Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? The “Final Solution” in History
The Kraków Ghetto and the Plaszów Camp Remembered
Some Dare to Dream: Frieda Frome’s Escape From Lithuania
Double Identity: A Memoir
Life With a Star
From That Place and Time: A Memoir, 1938–1947
And I Am Afraid of My Dreams
Doctor #117641: A Holocaust Memoir
Eva’s Story: A Survivor’s Tale by the Step-Sister of Anne Frank
Unbroken: Resistance and Survival in the Concentration Camps
Lódz Ghetto: Inside a Community Under Siege
Soldiers of Evil: The Commandants of the Nazi Concentration Camps
The Holocaust in History
Unanswered Questions: Nazi Germany and the Genocide of the Jews
Modernity and the Holocaust
According to the historian Raul Hilberg, the United States alone captured 40,000 linear feet of documents on the murder of European Jews. Add to this other captured documents, police and court records, memoirs, oral histories, film documentaries, interviews, two thousand books in many languages (there are over ten thousand publications of varying size on Auschwitz alone), and we can say that the Holocaust is a uniquely well-documented historical event. Yet a host of unanswered questions remain, and we have not even agreed on a name for the terrible thing that happened. The term “The Final Solution” has passed into common usage, but, fortunately, this obscene Nazi euphemism does not correspond to fact because nearly half of the European Jews survived. “Holocaust” is the choice of the Jewish organizations, but as Arno Mayer points out in Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?, Holocaust is a “religiously freighted word concept,…a term whose standard meaning is a sacrificial offering wholly consumed by fire in exaltation of God.” And in truth, why should one find sacrificial offering or exaltation of God in the involuntary agony of the Jewish millions, many of whom were converts or unbelievers?
Others resent the Hebrew “Shoah,” which, in the words of Philip Lopate, shares “the same self-dramatizing theological ambition to portray the historic suffering of the Jews during World War II as a sort of cosmic storm rending the heavens.’ Arno Mayer prefers “Judeocide,” arguably an apt term but one unlikely to win any more followers than his careful distinctions between “anti-Semitism” as the institutionalized form of prejudice, “Judeophobia” as a personal prejudice, and “anti-Judaism” as hostile feelings or actions directed against the Jewish religion and its adherents.
Clearly, finding the right name is not our gravest concern (I shall be using all these terms freely) regarding the worst mass murder—or one of the worst mass murders—in history, even though by choosing a name we are inevitably making a religious and political statement. Moreover, by hedging the question—writing “the worst,” as opposed to “one of the worst”—I have already opened a hornet’s nest in the Holocaust controversy. After all, did not Stalin and Mao kill many more people than Hitler? Did not the Turks murder proportionately more Armenians? Conversely, was not the Holocaust a unique event, aiming as it did at the extermination of an entire people, something neither Stalin, nor Mao, nor Enver Pasha sought to achieve?
Some of the writers under review have raised these questions, risking accusations of either Jewish ethnocentrism or German apologetics, cold war propaganda or an attempt to rewarm the now somewhat discredited theory of totalitarianism. At least, no serious historian would agree with those on the far right and the far left who try to compare the Final Solution to Hiroshima, My-Lai, or the bombing of Dresden. Nor need anyone pay heed to those who claim that the Holocaust never took place. (Note, however, that the foremost promoters of this persistent fantasy are not …
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The Incomprehensible Holocaust: An Exchange December 21, 1989