Abstract: Reviewing the musical Imagine This for The Guardian, Michael Billington wrote: ‘they said it couldn’t be done: a musical about the Warsaw ghetto. And now that I’ve seen it, I know that they were right’. A few weeks later in the same newspaper, Anne Karpf suggested that one could be forgiven for thinking that every day was Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) in the United Kingdom. The plethora of Holocaust-related films and other ‘cultural’ events (I use the term loosely, to include the musical of the Warsaw Ghetto and other such ill-considered phenomena) indicated to Karpf that there is an excess of attention being paid to the Holocaust and that, especially at a time when Israel was pounding the life out of the Gaza Strip, such attention is unjustified. Karpf, unintentionally recapitulating a standard trope of British responses, writes that we have ‘now become saturated with images and accounts of the Holocaust’
Abstract: At the time of writing, two major landmarks have occurred in what might be called the history of the ‘afterlife of Holocaust memory’ in Britain.1 Most recently, the beginning of a new academic year in schools and colleges in England and Wales brought the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the National Curriculum — an event of immense significance in relation to Holocaust education in the United Kingdom. Whereas previously the presence of the Holocaust in educational curricula varied considerably, the incorporation of the genocide into the statutory content for the first National Curriculum for History in 1991 ensured that school history would become a core conduit in the expansion of knowledge and awareness among a new generation of young people. Beyond the chalkface, the other noteworthy anniversary of 2011 took place on 27 January when Britain held its tenth annual Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). A day which ‘provides an opportunity for everyone to learn the lessons from the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides and apply them to the present day to create a safer, better future’, HMD speaks to and of a process of heightened insti-tutionalisation which began in earnest at the turn of the millennium and has continued unabated since.2 HMD thus provides an illuminating window onto the preconceptions, priorities and politics which currently envelop and influence the shape of memorialisation in Britain, but it also does much more than this: as one of the first such days to be created in Western Europe following the Stockholm Declaration of 2000, Britain’s HMD also gestures to a gamut of issues related to memorialisation in general and Holocaust memory in the contemporary world in particular. Amongst others, these include the practices and procedures of collective remembrance, the forces behind a ‘turning’ to memory in the postmodern epoch, and the rationale for (and consequences of) the emergence of the Holocaust as a global phenomena in the past quarter of a century.
‘We Should Do Something for the Fiftieth’: Remembering Auschwitz, Belsen and the Holocaust in Britain in 1995
Abstract: Six years before Britain’s first annual Holocaust Memorial Day was observed in 2001, the 50th anniversaries of the liberation of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen were remembered as part of a wider public calendar of war-re la ted commemorative activities.1 Holocaust Memorial Day has (rightly) been the subject of much scholarly attention, some of it critical of the day’s ‘pathos’ approach to commemoration.2 In contrast, there has been markedly less discussion of how the anniversaries in 1995 of the liberation of the camps were remembered in Britain. This chapter attempts to supplement previous studies that have focused on aspects of Holocaust commemoration in Britain in 1995, notably those by Judith Petersen and Joanne Reilly et al. 2 The aim is to question whether the ways in which Holocaust commemoration was performed and articulated in 1995 helps us to think about how subsequent commemorations have been organised and understood. The approach that this discussion takes is both empirical (setting out salient features of the public discourse of Holocaust memory in 1995 under various genre headings) and critical (commenting on some of the implications of these discursive features for thinking about Holocaust memory in Britain). Part of the justification for this study is that the imbalances between scholarly interest in the commemorations of 1995 and 2001 could be usefully readjusted, if only because of the ways in which they relate to certain methodological possibilities for analysing ‘Holocaust memory’ in a British context. After all, as Jeffrey Olick has argued, commemorations should not be conceptualised as isolated, discrete occurrences.
Topics: Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust, Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Museums, Post-Colonial
Abstract: Relatively little comment has been passed on the role of the Holocaust at the Imperial War Museum (IWM). There is a critical discourse about the role of the exhibition in the museum of course, and Rebecca Jinks’s and Antoine Capet’s essays contribute admirably to that discourse, yet the specific question of the relationship between thinking about the Holocaust and thinking about Empire and imperial genocide has seldom been asked. Yet as Jinks’s essay makes clear, Britain has an imperial past and as such it is not possible for the Holocaust exhibition to just avoid that context. It would be very difficult anywhere in Britain, but in the IWM, the official repository of the nation’s war memories, it is impossible. What is more, the IWM specifically tasks itself, in its Crimes Against Humanity exhibition, to engage with genocide in a wider context and as such to place the Holocaust in that context. And the British Empire was a site of genocide. One might expect then to find that the IWM grapples with the problem of genocide in the British Empire (in Australia, in Ireland, in India for example). It does not. As such, I want to use this commentary to think more about the relationship between the galloping British memory of the Holocaust that Capet identifies, and Britain’s memory of genocide in its Empire that Jinks highlights, using the IWM as a case study.
Holocaust Memory and Contemporary Atrocities: The Imperial War Museum’s Holocaust Exhibition and Crimes Against Humanity Exhibition
Abstract: n the last decade or so, research has begun to address the ways in which global discourses of memory, within which the Holocaust is paradigmatic, often ‘borrow’ Holocaust iconography and tropes of memorial-isation to discuss or commemorate other tragedies.1 This utilisation of Holocaust memory is indicative of the position that the Holocaust now generally holds throughout the Western world, and yet it also raises questions about how we represent, and respond to, the other tragedies of the twentieth century. In this vein, this chapter explores the interactions between the memory of the Holocaust and other contemporary mass atrocities in Britain, using as case studies the Imperial War Museum’s (IWM) Holocaust exhibition, which opened in 2000, and its Crimes Against Humanity exhibition, which first opened in 2002 and then moved to a different part of the building in 2009. While on the face of it, the sheer difference in size and visitor numbers between the two exhibitions could easily function as a metaphor for the disparity between the status of Holocaust memory, and the memory of ‘other genocides’ in Britain and the West, my object is to explore the symbiotic and perhaps even dependent relationship between the two exhibitions, and by extension the wider categories of ‘Holocaust’ and ‘genocide’.
Abstract: It can be supposed that most people interested in twentieth-century history are familiar with the Imperial War Museum (IWM) and that most will have visited its permanent Holocaust exhibition since this was formally opened in June 2000. What Suzanne Bardgett, the curator who runs the exhibition, calls its ‘artifacts’ cover 1,200 square metres but before 2009 it showed only one piece of ‘art’ indirectly derived from the discovery and liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp by the British Army in April 1945: Edgar Ainsworth’s drawing Wem Berger, Aged 13, after a Year in Ravensbriick (near Bélsen), April 1945 It is not always realised that the IWM has, in fact, many more drawings and paintings connected with what is now known as Holocaust Art. The museum now publishes a history of the ‘hangings’ from which each of these works has benefited and this indicates that, while there were many hangings immediately after the war, there was then a long period of ‘purgatory’ from which these works are only now re-emerging. In a revealing article of 2004, Bardgett suggested that it was the whole issue of representing the Holocaust in the Museum which was taboo until the 1980s.2 Inevitably, the paintings and drawings suffered from this reticence, which largely explains their neglect as an iconographie source for Holocaust studies in Britain.
How to Teach about the Holocaust? Psychological Obstacles in Historical Education in Poland and Germany
Topics: Conflict Resolution, Dialogue, Inter-Communal Relations, Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust Education
Abstract: Holocaust education in many countries faces severe obstacles, and the effects of such education are far from desirable. Research on German students found that education about the National Socialist period in Germany did not improve intergroup attitudes. Similarly, a study performed on Polish students in Warsaw showed that the extent of Holocaust education did not affect intergroup attitudes and led to more biased vision of the Holocaust. In both countries current Holocaust education seems to convey simplified entitative information about groups—such that all members of perpetrator group are presented as evil, and all bystanders as righteous. Based on psychological research on moral emotions and psychological needs in reconciliation, we propose another approach to the Holocaust education. We suggest that education about the Holocaust should take into account psychological knowledge about the diversity of human behavior during genocide , including greater understanding of dehumanization , stereotyping , moral exclusion and bystander non-intervention.
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust Commemoration, Memory, Jewish - Non - Jewish Relations
Abstract: In recent years, Jews, Germans, and Poles have stood at three corners of a triangle, labeled, respectively, as victims, perpetrators, and bystanders by genocide researchers treating the Holocaust. The formulation advanced previous equations, where scholars could only imagine the duality of victim-perpetrator.3 Newrevelations about kinds and layers of complicity, competing claims to victim-hood, and the recognition that individuals may inhabit more than one of the categories, force us to confront the complexity of interrelations. Yet, the rise of attention to public memory in Holocaust studies suggests, rather than a permanent two-dimensional geometry, a different idiom: an active, jockeying troika of nations, yoked together by a difficult history. This new metaphor allows us to anticipate and attend to the ongoing tensions and shifts that occur among members of the team, on whom different memorial burdens may be placed. In this chapter, I address the circumstances of a major, and quite recent, transmogrification of the symbolic Jews-Germans-Poles constellation. Namely, I argue that in the framework of Jewish Holocaust tourism to Poland, Nazi Germany (i.e., the perpetrator) disappears. In its place, Poland has emerged as much more satisfying object of opprobrium, even as—and indeed, I will argue, because—Poland is also beginning to be excavated as a site of more general relevance in Jewish memory-culture.
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust Education, Holocaust, Holocaust Commemoration, Memory, National Identity
Abstract: Although the Holocaust ended more than fifty years ago, its impact continues to be an enduring trauma in the 21st century. Most of the survivors have passed away, but the second and third generations continue to carry this dark inheritance within their lives. Historians have reflected upon the destruction visited upon the European landscape, and we have come to see that even in America significant changes have taken place within that community. Germany continues to be a puzzle. Immediately after the war, the prevailing attitude saw all Germans as evil, and the occupying forces were forbidden to fraternize. Yet it is not in the nature of soldiers to remain distant from the people around them, and that wall disappeared far quicker than the ‘Wall’ built by the Communists to separate East and West Germany. Later, distinctions began to be made between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Germans, partially through the ‘denazification’ courts and later by the general public. Once business ties were re-established the attitude towards the Germans began to change. Eventually, wealthy German tourists were accepted, even though sly jokes about them continued. But Germany itself had to undergo dramatic changes, which continue to be played out in a country which now holds a commanding position in the European Community.
Abstract: Sixty years after KL Auschwitz had been established by the Nazis on the outskirts of Oświęcim, a town in occupied Poland, to serve primarily as a ‘concentration camp’ for the Polish political prisoners and later as the major site of the ‘final solution of the Jewish question’, and 55 years after its nightmare ended through the liberation by the Soviet Army, a national representative survey of public opinion was conducted to measure the significance, knowledge and symbolism of KL Auschwitz among Poles today.1 This was the first comprehensive nation-wide survey of public opinion about Auschwitz in Poland. It covered some of the issues addressed in earlier surveys carried out since 1995.2 The survey was a part of a larger research project that deals with the changing perception and attitudes of Poles to Auschwitz in 1990s. This project also includes archival research, content analysis of the media and school text books, and empirical quantitative and qualitative research among the Polish visitors to the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim and the Museum’s staff. The project in general and the survey in particular have been undertaken to fill in the gap of knowledge and understanding of the Polish perceptions of and attitudes to what is a painful historical fact, a complex symbol and a matter of controversies. A research objective also was to provide cognitive background to educational activities about Auschwitz in Poland and world-wide, in particular to the activities of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau as well as Polish and international school curricula designers and textbook writers.
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust Education, Schools: Non-Jewish, Teaching, Teachers
Abstract: ‘Death, death, death, killings. Killing all for no good reasons, death, killing, murder, death.’ These words come from a fourteen-year-old pupil writing of the images she recalled from her study of the Holocaust. I think of her as we turn our focus to the classroom, where the bulk of encounters with the Holocaust will take place.
Abstract: In 1995 the German federal centre for political education published a collection of essays on the problems arising from public representations of the Holocaust. Angela Genger, director of the Dusseldorf Memorial Centre, expressed her worries about developments at the major memorial centres following the unification of Germany. Under the heading ‘Are we facing a roll back?’, she laments that ‘the discursive and process-orientated practice adopted since the early eighties’ has been playing ‘non-principal role’2 in the memorials’ quest for renewal. As president of the working group for memorials in North Rhine-Westfalia, she particularly regrets that the discourse has since become ‘state-based’. In the old federal republic, the protagonists had often met with solid political opposition from the various municipalities, regions and federal states. Passionate and lengthy debates were carried on between so-called ‘barefoot historians’ and history workshops, trade union and church groups (especially ‘Aktion Sühnezeichen’), engaged activists and local politicians, but most of all former inmates and other victims of National Socialism. They eventually succeeded in bringing about a range of vastly different, decentralized memorials. These are seen in strong contrast to the centralized memorials, which are funded by the federal government and the relevant states, were conceived by historians and other experts, and are headed by academics and administrators enjoying a superior level of social security, with pension benefits and even the provision of housing.
Internationalism, Patriotism and Disillusion: Soviet Jewish Veterans Remember World War II and the Holocaust
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Oral History and Biography, Interviews, Ageing and the Elderly
Abstract: Soviet historiography ignored the Jewish role in World War II, for reasons shall explore. Yet the topic is very important to Soviet and post-Soviet Jews (as well as to others), in part precisely because it was ignored by the Soviets. This is manifested in the number of articles and books published on the subject in the former Soviet Union (FSU) and the Soviet Jewish diaspora, few of them by professional historians. One way of supplementing amateur historiography and filling in gaps in our knowledge is by taking oral testimonies from participants in the war. This has been done successfully by some popular historians in the United States. Oral history has serious limitations, of course. It should probably not be used to establish facts, especially at a distance of more than fifty years and in regard to events fraught with great meanings and emotions. Oral history allows for embellishment, cover-ups, falsifications and distortions. However, it can be most useful in establishing perceptions, that is, not so much what happened — though that should not be dismissed — but what people think happened, or think now happened then.
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust Survivors, Oral History and Biography, Sephardi Jews
Abstract: In the absence of documentation, oral testimonies of Sephardic and Oriental Holocaust survivors serve as important sources for remembering and learning about the Holocaust in the Balkans, North Africa, and Iraq during World War II. Furthermore, the published testimonies are an additional way of including Sephardic and Oriental Jewry in the Holocaust historiography, which has largely ignored the non-Ashkenazic Jews who suffered in the Holocaust in the death camps, in hiding, or during their escape from their home countries. Since Holocaust museum exhibitions have often failed to represent Sephardic Jewry as Holocaust victims, Sephardi oral testimonies are educational tools and vehicles for raising public awareness about the theme.
Abstract: In the late 1990s extraordinary attention, too long delayed, has been given to the return to Holocaust survivors and/or their descendants of art works that were taken from them during the Holocaust years. Other owners, under duress from Nazi persecution, simply fled and were unable to bring along their art collections. While sporadic attempts were made in the years following World War II to regain ownership of some of this art,1 with varying results, these efforts took place in relative isolation. Today, in contrast, a week seldom passes when a newspaper somewhere in the world does not report stories of families who seek to recover Nazi-looted art or who seek to be compensated by various governments such as Switzerland, Germany and Austria for Holocaust-related injuries.
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust, Restitution and Reparations, Holocaust Survivors, Law
Abstract: How can a state legally come to terms with its own history? Places where this question is pressing include Switzerland. At the time of writing, the highest Swiss court, the Bundesgericht in Lausanne, is considering two cases shedding light on the question. Charles Sonabend and Joseph Spring are former Jewish refugees who were denied entry at the Swiss border in 1942 and 1943. They are suing the state on account of this treatment. I will examine the arguments of the plaintiffs and defendants below. My purpose is not to present a legal assessment of the arguments, but to discuss certain trends of thought in the legal argumentation, including ideas relating to Swiss history and possible ties between Switzerland and Nazi Germany. This gives rise to the following questions: To what extent does pronouncing judgment mean formulating an official answer to the question of the ties between Switzerland and the Third Reich? To what extent does it mean constructing history?
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust, Restitution and Reparations, Trauma, Psychotherapy / Psychoanalysis, Surveys, Holocaust Survivors
Abstract: One and a half million children and adolescents were murdered during the Holocaust. Throughout Europe, thousands of children were hidden. They had the best chance of surviving. Very few children survived concentration camps. From 1938 to 1945, children fled (as in the Kindertransport from Germany and Austria), others hid in cellars, forests, orphanages, convents and with Christian families. By the war’s end, the majority of child survivors under age 16 had been orphaned. Many were entirely alone.
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust, Jewish - Christian Relations, Restitution and Reparations
Abstract: In march 1998, the Vatican released a long-awaited statement on the Catholic Church and the Holocaust. In a preface to the document, entitled We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, Pope John Paul II expressed his hope that it would ‘help to heal the wounds of past misunderstandings and injustices’. Eighteen months after the publication of the document, it seems now possible to conclude that, however sincere the Vatican’s intentions, the pope’s hopes will almost certainly not be realized. Indeed, far from healing, the document has succeeded largely in re-opening, if not actually deepening, old wounds. Not only did it divide the Catholic intellectual and journalistic communities. More importantly, I think, it bewildered and frustrated many Jewish readers and bitterly disappointed others. It also called forth a literary response from Jewish intellectuals and organizations that, while especially vigorous in the immediate wake of the document’s publication, had force and feeling to last more than a year. Since the energy driving these responses appears to have subsided, it seems possible now to undertake a comprehensive survey of Jewish reaction to We Remember and to attempt to account for its intensity and duration.
Abstract: Recently, the old anti-Semitic myths, both the Aryan and the Khazar, have been revived in Russia and have begun to spread. The Aryan myth, which is rooted in the Nazi propaganda of the 1920s and 1930s, was picked up and developed by the contemporary Russian radical nationalists. It restores to general history the Manichaean and Messianic approaches that reduce all complex historic processes to a struggle between two agents — the ‘Aryans’ (i.e. the ‘Slavic-Russes’) and the ‘World Evil’ (i.e. the Jews). It describes the ‘Slavic-Aryans’, the first humans, who mysteriously appeared at the Northern continent, ‘Hyperborea-Arctida’, and dispersed to become the ancestors of most of the peoples of the world and founders of the principal ancient civilizations. Later, they were forced out from their former lands by an evil agent represented by the ‘savage nomads of Arabia’.1
Revisionism in Post-Communist Romanian Political Culture: Attempts to Rehabilitate the Perpetrators of the Holocaust
Abstract: Although this article presumes to focus on all three of the important phenomena expressed in its title, in the post-Holocaust reality they often commingle and cannot always be differentiated properly. In the main, this is said about the problem of distinguishing between general denial of the Holocaust and partial denial, which includes components of disinformation and distortion. All of them frequently interrelate with the new forms of antisemitism. Be this as it may, this article will attempt to present several facts that represent our knowledge of these phenomena in respect to the Holocaust in the three Baltic countries, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Abstract: Mediation at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin offers a novel approach to thememorial and its study through the focus on performances. Based on extensiveethnographic research, and drawing on dramaturgic theory, memory studies andtheories of the public sphere, the book offers a fresh theorization of memorialexperience by analyzing interaction between guides, memorial workers and visitors.Moving away from models of postmemory and post trauma approaches, the bookrecognizes the precariousness and variation of memory work done at the memorialthrough the ways visitors engages with the act of remembrance rather than with itsobject, namely the history of Jewish persecution and the Holocaust. This engagementexplores how visitors present and perform their 'moral career' at the site, whosecodes have been shaped by knowledge about and visits in this and other sites of Holocaust remembrance
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Memory, Trauma, Holocaust, Holocaust Memorials, Ethnography, Interviews, Jewish - Non - Jewish Relations, Dialogue, National Identity
Abstract: This book analyses four case studies of Holocaust memory activism in Poland, contextualized within recent debates about Polish-Jewish relations and approached through a theoretical framework informed by critical theory. Three cases are advocacy groups, each located in a different region of Poland—Lublin, Kraków, and Sejny—and each group is presented with attention to the local context and specific dynamics of its vision and strategy. The fourth case study is the state, which has emerged as a powerful memory actor. Using research based on extensive fieldwork, including interviews and direct observation, the author argues that memory activism must grapple with emotional attachments to identity if it is to move beyond a reconciliation paradigm. Drawing on works from semiotics and critical trauma studies, the volume analyzes the assumptions each memory actor makes about three dimensions of Holocaust memory: 1) the relationship of the individual to Polish national identity; 2) the possibility of a reconciled Polish-Jewish history; and 3) the assignment of traumatic suffering to a particular group or event.
Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Jewish Identity, Conversion, Ethnicity, Race, Minorities
Abstract: Converting to Judaism is possible, but not easy. What might be perceived as being particularly uncommon is the experience of a Black person going through the process of conversion to Judaism in France. Yet Black converts to Judaism are becoming increasingly visible, even though they have not been integrated as such in the self-perception of the Jewish community of France, let alone in the wider French society. One organisation established within the Jewish community of France is currently playing an important part in bringing French Black Jews out of obscurity — the Fraternité Judéo-Noire (Black-Jewish Brotherhood, hereafter FJN). Joining forces to form an organisation seems to have been the best option for these proselytes, whose ethnic profile is not in keeping with the traditional mapping of the French Jewish community as made up of Ashkenazim and Sephardim. This chapter will focus on French Black Jewish identity as experienced and related by African, West Indian, American or biracial converts. What factors have driven them to embrace Judaism at a time when the French media exhibit a marked tendency to expose the Black French as the new anti-Semites?
Topics: German-Jewish Relations, Antisemitism, Jewish Culture, Jewish Revival, Post-War Jewish History, Main Topic: Culture and Heritage
Abstract: In the English-speaking world, it is generally believed that there are very few Jews living and thriving in Germany. Yet, there has been an unlikely postwar history 1945-2001 that has been somewhat repressed in North America and the United Kingdom. While most people are well-informed about the Holocaust and the consequences that this tragic event has had for the world, very few people know that there has been a steady increase in the population of Jews in Germany since 1945 and that there is a flourishing 'Jewish' culture, certainly a relatively strong Jewish presence, in Germany today. Does this development mean that Jews are playing a significant role in German social life? Does this mean that the great German-Jewish relationship, often referred to as a kind of symbiosis, has re-emerged despite the odds against it? The sixteen essays in this book written by the leading critics in the field cover the fascinating changes that have been made in German society since 1945 in the Jewish communities, literature, theater, film, architecture, and other areas of interest including an examination of the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Austria. For anyone interested in reading about the unpredictable transformations in German-Jewish relations since 1945, Unlikely History will provide information and insights into a history that needs to be told to bring about greater understanding of Jews and Germans in contemporary Germany.