The Holocaust & Historical Methodology

Article excerpt

The Holocaust & Historical Methodology. Ed. Dan Stone. New York: Berghahn Books, 2012. xii + 324 pp., cloth $95.

The Holocaust & Historical Methodology is an edited book in the Making Sense of History series. As editor, Dan Stone has gathered an impressive collection of historians whose scholarship on the Holocaust spans a diversity of academic themes and methodological schools of thought. In addition to increasing our empirical knowledge of the Holocaust, the scholars that Stone has amassed in this volume draw us into the larger epistemological debates that frame Holocaust historiography. In his introduction, Stone notes that there are many ways in which we can engage the historical record. However, what if the historical record under scrutiny is the Holocaust? Does the Holocaust qualify as a unique historical event that needs to be bound by its own set of theoretical and methodological guidelines? Or, are there, as Stone contends, "many ways to do history" when it comes to the study of the Holocaust? Stone asserts writers of Holocaust history do engage in a diversity of approaches through their writing of this particular history. If we can approach our study of the Holocaust as "the event" that is never in question, this allows for wider forms of historical investigation that adds to our representation of this particular event.

Stone's aim in this volume is multifaceted. On one level it is an examination of "historical theory" and "a consideration of historical method and historical methodology'(4). On another, it explores the possibility of Holocaust representation through the utilization of diverse methods and approaches such as culture, memory, testimony, gender, and even ecology. This diversity of approaches regarding the historical method is important because Stone asserts that there is still "factual" knowledge about the Holocaust that has yet to be discovered. Additionally, varied approaches permit the researcher to escape both the "self-policed" boundaries of Holocaust examination and break free from the somewhat staid predictability of Holocaust historiography. He notes that our historical knowledge of the Holocaust has progressed in recent years owing to the work of scholars such as Saul Friedlander who broke with traditional Holocaust research in going beyond just the presentation of facts to include Jewish voices. One theme that serves as a point of reference for methodological debate in many of the chapters in this volume is Friedlander's work, especially The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945.

Stone organizes this volume into four parts. Part I addresses the topic of memory and culture in the Third Reich. Drawing on the scholarship of Alon Confino, Dirk Rupnow, Amos Goldberg, and Boaz Neumann, Stone exposes us to pioneering methods of Holocaust inquiry from the subject of cultural history. In this section scholars explore cultural history and memory within flameworks of identity, such as the perpetrator, and ask how that identity was constructed in relation to a host of variables including, the other. It also opens up a world of "ideas, symbols, and narratives" that provide us with a sense of how the Jews as both individual and collective agents gave meaning to their lives under the Third Reich--something that the more traditional approaches of intentionalist, structuralist, and functionalist fail to present. …