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April 19, 1985 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-04-19

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Friday, April 19, 1985


Survivor Bruno
Bettelheim, last of
the great Viennese
expounds his own
view of the


Special to The Jewish News


aybe you remember
him from his cameo
role in Woody Allen's
Zelig — a short,
friendly, grand-
fatherly figure, speaking with a Henry
Kissinger accent as rich and thick as
Or perhaps you've read some of his
books, like 1969's controversial The
Children of the Dream,. a study of kib-
butz children in Israel, or his 1960
classic, The Informed Heart, based
upon his observations and experiences
in Dachau and Buchenwald.
Either way, Dr. Bruno Bettleheim
is the last survivor of an endangered
species — the great Viennese
psychiatrists and psychologists — the
school of 20th Century thought that
brought us Dr. Sigmund Freud, Dr.
Alfred Adler, Dr. Otto Rank and Dr.
Wilhelm Reich.
At 81, with his sense of comic tim-
ing as sharply honed as a Borscht Belt
stand-up comedian, and with political
opnions that make Oakland County
Prosecutor L. Brooks Patterson sound .
like a liberal, Bettelheim left his
• California retirement home to brave
, the cold and snow of April in Mt.
' Pleasant where he launched Central
!Michigan University's unique
Genocide Awareness Month.
This year, as the student organiz-
ers of the commemoration point out,

the events take note of the "70th an-
niversary of the Armenian Genocide,
the 10th anniversary of the Cambo-
dian Genocide and the 40th anniver-
sary of the Jewish Holocaust."
Lately, the term "holocaust" has
been applied to the victims of the
Cambodian terror unleashed by the
Khmer Rouge under the dreaded Pol
Pot, which may have claimed as many
as three million lives. There are some,
however, who feel that "holocaust"
should be reserved to describe the
Jewish experience under the Nazis.
Dr. Bettelheim is not among this
"That's a term that should be
eliminated," maintains Bettelheim,
"because Holocaust, according to the
dictionary, refers to a fiery sacrifice to
"Neither the Cambodians nor the
Jews were sacrificed to any god. I
think it should be called genocide be-
cause that's what it is — or was. "Or
mass murder, if you like. Or extermi-
nation. But holocaust is a religious
term and implies martyrdom, and a
martyr, according to all definitions, is
someone who chooses to die for their
religion. Neither the people in Cam-
bodia nor the Jews in Germany chose
to die because of their convictions."
As might be expected, Bettelheim
does not take too kindly to the concept
of Holocaust memorial centers, al-

though he certainly believes in the
need for commemorations such as that
in Mt. Pleasant.
Bettelheim has conflicting feel-
ings about Holocaust centers because
"very few of the monuments I've seen
seem to be appropriate, as are Yad
Vashem in Jerusalem and a few I've
seen in Prague. But many of the
others, and I try to see them wherever
possible, I found not to my taste. Why?
Because it was such a horror that art is
just not a suitable way to depict it.
Maybe in a few hundred years from
now. But for emotional reasons the
Jewish groups try to make something
out of the Holocaust that it wasn't. It
was not a heroic act as depicted in
some of these monuments. It was sim-
ply mass murder, and how can you
celebrate mass murder? Therefore I'm
impressed by Yad Vashem, where they
have something that is appropriate —
a name ornament showing just the
names and nothing else. Don't erect
monuments to the mass murderers .. .
it was a terrible mass murder and
don't paint it as anything else."
But this is hardly the first time
that Bettelheim has been sharply crit-
ical of the attention paid by some to
Jewish victims of the Nazi horror.
Those with long memories still recall
the uproar over Bettelheim's Harper's
article on Anne Frank and her family.
And in case anyone has forgotten the

1960 article, Bettelheim is delighted
to refresh their memory.
"Did you ever see the Anne Frank
house in Amsterdam?" he asks,
quickly supplying his own answer. "It
was ridiculous. The first thing anyone
does when they go into hiding is plan
an escape route. - But there was no way
of escape. Besides, anybody could see
from the outside that there were rooms
there. It was the kind of thoughtless-
ness against which I have no objection
because some people are thoughtless.
But to glorify that as an admirable
way to deal with the problem?! That's
why I objected.
"Well, I have no argument with
Anne," he continues. "She was a little
girl. But her parents were senseless.
After all, thank God, quite a few
people in Holland survived the Nazi
occupation and the Franks, with all
their connections, could have survived
if they would have just not gone into
hiding as a family.
"I can't blame the parents for not
wanting to separate themselves from
their children. But to sacrifice theii
children's lives and their own just for a
wish — to remain as a family and as a
family in hiding — was folly. Only
those Jews in Holland who went into
hiding individually, each one with a
different family, survived."
Bettelheim even questions the au-
thenticity Of the Anne Frank diary. He


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