Contemporary Responses to the Holocaust

Contemporary Responses to the Holocaust

Contemporary Responses to the Holocaust

Contemporary Responses to the Holocaust

Synopsis

The murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust is a crime that has had a lasting and massive impact on our time. Despite the immense, ever-increasing body of Holocaust literature and representation, no single interpretation can provide definitive answers. Shaped by different historical experiences, political and national interests, our approximations of the Holocaust remain elusive. Holocaust responses--past, present, and future--reflect our changing understanding of history and the shifting landscapes of memory. This book takes stock of the attempts within and across nations to come to terms with the murders.

Excerpt

If one accepts the notion that dealing with history is based on man's desire to find his place in the world, it follows that heightened interest in the past reflects increased crises in human orientation and self-perception. Our own current interests drive our understanding of history to the extent that the past “as it really was” will always stay out of reach. Since Leopold von Ranke established the craft of history as a scholarly discipline in the nineteenth century, historians are aware that their task is, at its best, one of approximation, that reality will always remain elusive and shaped by subjectivity. Few events in human history defy this approximation as does the Holocaust, yet at the same time it has prompted a vast array of attempts to find meaning in the past and to offer guidance for the future. This discrepancy between the nature of the historical events and the utilitarian element of ex post facto rationalizations seems inherent in Holocaust responses; no intellectual effort can overcome it, no interpretative model can provide definitive answers.

This book combines a selection of chapters designed to convey an idea about the lasting and massive impact on our time of the murder of the European Jews. Yehuda Bauer, the preeminent historian of the Holocaust, points to the striking phenomenon that until the end of World War II only Nazi Germany was obsessed with the so-called Jewish Question and its Final Solution while the rest of the world stood by perceiving the fate of the Jews as a “minor irritant.” It took some years before the prevailing code of silence was gradually broken and the Holocaust became a focal point of scholarly and public discourse within and across nations. Yet, as our frame of reference is rapidly shifting, the Final Solution

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