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Sunday, September 13, 2009

An historian or an amateur collector?

On Friday, I mentioned a post by Helena Cobban, a member of Human Rights Watch's Middle East advisory committee, which expressed disgust with Marc Garlasco's little fetish. In a second post, Cobban - possibly unintentionally - nails the real issues with Garlasco:
2. "Collecting" such memorabilia-- which also involves a lot of trading, discussing, cataloguing etc--is not the same as being a serious military historian. Has Garlasco's book, which was published in 2007 January 2008, garnered any pre- or post-publication reviews from serious military historians? Has it been cited by any? I have seen no indication that it has.

3. Within the broader universe of collecting military memorabilia, if that is what a person wants to do, I think one has to put a particular red flag beside Nazi-era German memorabilia, which in Garlasco's case included an involvement with those from both Wehrmacht and SS units.

All of us who are concerned about the integrity of HRW's work going forward need to gain a clear understanding of the nature of Garlasco's collection. He has told HRW officers that it contains both German and American memorabilia from the WW-2 era. But in what balance? I think that information would be helpful.

Within this question of the "balance" of his collecting and related interests, it is relevant to ask why his first book-length publication was on the German artefacts rather than American or other artefacts.
I would have ordered the two questions differently but they really do present the issues. Let's take number 3 first.

Assuming, as all the evidence to this point indicates, that Garlasco's collection is at least heavily weighted toward Nazi memorabilia, what does that tell us about the likelihood of him being unbiased when it comes to sitting in judgment on the State of Israel? I don't really need to answer that question. The nearly universal revulsion for Nazi memorabilia in the civilized world answers it for me.

Now let's go back to question 2. Cobban sees no indication that Garlasco's book has been cited by serious scholars. Well, here it is on Amazon. It got two reviews - both of them from collectors. A Google search yielded about 6,000 hits - mostly from book catalogues - which compressed to 41 and then offered to show me "similar results." Not one review from a serious historian. Maybe the $109 price is a bit steep for them?

Is Marc Garlasco qualified to be sitting in judgment on the State of Israel? That's the real issue here, and I believe the answer is no.

Nice car though, isn't it?


At 3:07 AM, Blogger JR said...

Helena Cobban is a sworn enemy of Israel.

At 5:41 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

JR, yes which is why Carl and other Jewish bloggers' criticism can't be written off as just a "Jewish concern." And it shouldn't be just an issue for Jews. HRW seems incapable of comprehending that Garlasco's Nazi fetish is more than just about Israel.


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