Testimony, Tensions, and Tikkun: Teaching the Holocaust in Colleges and Universities

By Garber, Zev | Shofar, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Testimony, Tensions, and Tikkun: Teaching the Holocaust in Colleges and Universities


Garber, Zev, Shofar


Testimony, Tensions, and Tikkun: Teaching the Holocaust in Colleges and Universities, edited and introduced by Myrna Goldenberg and Rochelle L. Milien. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 2007. 336 pp. $50.00.

The Shoah is one of great moral significance in the history of western civilization, indeed, in the annals of civilization. Genocide is the most horrible of crimes and one of the most difficult to deal with in the field of humanities, revealing the human race in its worst perspective. How to explain the descent of Man?

In the second half of the twentieth century advances in understanding the causes and effects of the Shoah have been dramatic and widely chronicled. The first wave of analysis recounted the Nazi treatment of Europe's Jews in the historical context of deeply rooted religious anti-Judaism and racial antisemitism. Also documented, primarily from German sources and war crime trials, was the technology of mass death administered in the twelve years of Nazi Aktionen against the Jews and other minorities and the effect on the victims. Then came the indictment of the German and Austrian nations, the Church leadership, the French, EngUsh, and Soviet governments, and the entire free world for their lack of intent and will to combat the Nazi death machine. How to evaluate the ineptness of Church and State to help, intercede, and succor victims of tyrants in the most recorded event in human depravity?

Additionally, scholars have asked how much Eastern European Jewry, the main victim of Nazism, contributed to its own demise. Conclusions reached by Bruno Bettelheim, Raul Hilberg and Hannah Arendt are critical of the Jewish leadership and the masses who did not revolt against the Nazi evil. Others refuse this stern judgment, referring to the increasing number of Jewish documents that describe exemplary Jewish resistance under the most dire circumstances. These newly available sources compensate for the limited documentation available to Bettelheim, the predominantly German sources used by Hilberg and the largely theoretical reconstruction promoted by Arendt. What can we learn from the way of the few who honor the command: "You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor"?

The next phase in the study of the Shoah raised questions of psychology, philosophy, and literature. Particularly imaginative have been the theological questions: Where was the God of promises when millions of the innocent went up in smoke? What is human and divine responsibility after Auschwitz? Recent trends in research, methodology, and interpretations thus have added new issues and challenged past statements on the Shoah. For example, for Jewish and Christian views of the other, see http:www.case.edu/artsci/Rosenthal/index.html. and link to'Jewish-Christian Post-Shoah Midrash Dialogue" (accessed May 27, 2008). And the key to appreciating and understanding how and why Shoah matters is education. But how to educate the imponderable?

Testimony, Tensions and Tikkun examines the dynamics of Shoah and the response to the churban in a post-Auschwitz world. By exploring the challenges, personal and professional, to those who teach and by assessing student learning outcome, this volume provides a valuable contribution to Shoah education. Following the Foreword by Hubert G. Locke on the role of teachers of the Shoah and the Introduction by editors Myrna Goldenberg and Rochelle L. MiUen on the meaning and scope of Shoah study, the book is divided into three parts.

The first part is an exposé of course content. It contains ten essays. By discussing the work of five contemporary artists, Stephen Feinstein argues the importance of visual arts in Shoah studies. Rachel Rapperport Munn shows how architecture and urban design served the Nazi political ideology and agenda. Beth Halkins Benedict portrays the power and limitation of words in the language of the murderers and survivors. Donald Felipe focuses on the moral choices that faced individuals and corporations in the Nazi period. …

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