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April 21, 1995 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-04-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Part Take Back
Lirouolat, The Holocaust
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cept of a Michigan Miracle Mission
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ELLIOT JAGER SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

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t was a 'holocaust' here," de-
clared the new head of the fi-
nancially ailing New York
Historical Society to charac-
terize the conditions she encoun-
tered at the museum.
Some homosexual activists
metaphorize the deadly AIDS dis-
ease as a gay "holocaust."
A Washington newspaper used
the headline, "Delta Plane Had
Engine Trouble: Survivors Kept
Cool Amid a 'Holocaust.'"
The Church of Scientology has
been running ads complaining
that its followers in Germany are
being treated like the Jews were
during the Holocaust.
Catholic leaders compare "the
killing of 4,000 babies a day in
the United States" to the Holo-
caust.
This carelessness with words
illustrates that the universaliza-
tron of the Holocaust has gone too
far. Holocaust museums and
memorials dot our landscape;
schools use the Holocaust to teach
tolerance; Hollywood directors
make Holocaust movies for pop-
ular consumption. And at least
eight states have adopted Holo-
caust curriculums.
This has had an unintended
consequence. People are now de-
sensitized to the awesome,
unique catastrophe that de-
stroyed European Jewry. Will
what happens on April 27's Yom
Hashoah, Holocaust Remem-
brance Day, reverse the dismal
way people have come to "re-
member" the Holocaust?
The Holocaust museum busi-
ness is booming, and bigger, bet-
ter, state-of-the-art Holocaust
museums are being built. One is
already in Washington. Another
is in Los Angeles. Soon, one will
be built in New York. We are not
just trying to preserve the mem-
ory of the Holocaust for Jews. We
are asking the world to learn the
universal lessons of the Holo-
caust. We want our Holocaust —
and we want to share it, too.
Has our obsession with memo-
rializing the Holocaust to the
world at large made future geno-
cide less likely? Plainly, the news
from Africa (Rwanda, Burundi
and the rest), Asia (where the
mass murderer Pol Pot is alive
and well in Cambodia), Europe
(where the Jews' tormentors dur-
ing the Holocaust are now the
tormented in Bosnia) and many
other parts of the globe demon-
strates that, 50 years later, hu-

Elliot Jager, Ph.D., an adjunct
instructor of politics at New
York University, is executive
director of TSOMET I USA.

mans still practice mass murder.
Moreover, can the Holocaust
teach universal lessons without
losing that which makes it the
only one of its kind? Consider
how Palestinian-Arabs have used
the Holocaust in their psycho-
logical warfare campaign against
Zionism. "In the eyes of the
Arabs," wrote Emile Habibi, a
prominent Arab citizen of Israel,
"the Holocaust is seen as the orig-
inal sin which enabled the Zion-
ist movement to convince millions
of Jews of the rightness of its
course.... If not for your — and all
of humanity's — Holocaust in
World War II, the catastrophe
that is still the lot of my people
would not have been possible."
In this twisted interpretation,
it is the Arabs who are the
longest suffering Holocaust vic-
tims.
Publicity about the Holocaust
has prompted some African
Americans to engage in a "we-suf-
fered-more-than-you" competi-
tion with Jews. Many blacks say
the "greatest holocaust in histo-
ry" was slavery. And there is now
a move among some blacks to de-
mand government reparations to
the descendants of slaves. Its ad-
vocates point to German repara-
tions to death-camp survivors as
somehow providing precedent.
Has the obsessive memorial-
ization of the Holocaust at least
contributed something practical
in how Jews assess security
threats to Israel and world Jew-
ry? Hardly, as Israel's worsening
self-inflicted security situation
demonstrates. Nothing better
captures how the lesson of the
Holocaust has escaped Israel's
leaders than their preaching
about the need to overcome the
"Holocaust mentality" that has
restrained Israel from making
dangerous concessions for peace.
Even Holocaust survivors have
enemies.
Far from learning the lessons
of the Holocaust — that human
beings are capable of unimagin-
able cruelty and mass murder —
too many Jews put their faith in
a credo that suggests there is no
such thing as intractable hatred;
that somehow, there is a negoti-
ated solution to every problem.
Some still discount the idea of
what Ruth Wisse terms "intran-
sigent political will."
So, as organizational, temple
and Jewish center planners be-
gin preparing for Yam Hashoah,
a few program suggestions come
to mind:
* The word "Holocaust" has

HOLOCAUST page 10



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