given religious doctrine or text.  Finally, fundamentalisms are politically active: they strive to change their surrounding societal order (and perhaps even the international world) to mirror their own beliefs.[7]

NAPF includes a number of religious traditions, including but not limited to Baptism (particularly Southern Baptist’s) Pentecostal/Charismatic congregations and Evangelical groups.  This essay considers them together on the basis that despite their differences, the groups share: similarities in belief, arose out of the similar circumstances, often coalesce in the form of political lobbying parties (such as Moral Majority) and importantly, the identity of individual NAPF groups, “operate within the larger framework of Christian fundamentalist politics.”[8]  Three key beliefs can be identified amongst NAPF groups: biblical inerrancy, evangelism and apocalypticism.    Biblical inerrancy involves the doctrinal position that the Bible is wholly true: “it can be trusted to provide an accurate description of science and history as well as morality and religion.”[9]  Whilst NAPF readings may be literal, a degree of interpretation is required.[10]  Biblical inerrancy operates on the principle that the Bible in its totality is whole and true: if one rejects certain parts of the Bible, the validity of the text as a whole is questioned.  Furthermore, Biblical inerrancy is for many central to the nature of  G-d: as G-d is wholly perfect, the Bible being G-d’s word, must also be wholly perfect. 

Evangelism is the central to fundamentalism.  In essence, evangelism is the act of proseltyisation which is central to the Christian mission, and indeed to the salvation of the fundamentalist.  However, as Nancy Ammerman notes, the notion of evangelism also clearly denotes differentiation and exclusivism:  the world is divided into those who are saved and not saved.  Apocalyptic beliefs of NAPF can be primarily categorised as premillennial dispensationalism.  This involves the reading of the bible, particularly Daniel and Revelation to decipher the future ‘Second Coming’ of Christ.  This typically involves the rise of the Anti-Christ who will rule the world, and a final battle between the forces of good and evil.  Dispensationalists attempt to correlate historical events with biblical apocalyptic prophecy.  Thus, they consider worldly events and people to represent different biblical notions: both the Pope and communist leaders have been thought to be the Anti-Christ.  Clearly, the specific religious beliefs of NAPF groups have political consequences. 

In order to consider the political nature of NAPF and its beliefs, it is necessary to place these beliefs in the historical context and details of the movement.  In essence, one can describe the NAPF movement as an attempt to return
America to its previous Protestant dominance. Prior to the late 19th century,
America was categorised by the Protestant, “cultural and institutional hegemony.”[11]  As mentioned above, the emergence of NAPF can be placed with the publication of ‘The Fundamentals’ which represented the growing division within Protestant congregations over the adaptation of biblical interpretation to modern science and ideals.  However, the instance of the Fundamentalists becoming a ‘fundamentalism’, is possibly more correctly located during the 1920s NAPF protestation of the teaching of evolution in schools.  The protestation of the 1920s is critical: it represents the emergence of NAPF into the public sphere.  Whilst the growth of ‘fundamentalist’ beliefs occurred previous to this, the movement previously maintained a stance of separationism; separation from the liberals or modernists within and outside of the church.  This protestation did not simply grow out of a dissonance with evolution; rather it can be seen to be the first reaction against their growing minority.  In addition to the growth of modernisation within the arts and sciences,
America experienced an influx of 17.6 million immigrants between 1890-1920.[12]  In essence, where previously Protestant’s felt that
America as a whole mirrored themselves; they were now faced with a vast new religious and ideological pluralism.  Furthermore, the protestation of the 1920s represents another key aspect of fundamentalism, in that it is highly reactive to the change in dominant thought; creationism became central to NAPF both internally, and in the eyes of society.  With the, “public-opinion defeat,” of the Scopes trial in 1925, NAPF reverted back into separatist activities, building their own educational and wider institutions.[13] 

However, the Scopes trial hardly represented the end of NAPF as a fundamentalist movement.  NAPF groups came back into the public sphere in reaction to the societal changes of the 1960s/70s.  The extreme upheaval of the this era in regards to women’s rights, sexual roles, contraception, abortion, gay rights, and in particular the matter of sexual education, drastically alarmed NAPF.[14]  Whilst the 60s saw primarily grass-roots political lobbying, by the 70s and into the 80s, NAPF formed groups that were increasingly public, with growing influence.[15]  Sabrina Ramet notes that the major action that truly ‘forced’ NAPF onto the political scene however was the Roe-Wade decision that allowed for both abortion and gay rights.[16] NAPF perceived the inclusion of women in the Equal Right’s Amendment, the blessing of ‘special rights’ to gay’s and lesbian’s etc, as the state, “condoning immorality and punishing traditional families.”[17]  Indeed, to focus on the inclusion of ‘sex’ in the Equal Right’s Amendment, NAPF’s perceived this change to be an act of, “spiritual warfare” that threatened the family structure and women’s place within it.[18]  The political activities of NAPF groups highlights the strictly modern, or perhaps, more correctly anti-modern, character of fundamentalisms.  Fundamentalisms as religious groups have become politicised due to the politicisation of areas that were traditionally the strong-hold of religion.[19]  Furthermore, within NAPF, there is a strong connection between religion and American nationalism.

As stated above,
America has a history of Protestant hegemony.  For NAPF, the evangelising mission is not solely concerned with recruiting and saving individuals, but saving
America.[20]  NAPF is involved in an overarching concern to return to the traditions of the American ‘Founding Fathers’.  Furthermore, these groups regularly perceive
America to be a central to the spread of God’s word (democracy and free enterprise) throughout the world.[21]  Whilst Ammerman notes this tendency within the constructs of the fundamentalist attempt to, “protect their own rhetorical space and extend it wherever possible,” this tendency can be placed within a wider apocalyptic, theological framework.[22]  For many, although certainly not all, NAPF groups,
America is seen to play a central role in the dispensational end-time Armageddon.[23]  This can be aptly, and indeed eloquently, seen in the apocalyptic series, Left Behind, by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.  In this series, the authors posit that a group of American’s fight the ultimate battle in
Iraq.[24]  However, this fictional account for many is not far from reality.  Many NAPF view the current war in Iraq to represent the beginning of ‘end-time’, and perceive
America to be playing the role of ‘good’.[25]  Evidently, NAPF religious beliefs affect their political nature. 


Figure 1

The notion that ‘fundamentalism’ is a state of mind is extremely problematic.  Primarily, many traditional studies of NAPF and fundamentalist groups in general, attempt to locate fundamentalist thought within the area of deep psychological problems.[26]  However, it would largely seem that involvement in NAPF groups tends to lead towards greater psychological wellbeing.  The notion of ‘authoritarianism’ is highly correlated to an attraction to NAPF.[27]  Joseph Tamney and Stephen Johnson, maintain that the “strictness” of NAPF is direct opposition to modernity, and those attracted to these “institutions” display higher levels of authoritiveness.  Furthermore, it would seem that those who accept the model of NAPF as outlined here, are often “authority seeker’s,”;  meaning, that not all people within congregations necessarily accept the religio-political beliefs and activities of their church.[28]  Rather, according to one study, it is the ‘authority seeker’ who endorses a nationalistic belief, and is most likely to be politically active.[29]  The NAPF individual is concerned with the construction of a reliable order, where they see modern society to represent disorder.[30]

A largely unconsidered area of the psychology of fundamentalism is it’s relation to self-object ties.  Based on the ideas of Heinz Kohut and Donald Winnicott concerning the need for ‘mirroring’.  Kohutian mirroring is the process during which the child smiles at her mother, and has it returned.  Here, the child realises that it has a certain power over the reaction of its environment.  According to Kohut, the individual requires positive mirroring throughout their life.  In this process, however, it is central that the child is able to recognise the other as a different, and subjective matter.  Frank Summer’s theorises that attraction to fundamentalism is a product of the individual’s incapacity to realise the subjective difference between herself and others.  The individual becomes involved with a fundamentalist group, allowing themselves to be subsumed into the conformed and strict group identity.  However, this strict group identity is at odds with the ‘other’, who does not mirror itself.[31]  Whilst this theory is relatively untried, it allows for the consideration of why fundamentalists, and NAPF in particular are concerned with the transformation of the ‘other’ (feminists, gays and lesbians, etc) into themselves.[32] 

This essay, has attempted to briefly outline three key aspects of NAPF: as a religious belief system, and a political movement and as a ‘state of mind’.  However, a central concern in this endeavour, was to demonstrate a definition of fundamentalism. Through exploring NAPF, I have demonstrated how fundamentalism involves not only the three aspects stated above, but also how fundamentalism is a reactive modern phenomenon that attempts to regain its perceived previous domination.  Both the beliefs and political activity of NAPF are reactive against the change in dominant social thought, and an attempt to maintain the superiority and dominancy of their own ideological position.  Furthermore, the trend in ‘authoritativeness’ amongst NAPF supports this definition: the attraction to a conformist and authoritative doctrine can be seen to be a reaction to the confusing unsurity of modernity; it is a reactive disposition to modernity that seeks to return to a previous position of order.  In conclusion, it would seem that a definition of fundamentalism as a reactive, religio-political, modern phenomenon is appropriate. 

[1] Ammerman, N.  1994.  “North American Protestant Fundamentalism” in ed. Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby.  Fundamentalisms Observed.  The Fundamentalism Project. vol. 1. pp. 1-66. TheUniversity of
Chicago Press, Chicago. p. 2. 

[2] Reisebrodt, M. 2000. “Fundamentalism and The Resurgence of Religion” Numen. vol. 47 no. 3.  pp. 266-287.  p. 270. 

[3] Reisebrodt. Fundamentalism. p. 271.  This is particularly prominent in the media’s use of the term.  The debate over the use of ‘fundamentalism’ within academia reflects similar concerns to the use of the term ‘cult’. 

[4] Reisebrodt.  Fundamentalism. P. 271; See Marty, M; Appleby, R. 1994.  “Introduction” in ed. Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby. Fundamentalisms Observed: The Fundamentalism Project. vol. 1.  pp. vii-xii.  TheUniversity of
Chicago Press, Chicago.  

[5] Thus, secular, ideological and political movements, i.e. Communism, cannot be labelled ‘fundamentalist.’ 

[6] Steve Bruce argues vehemently against the notion that fundamentalism is reactive: “[fundamentalism]…is reactive in the sense that all social change is a response  to some other change.” Bruce, S. 1990. “Protestant Resurgence and Fundamentalism” The Political Quarterly. vol. 61 no. 2. pp. 160-168. p. 167.  Bruce’s rationale for the rejection of fundamentalism as a reactive movement is based on the inclusion of South American Protestant Fundamentalism. However, as Ammerman has eloquently argued, South American Protestant Fundamentalism should not be considered to be a fundamentalism.  See Ammerman, N. 1994.  “Accounting for Christian Fundamentalisms: Social Dynamics and Rhetorical Strategies” in ed. Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby. Accounting for fundamentalisms : the dynamic character of movements. The Fundamentalism Project. vol. 4. pp. 149-169.  TheUniversity of
Chicago Press, Chicago. 

[7] Haynes, J. 1997. “Religion, Secularisation, and Politics: A Postmodern Conspectus”
Third World Quarterly. vol. 118 no. 1.  pp. 709-28.  p. 714. 

[8] Gallagher, C. 1997. “Identity Politics and the Religious Right: Hiding Hate in the Landscape” Antipode. vol. 29 no. 3.  pp. 256-277.  p. 258.  Furthermore, an examination of the groups as a whole allows for the wider consideration of their development.  For an example of this, see: Ammerman. “Accounting for Christian Fundamentalism”.  However, this stance is problematic:  each group does have beliefs that are unique, and these are often a source of separation between the various fundamentalisms.  Furthermore, I am operating under the notion that not all Baptists, Evangelical etc are fundamentalist: rather, there is a marked disposition to fundamentalism within these groups. 

[9] Ammerman, N.  1994.  “North American Protestant” p. 5. 

[10] For example, whilst Creationism is often said to be a literal reading of Genesis, Creationist reading generally understand the seven days to represent seven ages.  Thus, a degree of interpretation still exists, whilst maintaining the ultimate truth of the text. 

[11] Coreno, T.  2002.  “Fundamentalism as a Class Culture” Sociology of Religion. vol. 63 no. 3. pp. 335-360. p. 337; Bruce, S. 1987. “The Moral Majority: The Politics of Fundamentalism in Secular Society” in ed. Lionel Caplan. Studies of Religious Fundamentalism. pp. 177-194. Macmillan Press,
London. p. 177. 

[12] Ammerman. “North American” p. 67. 

[13] Woodberry, R. &  Smith, S. 1998. “Fundamentalism Et Al: Conservative Protestants in
America” Annual Review of Sociology. vol. 24. pp. 25-56. p. 28. 

[14] Wilcox, C. 1997. God’s Warriors: The Christian Right in 20th Century
University Press,
London. p. 3-6. 

[15] Exactly how influential such groups are is a matter of great debate.  For example, Jerry Falwell, Moral Majority, has questionable influence; it would seem that despite its attempt to appeal to a wider audience, it primarily consists of and is supported by Baptists.  Also, Pat Robertson’s campaign for president was also problematic. 

[16] Ramet, S. 2005. “Fighting for the Christian Nation: The Christian Right and American Politics” Journal of Human Rights. vol. 4. pp. 431-442. pp. 431-432. 

[17] Ammerman. “Accounting for” p. 164; Ramet. “Fighting for” p. 433; Wilcox. God’s Warrior’s. p. 16. 

[18] Mathews, D. 1993. “Spiritual Warfare: Cultural Fundamentalism and the Equal Right’s Amendment” Religion and American Culture. vol. 3 no. 2. pp. 129-154. p. 132.

[19] Ammerman. “Accounting for” p. 164. 

[20] Ammerman. “Accounting for” p. 152; Bruce. “The Moral Majority” p. 177; p. 181; Also see. Ramet. “Fighting for”; Woodberry. “Fundementalism”

[21] Ammerman. “Accounting for” p. 154. 

[22] Ammerman. “Accounting for” p. 149

[23] See Wilcox, C; Linzey, S; Jelen, T. 1991. “Reluctant Warrior’s: Premillennialism and Politics in the Moral Majority” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. vol. 30 no. 3. pp. 245-258; Wilcox. God’s. p. 2.

[24] See Urban, H. 2006. “
America, Left Behind: Bush, the Neo-Conservatives and Evangelical Christian Fiction” Journal of Religion and Society. vol. 8.  accessed on 12/10/06 at 2:50pm. 

[25] See Figure 1. 

[26] Savage, S. 2002. “A Psychology of Fundamentalism: The Search for Inner Failings” in ed. Martyn Percy and Ian Jones. Fundamentalism: Church and Society. p. 25. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge,
London.  p. 25.

[27] Tamney, J; Johnson, S. 1998. “The Popularity of Strict Churches” vol. 39 no. 3. pp. 209-223.

[28] Monaghan, R. 1967. “Three Faces of the True Believer: Motivations for Attending aFundamentalist
Church” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. vol. 6 no. 2. pp. 236-245. 

[29] Monaghan. “Three faces” p. 240. 

[30] Owen, D; Wald, K; Hill, S. 1991. “Authoritarian or Authority-Mindedness? The Cognitive of Fundamentalists and The Christian Right” Religion and American Culture. vol. 1 no. 1. pp. 73-100. p. 76. 

[31] See Summer, F. 2006. “Fundamentalism, Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Theories” Psychoanalytic Review. vol. 93 no. 2. pp. 329-352.  pp. 338-241. 

[32] See Gallagher. “Identity Politics” p. 264. 

October 18, 2006 at 5:38 am 1 comment

An essay on the Reformation

The Reformation had an unprecedented effect upon the religiosity of the western world.  The most common assessment of this revolution is concerned with the religiosity of the middle to upper classes and the religious elite.[1]  This essay seeks to assess the impact of the Reformation upon the religiosity of the masses.  The Reformation can be seen to have had a revolutionary effect upon the ritual practices and conceptualisation of magic amongst the laity.  In order to gain an understanding of this statement, it is necessary to explore the ritual and magical practices, at both an official and lay level, in pre-Reformation religion.  The process of change must also be assessed, in relation to the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation.  Finally, an assessment of the changes must be undertaken, with particular emphasis of the demonisation of magical practices, which can be seen to have been a direct cause of the witch hunts.  This approach seeks to explore the religiosity of the masses, rather than the social elite.  While this has often been overlooked, its effect upon religious history is deeply profound.   

The function of the pre-Reformation Church was two-fold; it acted to facilitate human interaction with the divine, whilst providing the rites that recognised the important events in the human life cycle and the changes of the seasons: it provided “a cosmic order for existence”.[2]  It is essential when approaching pre-Reformation religion, to understand the significance of ritual behaviour.  Ritual acted as the prime communicator of religiosity in a population that was largely illiterate and theologically ignorant, whilst being highly pious.[3]   

Furthermore, within both official and lay practice, the distinction between magic and religion, the sacred and the profane was significantly blurred if not interconnected.[4]  On an official level, the sacraments offered a vehicle through which the sacred may penetrate the profane via the human senses: Edward Muir notes that the experience of the Eucharist was derived from the priest elevating the host above his head, rather than its ingestion, which occurred infrequently.[5]  Further to this, the festivals and holy days of the Catholic Church, many of which replaced pagan feasts and festivals were characterised by their highly theatrical displays.  Here, the importance lies within   dramatised ritualism, rather than theological understanding.[6]   

The poorly defined distinction between religion and magic resulted in a wide range of sub-Christian ritual practices amongst the laity.  However, it must be noted that these practices were primarily those of the masses, rather than the elite classes.  Lay ritual practice was derived from a concern with the current existence; with acquiring security and protection within this life rather than the afterlife.[7]  This concern was reflected in their ritual practices, which were often derived from the ‘official’ practices of the Church.  For example, a woman who was near full term in pregnancy, would be taken to the Church with a cymbal attached to her body.  The cymbal would be struck three times in imitation of ringing the Church bell three times, after the safe birth of a child, signalling the requirement to say an Ave Maria in thanks.  This is, in large part, an act of sympathetic magic, which is based upon the notion that “like attracts like.”[8]   



This period also saw the proliferation of individuals, particularly old women, who offered cures and charms based upon the sympathetic principle: holy water was used to cure infertility and candles blessed at the Purification of the Virgin were lit to ward off storms.[9]  While these practices were not encouraged by the Church, the individuals and communities that employed them, most certainly considered themselves to be practicing Christians.[10]  In summary, pre-Reformation religion offered the individual a variety of practices that enabled interaction with the divine and control over the unseen and supernatural in their environment.[11]  Further to this, religion can be seen as the prime act of religiosity and communicator of religious knowledge in this period.   

The Reformation and subsequent Catholic Counter-Reformation can be seen to be a turning point in ritual practices and the conceptualisation of magic within the lower to middle classes.  The Protestant Reformation attacked both ‘official’ and lay magical and ritual practices.  The Protestant conceptualisation of God as absolute in his sovereignty and wholly ‘Other’, in addition to the Justification of Faith, completely destroyed the basis of the sacraments.  Rituals that were previously conceptualised to have divine authority or assured the individual’s progress towards divinity were reduced or completely disregarded.  The Eucharist, which had previously been considered as the moment in which the divine entered into the profane world, was reduced into a representation of Christ.  Penance, on the other hand was completely disregarded.  Furthermore, the Protestant movement openly attacked magical practices amongst the laity.  This was performed through placing a definite distinction between the divine and humanity: while the divine may enter into the profane world, it would not do so at the will of the individual.[12]  

This questioned the efficacy of religious rituals that had previously been based upon their ability to facilitate divine power in the world.[13]  The Protestants did not only question lay magical practices but outlawed them in some areas.[14]  Thomas Keith notes an Edwardian Injunction of 1547 that forbade the individual to perform such practices as: “casting holy water upon his bed,…bearing about him holy bread or
St John’s Gospel,…ringing of Holy Bells; or blessing with Holy Candle.”[15]

The Protestant Reformation effectively acted as the catalyst for the Catholic Counter-Reformation.  That the Reformation acted as catalyst must be emphasised: the theological and institutional controversies that the Counter Reformation approached had existed within the Church for centuries prior to the Reformation.[16]  In relation to magic and ritual, the reforms of the Counter-Reformation were primarily focused upon the technicalities of ritual practice, in an attempt to create uniformity against Protestant attacks.  This process was largely achieved through the papal commissions of Pius IV, Pius V and Sixtus V.  Pius IV and V produced missals which sought return official and lay practice to that of the Roman liturgy in the 11th century.[17]  Sixtus V produced the ‘Congregation of Rites”, to enforce the official practice of mass and liturgy.  These acts removed from official practices the variety of local saint days and other localised variants of ‘official’ ritual, that had become an essential part of late Medieval Christianity.   

In relation to lay ritual practice, the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation had similar goals and effects.  Both sought to eliminate the ritual practices that were considered magical or superstitious, in addition to the localised cults: removing Saints days that had replaced pagan festivals in an attempt to create a ‘uniform’ Christianity.[18]  The Reformation and Counter-Reformation attacked and removed the ritual practices of the laity that were integral to the religiosity of the lower to middle class individual in the late Medieval and early modern period.  This was replaced by, in short, a strong emphasis upon “exhortations to examine the conscious and cultivate moral virtue.”[19]  Replacing the rites and rituals, that acted not only as the prime communicator of religiosity, but also allowed the individual a sense of security and control led to a state of anxiety.[20]   Scribner notes that “the process of desacralisation, deritualising and demystifying daily life” must have had a highly shocking effect upon the psyche of the masses.[21]  Indeed, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation not only changed magical and ritual practices among the laity but radically transformed the conceptualisation of magic.   

The Reformation denied the human ability to interact with the divine and direct divine power.  This resulted in a solidification of the dualistic worldview that is now inherent in Christianity.  Previously, the distinction between the sacred and the profane, magic and religion, was blurred and ambiguous. However, after this period, these concepts became binary opposites.  Steven Ozment notes that “ideas, like energy, are transformed, not destroyed.”[22]  It is inevitable in a dualistic system, if a concept, that was once considered to be an act of right, light, God and man, is denied this place, will become an act of the left, dark, Satan and indeed woman.   Magic, which had once been part of the Christian’s ritual repertoire became, with the advent of Protestantism an act of the witch.[23]  It is significant that the image of the ‘witch’ developed in the first half of the 15th century, in
Switzerland, in conjunction with the reform movement of Ulrich Zwingli.[24] 

The construction of the witch as a woman who is connected to the devil is also reiterated in Catholic thought.  A Catholic contemporary advises: “for those who are most tempted by the devil, be obedient to the Church’s commandments… simple women shouldn’t cure children or other people…nor should you go to those who are dedicated to these cures.”[25]  While there were a number of witch trials prior to the Reformation, it is important to note that they did not assume the ferocity of the witch hunts that occurred from 1590-1750, due to the realignment of magic.   

Evidently, the Reformation had a profound effect upon the religiosity of the masses.  In removing the techniques by which a people acted as religious agents and sought to control their existence, the Reformation disenfranchised the laity of their religiosity.  Furthermore, the way in which the Reformation placed magic as binarily opposed to Christianity has prime historical importance.  It can be seen to have been one of the direct causes of the witch hunts.  However, this conceptual understanding of magic can also be seen to be inherent in the growth of modern magical and occult movement, which draw their attraction out of their opposition to Christianity.[26]  Clearly, the Reformation acted as a revolution in terms of ritual and magical practice, and is of high historical importance. 

[1] This view accepts the Protestant concept of Justification of Faith as revolutionary in that it denies the Church of its sacramental powers, therefore freeing the people from the Church’s hold on them.  Furthermore, this approach assumes a negative assessment of late medieval religion, while accepting that the people wanted the Reformation.  Cameron,  E. 1991. The European Reformation, Clarendon Press,
Oxford.  p. 19.  For the examples of the above assessment of the Reformation see Morris, T.  1998.  Europe and England in the 16th Century, Routledge,
London. p. 23.  Dolan, J. 1965, History of the Reformation, a Conciliatory Assessment of Opposing Views,
Desclee, New York. p. 5.  Furthermore, there exists growing evidence that the people did not want the Reformation.  Shiels, W. 1989, The English Reformation 1530-1570,
Longman, New York. p. 68. 

[2]Scibner, R. 1993, “The Reformation, Popular Magic and The ‘Disenchantment of the World’” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 23. pp. 475-494.  p. 477

[3] Muir, E. 1997, Ritual in Early Modern Europe,
University Press,
Cambridge. p. 186; Monter, W. 1983, Ritual, Myth and Magic in Early Modern Europe, The Harvest
Press, Sussex. p. 6

[4] Thomas, K. 1971, Religion and the Decline of Magic,
University Press,
New York. p. 51; Taylor, L. 2004. “Society and Piety” in ed. R.
Po-Chia Hsia A Companion to The Reformation World, pp. 22-39, Blackwell, U.S.A. p. 24; Scibner. “The Reformation, Popular Magic”. p. 475.   

[5] Muir. Ritual p. 155.  Also see Cameron.  The European Reformation.  p. 12.

[6] Muir. Ritual p. 163. 

[7] Cameron. European Reformation p.

[8] Greenwood, S. 2001, The Encyclopaedia of Magic and Witchcraft, Lorenz,
London. p. 106.

[9] Muir Ritual p. 156

[10] Indeed, our knowledge of the practices of the laity comes through the records of disapproving priests. Sharpe, J.  2004.  “Magic and Witchcraft” in ed. R. Po-Chia Hsia A Companion to The Reformation World, pp. 440-458, Blackwell, U.S.A. p. 442

[11] It is important to remember that this period had very little scientific or medical knowledge.  Thus, many events, such as fertility, birth and the weather were seen to be supernatural in basis. 

[12] Scribner “The Reformation and Popular Magic”. p. 484. 

[13] Scribner.  “The Reformation and Popular Magic”. p. 473. 

[14] Ozment, S. 1980. The Age of Reform, An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe,
Press, U.S.A. p. 435.

[15] Thomas. Decline of Magic. p. 53. 

[16] Mullett, M. 1984. The Counter Reformation and the Catholic Reformation,
Methuen, New York. p. 3

[17] Muir p. 179.  Additionally, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) also sought to address discrepancies in lay ritual practice. 

[18] Cameron, E. p.421. 

[19] Cameron, p. 421

[20] Ozment. The Age of Reform, An Intellectual and Religious History. p. 436. 

[21] Scribner, R. 1994. “Comparative Overview” in ed. R. Scribner, R. Porter &  M. Teich, The Reformation in National Context pp. 215-227.
University Press,
Cambridge.  p. 221. 

[22] Ozment. The Age of Reform, An Intellectual and Religious History  p. 436.

[23] It must be noted that superstitious and magical practices did persist amongst the laity.  However, this is largely a long term development, in which these practices ‘reappeared’ late in the 17th century.  See Mentzer, R. 1996. “The Persistence of Supersitiion and Idoltry among Rural French Calvinists” Church History 65 pp. 220-233.

[24] Sharpe. “Magic and Witchcraft”. p. 442

[25] Castanega, M. (1529) 2001. “Tratado muy sotil y bien fundado” in ed. Alan Charles Kors & Edward Peters Witchcraft in
Europe 400-1700, A Documentary History,
pp. 273-280. 
University of
Pennsylvania Press,
Philadelphia. pp. 279-280. 

[26] This is not to say that the modern occult and magical movements seek to perform Satanic acts.  Rather, it is widely acknowledged that many adherents of these movements convert to occultism due to‘disenchantment’ with Christianity.  The Reformation resulted in ‘the disenchantment of the world’ by which the divine is binarily opposed to the mundane.  While this occurred largely through an attempt to unify Christianity, in forbidding occult and magical practices, the Reformation ensured the growth of magical and occult movements: – magical practices are seen to be inherent in human society. 

October 3, 2006 at 12:58 am 2 comments

‘Jihad?’ – An enquiry

The term and concept jihad is one of the most misunderstood and ill-used words in modernity.  This essay seeks to challenge the prevalent conception of jihad as representing ‘holy war’ or offensive violent acts which are supported on a religious basis.  In order to purport this, a consideration of jihad, both in lesser and greater terms must be carried out.  However, due to the western pre-occupation with the lesser jihad, it is necessary to focus upon this facet of the concept of jihad; attempting to consider the subject without the Eurocentricism that dominates western arguments[1].  The examination of the concept of jihad, lesser and greater, involves an attempt to understand their historical context, and consider the influence of the said context. Furthermore, I will also examine the different representations of jihad through Islamic history, from classical notions to the present.  Whilst this is not a definitive guide, it aims to provide a clearer understanding of this important Islamic concept. 

Lesser or external jihad, as one Muslim author refers to it[2], is complex in both its meaning and in the history of its application.  In contrast to the common Western perception, ‘jihad’ does not translate into ‘holy war’, nor does the term itself necessarily connotate violence.  Jihad is most commonly translated into ‘utmost effort or struggle in the path of God’.  Lesser jihad can be applied to many aspects of the ‘external’ world, and is not restricted in its application to physical violence or armed combat.  Indeed, it has been widely noted that the writers of the Qur’an chose the term, ‘jihad’ in favour of the array of Arabic terms that denote physical violence, such as ‘harb’ (war), sira’s (killing) and qutal (killing).  This choice is indicative of the broader meaning of jihad[3]. 

Despite this, the concept of jihad is historically, and conceptually connected with physical violence. 

The doctrine of jihad was determined in the latter half of the second century, according to the Muslim calendar[4].  The concept of jihad is clearly derived from pre-Arabic society; in which tribal war was considered lawful, and if fought defensively, was considered additionally justified[5].  Whilst the nature of pre-Islamic
Arabia can be considered of high influence in the construction of jihad, even more imperative was the social climate in which Islam experienced its formative years.  Indeed, as Armstrong notes, Muhammad and the early Muslim community came to
Medina in 622 C.E as religious refugees, and would remain under threat of extermination for the next five years, “Muhammad and the first Muslims were fighting for their lives and they had also undertaken a project in which violence was inevitable.”[6]  Thus, jihad developed out of the pre-exiting attitudes present within Arabic society, and more importantly in direct reaction to the social climate in which Islam developed.

Clearly, a doctrine concerning armed combat within Islam was inevitable, however, it must be emphasised that jihad allows violence only on the basis of defence,

Q: 190-193: And fight in the way of God with those who fight you, but aggress not: God loves not the aggressors.  And slay them wherever you come upon them, and expel them from wherever they expelled you; persecution is more grievous than slaying.  But- surely fight them not by the Holy Mosque until they should fight you there; then, if they fight you, slay them – such is the recompense of the unbelievers – but if they give over, surely God is All-forgiving, All-Compassionate. 

The above passage, which calls for physical aggression, clearly outlines the defensive nature of jihad[7]. 

Jihad, when considered in relation to physical combat, was later given extensive legal consideration, which constricted its application further. 


A prominent jurist, Averroes (b. 1126 C.E), for example, expounded upon the doctrine of jihad in his text, Al-Bidāya.  Here Averroes explains that an enemy may only be attacked if safe-conduct has not been granted.  If this is the case, however, only the able-bodied and arm bearing men of the community may be attacked[8].  Evidently, the application of jihad to physical combat was restricted by both its defensive status and further moral ideals.  Therefore, offensive action as taken by Muslim states throughout history may not be considered as acts of jihad[9]. 

Whilst classical conceptions of the lesser jihad are concerned primarily with jihad in relation to physical combat, jihad has come to be concerned with wider social issues[10], beginning in the latter half of the 19th century[11].  Lesser jihad, in the modern context, is primarily concerned with the betterment of Muslim society.  This includes providing educational resources on and within Islam, and general socio-economic issues present within the Muslim world.  For example, feminist Muslims, are currently taking part in ‘gender jihad’, “the struggle in the name of God toward socially recognised and institutionalised gender parity.[12] 

Many Muslim theologians consider the economic advancement of Islam also a matter of jihad[13].  An example of this can be found in 1975, when President Bourgaiba of
Tunisia called for an economic jihad,

Tunisia, which is an Islamic country suffers from a certain degree of decline and backwardness, that bring disgrace on us in the eyes of the world…Escaping this backwardness is jihad obligation… [14]

Clearly, the lesser jihad, despite its early concentration upon physical defence, is and has been applied to a wide range of external concerns, reflecting the flexible nature its name. 

A consideration of jihad necessarily concentrates upon the lesser jihad; due to its wider impact upon global history, and indeed the emphasis it receives in Islamic legal and religious texts. This necessity results in a less than adequate understanding of the greater jihad.  The origin of the concept of the greater jihad is widely debated. The oft-quoted hadith of Muhammad, who spoke after returning from battle, “We return from the little jihad to the greater jihad” points to the greater jihad being formulated in early Islamic history.  Whilst some scholars consider the greater jihad to be a product of the late 19th century, Peters convincingly argues that the Golden Age of Islam resulted in the internalisation of the lesser jihad[15] creating the greater jihad.  Despite its historical ambiguity, the greater jihad has become of great religious importance within the last two centuries.  Indeed, for some contemporary Muslims, the greater jihad has become the sole and only appropriate interpretation of jihad[16]. 

Whilst the lesser jihad is the struggle against external forces, the greater jihad is concerned with the inner struggle between good and evil within the individual.  However, the greater jihad is intrinsically connected to the lesser jihad. 

It acts as a necessary precondition for acts of defensive jihad[17], whilst acting as a basis from which improved social conditions may be achieved.  Nasr states that Islam is based upon the notion of equilibrium,

The flight to peace by the soul is necessitated by the establishment of an equilibrium, both outward and inward which is necessary for vertical ascent.[18]

Essentially, the greater jihad, a largely ascetic concept; it is concerned with overcoming the baser elements of human life: renouncing attachment to material objects, greed and lust, in an attempt to reach the divine within the human existence.  For example, performing the zakāt, one of the five pillars of Islam, this requires that one give to charity up to ten percent of personal income, involves the struggle against inner greed, which helps to establish economic equilibrium in the external world, whilst establishing frugality within the person.  Greater jihad pertains to the struggle within the person to establish a connection with divinity within this life. 

Evidently, the concept of jihad is indeed far removed from the western perception of this doctrine as holy war.  Lesser jihad neither advocates offensive physical violence, nor is it wholly concerned with armed, physical combat.  The struggle in the path of God, whether it be to protect one’s land, as was the case in the Crusades, or establish gender equality, mobilises the Muslim community to advance itself.  Lesser and greater jihad are co-existent concepts: neither can exist without the fulfilment, or attempt to carry out the other.   Jihad is an essential part of Islam, as a religion and as a society; it seeks spiritual and secular excellence within the individual and community as a whole. 

[1] See especially Pipes, D. 2002, “Jihad and the Professors” Commentary vol. 114 no. 4 pp. 17-21; Ellens, J. 2004, “Jihad in the Qur’an, Then and Now” ed. J. Ellens The Destructive Power of Religion, Violence in Judaism, Christianity and Islam Westport, U.S.A. 

[2] Nasr, S. 1987, Traditional Islam in the Modern World, K.P.I,
London. p. 29

[3] Noorami, A. 2002, Islam and Jihad, Prejudice versus Reality, Zed Books,
London. p. 49;

Lawerence, B. 1998, Shattering the Myth, Islam Beyond Violence, Princeton University Press,
New Jersey. p. 168; Heck, P. 2004, “Jihad Revisited” Journal of Religious Ethics v. 32 no. 1 pp. 95-128. p. 97. 

[4] Peters, R. 1996, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam, Marcus Wiener,
New Jersey. p. 2.  The Muslim calendar, begins with the fleeing of Muhammad and the first Muslims from Mecca to Yathrib (later
Medina) which is why it is called Hijra.  This has been dated to July 16th 622 C.E.

[5] Peters. Jihad in Classical p. 1. 

[6] Armstrong, K. 1995, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, Victor Gollancz,
New York. p. 168

[7] The notion of a religious doctrine that is concerned with secular well-being may seem as inappropriate to the Western, secularised mind.  However, it must be stressed that Islamic countries, and within Islam itself, experiences no such secularism: religion remains a central concern of the society, and is inseparable from secular law and values. 

[8] Averroes.  (1996) “Al-Bidāya” in Peters, R. 1996, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam, pp. 27-42 Marcus Wiener,
New Jersey.  See pp. 32-35.  Averroes states that if a community is attacked, the following members of the said community may not be slain: women, children, the ill, the elderly, peasants, hermits and the insane. 

[9] Further to this, there exists scant evidence for the conception that the wars of early Muslim history were wars of conversion.  These wars were neither jihad driven, but were wars of conquest and political hegemony.   See Lippman, T. 1995,  Understanding Islam, An Introduction to the Muslim World, 2nd ed. Muridian,
New York.  pp. 115.  It should also be noted that the calling of expansionist Islam, which I have not considered here, can be largely considered defunct.  The classical notion that the Imām is obliged to raid enemy territory annually, was neither applicable to the Golden Age of Islam (c.750-1500) nor is their any evidence to the contrary.  Further to this, there also exists considerable restrictions concerning who may call the Muslim community to both expansionist and defensive jihad (aside from individual defensive jihad).  Within Shi’ite Islam, expansionist jihad can only be waged under the leadership of the rightful Imām.  As the occultation of the last Imām was performed in 873 C.E, it is considered unlawful for jihad to be called.  Furthermore, Noorani notes that traditionally, jihad, for the community, whether it be expansionist or defensive, must be declared by the clergy in fatwas. 

[10] This is not to say that jihad as defensive action against offensive action is still not important to the modern Muslim world. 

[11] Religious doctrines, as outlined above, are intrinsically connected to the society in which they are formed, and reside within.  Therefore, the classical concern with warfare is connected to the pre-Islamic Arabic society that was characterised by tribal war-fare.  As this does not dominate the Muslim world, it was inevitable that the doctrine of jihad would change in relation its social conditions.  

[12] Abugideiri, H.  2001, “The Renewed Woman of American Islam: Shifting Lenses Toward ‘Gender Jihad’” The Muslim World, vol. 91 no. 1/2 pp. 1-18.   p. 2

[13] Hopfe, L. 2005, Religions of the World, 9th ed,
Prentice Hall, New Jersey. p. 349

[14] Peters. Jihad in Classical p. 117

[15] Peters. Jihad in Classical  p. 187

[16] Miller, R. 2000, Muslim Friends: Their Faith and Feeling, An Introduction to Muslim Orient, Longham. P. 253

[17] Waddy, C. 1990, The Muslim Mind 3rd ed.
New Amsterdam, Lanbam. P. 103

[18] Nasr, Traditional Islam p. 28

October 3, 2006 at 12:55 am 2 comments

This is quite interesting. 

September 25, 2006 at 1:44 am 1 comment

The Holocaust – Gypsies, Disabled and Homosexuals?

“Is it proper to commemorate the extermination of Gypsies, Romani, homosexuals and the disabled as part of the Holocaust” 

This essay shall approach the commemoration of the disabled, the Gypsies and the homosexuals as part of the Holocaust.  The Holocaust shall be defined as the Nazi extermination of a group on the basis of Nazi eugenics in an attempt to create a homogenous gene pool.[1]  According to this definition, the disabled and the Gypsies are also victims of the Holocaust, along side the Jews.  However, this definition excludes the homosexuals from such recognition.  This essay shall detail a necessarily brief history of all three groups, justifying the inclusion in the above definition.  However, despite the ease of such an argument, this essay shall explore in its conclusion, the validity of the term ‘the Holocaust”, positing that it is in itself, a deeply problematic term.   


The Nazi persecution of the physically and mentally disabled was their first step in their quest for racial purity.[2]  The Nazi attempt to eliminate the disabled population began with the introduction of two laws on 14th July 1933: the Law for Prevention of Progeny With Hereditary Disorders, and the Law for Prevention of Genetically Disabled Offspring.  These two laws enforced sterilisation for those deemed to be disabled: resulting in up to 300, 000 sterilisations being performed in the 1930s.[3]  The second major step, for both the disabled community and the Nazi eugenic program, came with the ‘euthanasia’ of the Knauer child in 1939.[4]  This case became the pretext for the development of the child euthanasia program in 1939.  This program involved the recording of all births which displayed deformity or disease.  These reports were sent to a centralised board, which decided whether or not the child, under the age of three, shall live, or be, “cleaned.”[5]  Initially, the termination of chosen children was carried out by the local hospital.[6]   

However, in 1939, with the expansion of the euthanasia program to include adults and children above the age of three, the Nazi’s first gas chambers were built, “T4”, to perform the exterminations on a larger, and more centralised scale.[7]  T4 was closed in 1941 in relation to public outcry to the killings.  The official death count is 70, 273, however, this is estimated to be low, and does not include the deaths of the disabled that were killed after the official closure of T4.[8] Significantly, the individuals trained for the operations of T4, and the construction of the centre’s mechanics of death, were transferred to the Nazi concentration camps in 1941.  

The Gypsies are another group that was singled out for at first persecution, and then extermination, under the Nazi eugenic program.[9]  The Gypsies, as with the Jews and the disabled, were considered to be a threat to Nazi racial purity.  They were deemed to be: 

“primitive…racially inferior, with particularly inferior intellect and morals…[they pose] a special racial and economic threat.  They are an even greater danger to racial purity.”[10] 

Thus, the Gypsies were sterilised under the Law for Genetically Diseased Offspring of July 14th 1933.  Subsequently, the Gypsies were variously detained in ‘Zigeunlager’, and had their citizenship revoked upon the basis of being defined as, “aliens”.[11]  From 1936-1939, the Nazi’s ‘registered’ the Gypsy population, variously resulting in deportation, incarceration, or to be left alone.  Importantly, as Sybil Milton notes, the Gypsies were among the first to be exterminated after the commencement of the Second World War, whilst in many cases Gypsy deportation preceded Jewish deportation.[12]   

The tension that exists in including the Gypsies in the Holocaust is based on a number of factors.  First, the lower percentage of population killed is considered problematic.  However, establishing the number of Gypsy deaths under the Nazi regime is highly problematic.  Gypsy deaths in the concentration camp system were not always recorded as such, and further to this, Gypsy deaths that occurred outside this system were not recorded.[13]  Furthermore, Brenda and James Lutz point out that the lower percentage can be related to locality and the related degree of Nazi authority: in areas of Nazi dominance, the Gypsies were as likely to be persecuted as the Jews.[14]  However, Lutz states that the majority of Gypsies in occupied
Europe resided in areas that exhibited a, “degree of antipathy towards Nazi policies.”[15]  Another prime point of contention in this debate is that the Nazis did not pursue a policy of extermination against all Gypsies, and that their policies did not exhibit the same aggression as they did with the Jews.[16]  It is clear that a number of Gypsies were left alone by the Nazis.  However, this brief amnesty was not applied coherently.  Whilst at first, ‘pure’ and ‘sedentary’ Gypsies were exempt from deportation and sterilisation, in the later years of the Nazi regime, ‘pure’ and ‘sedentary’ Gypsies were deported, sterilised and exterminated.[17]  Furthermore, the Nazis only classified 10% of the Gypsy population as, “pure.”[18]  Additionally, as Henry Friedlander notes, while Himmler may have attempted to ‘save’ pure Gypsies, it is clear that by the time Himmler announced as such, that many ‘pure’ Gypsies had been deported to Auschwitz.[19] 

Historians such as Yehuda Bauer have argued for the exemption of the Gypsies from the Holocaust on the basis that the Nazi campaign against them was not as aggressive as the Jewish Final Solution.[20]  However, there are obvious reasons for a lack of fervour against the Gypsies.  They represented a far smaller percentage of the population than the Jews: 0.05, rather than 0.5.[21]  Furthermore, the Gypsies occupied a rather lower socio-economic status than that of the Jews: a campaign against them did not need to deal with politics and influence.  It is clear, that despite discrepancies, the Gypsies were a victim of the Holocaust: they were selected for sterilisation, deportation and extermination on the basis of their racial threat to Aryan blood.   

            The homosexuals are another group that were persecuted under the Nazi regime.  However, the Nazi persecution of homosexuals may not be included in the Holocaust under its current definition.  The Nazi attack on homosexuality began in July 14th 1933 with the introduction of the Law for Prevention of Hereditary Diseases and in November 1933 with the introduction of the Law Against Dangerous Habitual Criminals and Sexual Offenders.[22]  This situation was augmented in 1935 with the introduced subclause A to Paragraph 175, making homosexuality illegal.[23]  Nazi homophobia can be seen to have been drawn from a number of quarters: firstly, homosexuals did not fulfil the procreative responsibilities of the German male; indeed, the stereotyped homosexual man was the antithesis of the Nazi masculine ideal.[24]  Perhaps most motivating was the fear of a homosexual plague: the notion that homosexuality spread.  This was deemed to be a threat of huge proportions to the gender segregation that occurred in the Nazi Youth and SS organisations.   

It is clear that a level of persecution was performed against the homosexual community by the Nazi regime.  175A and other introduced laws saw the incarceration (in prison, psychiatric wards and concentration camps), castration, and extermination of 1000s of men.  Estimates consider between 5000 and 15000 men were killed under the guise of homosexuality by the Nazis.  However, this persecution was neither wholesale, nor systematic.[25]  Further, homosexuality was never fully understood by Nazi Germany, and was not categorised as a genetic problem; thus, it was not deemed a threat to the Aryan gene pool.  This can be exemplified by a consideration of the recorded reasons for castration.  Geoffrey Giles notes two laws that allowed for the castration of homosexuals: the Law for Prevention for Hereditary Diseases and the Law Against Dangerous Habitual Criminals and Sex Offenders.  Castrations were mainly carried out under the second law: according to official records, only 14 castrations were performed under the first, whilst 1 123 were performed under the second.  Whilst these operations are ultimately abhorrent, it is clear that the Nazis did not largely define homosexuality as a eugenic problem.  The Nazi persecution of homosexuals was based on a desire to eradicate homosexuality.  This ultimately, resulted in the incarceration, sterilisation and death of many men.  However, the homosexuals were not singled out on the basis of their race: they could in fact avoid persecution.   

The exclusion of homosexuals from the Holocaust points to the extremely problematic, ethical position that this term inhabits.  Ultimately, a definition of the Holocaust must exclude certain groups that experienced Nazi persecution.  However, in doing so, one robs those groups of recognition, and any commemorative affects.[26]   

Yet, the inclusion of a group whose persecution was less stringent and based on different criteria than those already included, necessarily devalues the initial groups experience. However, one must stop and question the validity of placing such a distinction that is surely, “a qualitative concept carrying moral judgement.”[27]  The persecution of Jews, Gypsies and the disabled resulted in similar classification and designation for death under Nazi eugenic policies.  Yet, for many homosexuals, or even other prisoners, the Nazi regime provided the same treatment: incarceration under extremely inhumane conditions, and death.  Gavriel Rosenfeld notes that increasingly, the Holocaust is coming to designate those who were incarcerated and killed in the mechanics of the Nazi concentration camp system.[28]   Furthermore, Rosenfeld comes to question the validity of the term the Holocaust in its totality, primarily on its matter of devaluation through inclusion and exclusion, and in relation to the wider use of the term in popular culture.[29]  Perhaps terms, such as the shoah, shall come to recognise each groups Holocaust experience, whilst the Holocaust shall come to recognise all groups of Nazi persecution.  As I have demonstrated, the term the Holocaust is deeply problematic, and ultimately devalues a group’s experience. However, the definition as provided initially, does aid one to engage with the genocide of the Jews, Gypsies and the disabled under the Nazi eugenic program.   







Bauer, Y. &
Milton, S. 1992. “Correspondence: Gypsies and The Holocaust” The History Teacher. vol. 25 no. 4. pp. 513-525

Dunk, H. 2002. “The Holocaust: Remembrance and Education” European Review. vol. 10 no. 1. pp. 53-61. 

Friedlander, H. 1994. “Step by Step: The Expansion of Murder, 1939-1941” German Studies Review. vol. 17 no. 3. pp. 495-507. 

Giles, G. 1992. “The Most Unkindest Cut of All: Castration, Homosexuality and Nazi Justice” Journal of Contemporary History. vol. 27 no. 1. pp. 41-56. 

Jenson, E. 2002. “The Pink Triangle and Political Consciousness: Gays, Lesbians and the Memory of Persecution” Journal of the History of Sexuality. vol. 11. no. 1. pp. 319-349. 

Lewy, G. 1999. “Gypsies and the Jews Under the Nazis” Holocaust and Genocide Studies. vol. 13 no. 3. pp. 383-404. 

Lutz, B. & Lutz, J. 2002. “Gypsies as Victims of the Holocaust” Holocaust and Genocide Studies. vol. 9 no. 3. pp. 346-359. 

Micheler, S. 2002. “Homophobic Propaganda and the Denunciation of Same-Sex Desiring Men Under National Socialism” Journal of the History of Sexuality. vol. 11 no. ½. pp. 95-130. 


Milton, S. 1991.  “Gypsies and the Holocaust” The History Teacher. vol. 24 no. 4. pp. 375-387.  

Mostert, M. 2002. “Useless Eaters: Disability as a Genocidal Marker in Nazi Germany” The Journal of Special Education. vol. 36 no. 2. pp. 155-168. 

Muller-Hill, B. 1988. Murderous Science: Elimination By Scientific Selection of Jews, Gypsies, and Others in Germany. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 


Oosterhuis, H. 1997. “Medicine, Male Bonding and Homosexuality in Nazi Germany” Journal of Contemporary History. vol. 32 no. 2. pp. 187-205. 

Rosenfeld, G. 1999. “The Politics of Uniqueness: Reflections of the Recent Polemical Turn in Holocaust and Genocide Scholarship” Holocaust and Genocide Studies. vol. 13 no 1. pp. 28-61. 






Milton, S. 1991.  “Gypsies and the Holocaust” The History Teacher. vol. 24 no. 4. pp. 375-387. p. 378; Milton, S. 1992. “Correspondence: Gypsies and The Holocaust” The History Teacher. vol. 25 no. 4. pp. 513-525. p. 516; Friedlander, H. 1994. “Step by Step: The Expansion of Murder, 1939-1941” German Studies Review. vol. 17 no. 3. pp. 495-507. p. 497. 

[2] From this point on, I shall refer to those whom the Nazi regime persecuted and killed on the basis of physical or mental disability as simply, ‘disabled’.  However, it must be noted that the Nazi’s definition of ‘disabled’ was incredibly wide; it included: “congenital mental defect, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, chorea, blindness, deafness, severe physical deformity, alcoholism.” Muller-Hill, B. 1988. Murderous Science: Elimination By Scientific Selection of Jews, Gypsies, and Others in

University Press,
Oxford. p. 28

[3] Friedlander, p. 496

[4] The euthanasia of the Knauer child would seem to be one of those cataclysmic accidents of history.  The case which is widely argued to be the basis for the following ‘euthanasia’ program was petitioned for, on a number of occasions, by the child’s father.  See: Mostert, M. 2002. “Useless Eaters: Disability as a Genocidal Marker in Nazi
Germany” The Journal of Special Education. vol. 36 no. 2. pp. 155-168. pp.159-160.  Others also consider the Knauer child to be the pretext for the child euthanasia program.  Fiedlander. “Step by Step” p. 497

[5] Mostert. “Useless Eaters” p. 498.

[6] Mostert. “Useless Eaters” Mostert lists various methods of termination by local hospitals.  See

[7] T4 housed the first extermination performed by carbon monoxide poisoning in Nazi Germany.  However, the first mass killing of disabled adults was performed by the SS in Pomeria and
West Prussia in 1939. Mostert. “Useless Eaters” p. 163; Muller-Hill. Murderous Science. p. 41. 

[8] Friedlander. Step by Step. p. 498;

[9] I refer to the ‘Gypsies’ here with all due recognition of the Roma and the Sinti.  The term, ‘Gypsies’ is used for literary ease. 

Milton, S. 1991.  “Gypsies and the Holocaust” p. 380.  Quoting:
Nuremberg Document NG 684. File 4942. 5/2/1940. Letter: Senior State Attorney, Dr. Meissner of the Gratz Circuit Court to the Reich Minister of Justice,

[11] The designation of “Gypsies” as “alien” parallels the Jews classification. Lutz, B. & Lutz, J. 2002. “Gypsies as Victims of the Holocaust” Holocaust and Genocide Studies. vol. 9 no. 3. pp. 346-359. p. 347. Another significant parallel between the Gypsies and the Jews in terms of Nazi classification is the dual designation as group ‘4’, under the division of territories: those under group 4 were to be exterminated.  Muller-Hill. Murderous Science. p. 55. 

Milton. “Gypsies” p. 375. 

Milton. “Gypsies” p. 378; Lutz. “Gypsies as victims” p. 351. 

[14] Lutz. “Gypsies as victims” p. 354.

[15] Lutz. “Gypsies as victims” p. 368.

[16] See Bauer, Y. 1992. “Correspondence: Gypsies and the Holocaust” The History Teacher. vol. 25 no.  4. pp. 513-525; Lewy, G. 1999. “Gypsies and the Jews Under the Nazis” Holocaust and Genocide Studies. vol. 13 no. 3. pp. 383-404. Guenter Lewy is vitally concerned that the Gypsies are not included in the Holocaust.  However, his analysis proves to be based on a number of historical omissions.  For example. Lewy states that Gypsies were only persecuted in the last three years of the war.

Milton,. S. 1992. “Correspondence: Gypsies and the Holocaust” pp. 513-525. p. 519.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Friedlander. “Step by Step” p. 500.  

[20] Bauer. “Corresspondence” p. 512

[21] Friedlander. “Step by Step” p. 498. 

[22] Giles, G. 1992. “The Most Unkindest Cut of All: Castration, Homosexuality and Nazi Justice” Journal of Contemporary History. vol. 27 no. 1. pp. 41-56. p. 47.  As with all groups that faced Nazi persecution, the introduction of laws merely represents the first official decree of persecution against such a group.  All groups underwent varying forms of persecution and marginalisation prior to the implementation of Nazi ideology in Nazi Germany. 

[23] Micheler, S. 2002. “Homophobic Propaganda and the Denunciation of Same-Sex Desiring Men Under National Socialism” Journal of the History of Sexuality. vol. 11 no. ½. pp. 95-130. p. 95

[24] Micheler. “Homophobic” p. 96. 

[25] Oosterhuis, H. 1997. “Medicine, Male Bonding and Homosexuality in Nazi
Germany” Journal of Contemporary History. vol. 32 no. 2. pp. 187-205. p. 189.

[26] Herman Von Ver Dunk notes that commemoration results in both a strengthening of bonds amongst survivors and helps prevent the reoccurrence of the initial events.  Dunk, H. 2002. “The Holocaust: Remembrance and Education” European Review. vol. 10 no. 1. pp. 53-61. pp. 61-62.  Erik Jensen notes the importance of the “Gay Holocaust” to the current GLBT political community.  However, Jensen also notes that the Gay community, “has remembered the Gay Holocaust often independently of historical research.” Jenson, E. 2002. “The Pink Triangle and Political Consciousness: Gays, Lesbians and the Memory of Persecution” Journal of the History of Sexuality. vol. 11. no. 1. pp. 319-349. p. 320.  The politics of ‘collective memory’ are deeply embedded in the study of the Holocaust.  Rosenfeld notes that the notion of ‘uniqueness’ developed out of attempts to include others in the Holocaust, and in the rise of arguments concerning the place of the Holocaust in contemporary American life.  Rosenfeld, G. 1999. “The Politics of Uniqueness: Reflections of the Recent Polemical Turn in Holocaust and Genocide Scholarship” Holocaust and Genocide Studies. vol. 13 no 1. pp. 28-61. p. 35. 

[27] Rosenfeld. “The Politics of Uniqueness”. p. 47. 

[28] Rosenfeld. “The Politics of Uniqueness” p. 48. 

[29] See Rosenfeld. “The Politics of Uniqueness” for a detailed discussion. 

September 25, 2006 at 12:54 am 3 comments

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