The Future of the Holocaust: Between History and Memory

The Future of the Holocaust: Between History and Memory

The Future of the Holocaust: Between History and Memory

The Future of the Holocaust: Between History and Memory

Synopsis

In The Future of the Holocaust, Berel Lang continues his inquiry into the causal mechanisms of decision-making and conduct in Nazi Germany and into responses to the genocide by individuals and nations-an inquiry that he began in Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide and pursued in Heidegger's Silence. Raising the question now of what the future of the Holocaust is, he addresses among other topics how history and memory together shape views of the Holocaust; how the concept of "intention"-which played a crucial part in the events of half a century ago-shapes history and memory themselves; and how future views of this genocide may alter those of today. In addition, Lang explores cultural representations of the "Final Solution"-from monuments to public school curricula-within the Jewish and German communities. He analyzes ethical issues concerning such concepts as intention, responsibility, forgiveness, and revenge, and puts forward a theory of the history of evil which provides a context for the Holocaust both historically and morally. Addressing the claims that the Nazi genocide was unique, Lang argues that the Holocaust is at once an actual series of events and a still future possibility. If the Holocaust occurred once, he argues, it can occur twice-and this view of the future remains an unavoidable premise for anyone now writing or thinking about that event in the past.

Excerpt

With the exception of Chapter 3, which appeared earlier, the essays in this book were written between 1990 and 1998, addressing issues and topics I considered more generally or only indirectly in Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide (1990) and in Heidegger's Silence (1996) but like those books impelled by the fact of the Nazi genocide itself. It may nonetheless seem that the essays collected here have moved away from the historical center that in those books I attempted to bring as close to philosophical scrutiny as history, on its side, and philosophy, on the other, would permit. The result may seem a mediated and abstract view filtered through lenses set in the “postHolocaust”: the more than half century since the end of World War II and the Third Reich's war within that war against the Jews. There undoubtedly is a distancing effect in the “meta-” issues taken up in these essays: analyzing the structure of Nazi “intentions” by considering those intentions under general categories of historical explanation (including the category, itself disputed, of “corporate” decisions); questioning the claim of “Holocaustuniqueness” by questioning the criterion of uniqueness itself; measuring the uneasy relation between history and memory as that affects the stillunfolding cultural representations of the “Final Solution”—from monuments to public school curricula—within the Jewish and the German communities. A similarly abstractive effect is suggested by the moral analysis of acts and values that come into view as the Nazi genocide, which is in the most obvious sense past, is viewed as also claiming a place in the continually new present—sometimes dramatically, as in the evocation of revenge or the (inverse) prospect of forgiveness, but also, more restrainedly, in considering the reconstitution of “normalcy” within the Jewish and German com-

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