On Tuesday, May 17, 2005, at 11am, the day before the 251st Columbia Commencement, Dr. Charles Patterson returned his doctoral degree to the Office of Columbia President Lee Bollinger in Low Library, Room 202, to protest the university's continuing abuse of animals.
After writing his 320-page doctoral dissertation on "Social Attitudes of Protestant Journals During the Depression of 1893-97," Patterson received his Ph.D. with honors from the Department of Religion in 1970. Since then, he has been a teacher, adjunct faculty member, therapist, editor, and author of ten books.
His most recent book is Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust (New York: Lantern Books, 2002), which has now been translated and published in Germany, Italy, Poland, Croatia, and the Czech Republic. Later this year the Hebrew edition will be published in Israel.
Patterson, who is a writer of Holocaust books and reviews, is upset by the cruelty practiced at Columbia by Professors Mehmet Oz, E. Sander Connolly, Michel Ferin, Raymond Stark, and the rest of the Columbia vivisectors.
"Dr. Josef Mengele, who conducted experiments on Jews and Gypsies at Auschwitz (he had two doctorates, by the way) would have fit in quite nicely at Columbia," says Patterson. "To paraphrase Theodor Adorno, the German Jewish philosopher who fled Nazi Germany, 'Auschwitz begins wherever somebody looks at a Columbia lab and thinks: they're only animals.'"
The title of Patterson's book comes from the Yiddish writer and Nobel Laureate, Isaac Bashevis Singer, to whom the book is dedicated. He was the first major modern author to describe the exploitation and killing of animals in terms of the Holocaust. "In relation to them, all people are Nazis," he wrote, "for animals it is an eternal Treblinka." (Treblinka was the Nazi death camp north of Warsaw.)
Patterson says his book, which examines the common roots of animal and human oppression and the similarities between how the Nazis treated their victims and how our society treats animals, is behind his decision to return his degree.
"I worked hard for that doctorate," he says, "but the lives of the innocent and helpless are more important than a piece of paper."
Columbia's attitude toward the exploitation of animals reminds Patterson of what the late AIDS and animal activist Steven Simmons described as the attitude of society as a whole: "Animals are innocent casualties of the world view that asserts that some lives are more valuable than others, that the powerful are entitled to exploit the powerless, and that the weak must be sacrificed for the greater good."
Here from a report is just one very brief glimpse behind the curtain of secrecy at Columbia: "In Columbia’s labs, animals are left in cages to die, without veterinary care, after having their eyes removed and clamps applied through their empty eye sockets to restrict the blood supply to their brains."
Patterson believes that one of the most important lessons of the Holocaust is that we must never again remain silent in the face of evil. In the words of Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
Dr. Patterson (soon to be ex-Dr. Patterson) also has a Master of Arts degree in English literature from Columbia. When he was asked if he was planning on returning that degree as well, he said, "No, I'm going to hold onto that one for awhile. However, if Columbia doesn't put a stop to its cruelty soon, maybe I'll send that one back as well. I only wish I could do more."
"It's a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong,
something the best people have always done."
- Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin
Below is a sampling of reactions from around the world to Patterson's book:
"The moral challenge posed by Eternal Treblinka turns it into a must for
anyone who seeks to delve into the universal lesson of the Holocaust."
- Maariv (Israeli newspaper)
"You must read this carefully documented book."
-La Stampa (Italian national newspaper)
"Important and timely...written with great sensitivity and compassion...I
hope that Eternal Treblinka will be widely read."
-Martyrdom and Resistance (Holocaust publication), New York
"Charles Patterson's book will go a long way towards righting the
terrible wrongs that human beings, throughout history, have perpetrated on
non-human animals. I urge you to read it and think deeply about its
-Dr. Jane Goodall, United Kingdom
"Necessary reading matter...very thought-provoking."
-Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany
"Eternal Treblinka is an eye-opening, thought-provoking book that I
-The Gantseh Megillah, Montreal, Canada
"Patterson's book sheds light on the violence perpetuated every day
against animals and humans alike so that we might one day put an end to it."
-Moment ("America's Premier Independent Jewish Magazine")
"A thorough and thought-provoking book."
-Ha'aretz (Israeli newspaper)
"Compelling, controversial, iconoclastic...strongly recommended...a
-Midwest Book Review, USA
"Eternal Treblinka disturbs us because (inevitably though tactfully) it
holds up to us, its readers, a clear mirror to look at ourselves
anew...Kafka would have applauded Eternal Treblinka. It grips like a
-The Freethinker, United Kingdom
"The book that breaks all taboos. The book that fires up controversies
all over the world."
- Prijatelji Zivotinja, Zagreb, Croatia
Charles Patterson is a social historian, Holocaust educator, editor, therapist, and author. His first book, Anti-Semitism: The Road to the Holocaust and Beyond, was called "important" by Publisher’s Weekly. The National Council for the Social Studies in Washington, D.C. presented Patterson with its Carter G. Woodson Book Award for his biography of Marian Anderson at a special luncheon at its annual convention in St. Louis, Missouri in 1989. His most recent book is Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust (now in 15 languages). For more information on his writings and activities, see his website.