This article covers three aspects of the Holocaust that are commonly misrepresented or ignored. First, an endlessly repeated piece of misinformation, is the description of the Holocaust as a project to kill the Jews of Europe. Most ignore the evidence that all Jews on earth were to be killed, that some outside Europe were killed, and that there were preparations for the killing of Jews in the Middle East. The second is the German expectation of winning the war, and that certain policies in implementing the Holocaust can only be understood in the context of an expectation of easier completion after victory. The third aspect is the absence from most accounts of the personal interests of those doing the killing in promotions, medals, loot, etc. in the early years and in safety from dangerous assignment to fighting at the front in the later years of the war.
Ignored and Misunderstood Aspects of the Holocaust
Gerhard L. Weinberg
In Search of the Rescuer in the Holocaust
This article attempts to demonstrate that remembering the rescuer in genocide is fraught with conflict. Data taken from psychoanalytic practice and the arena of public discourse is presented to illustrate these crises in remembering. The forgetting of German rescuers in German public discourse is particularly thought provoking. The vicissitudes of memories of the successful Rosenstrasse demonstrations by the Gentile wives of the two thousand Jewish workers arrested in the Fabrikaktion in 1943 in Berlin is discussed in detail, including the present-day Historikerstreit regarding the “real merit“ of these demonstrations. Holocaust survivors' memories of being rescued by Germans are also addressed. Finally, a tentative psychoanalytic conceptualization of the conflict inherent in remembering and acknowledging such rescue behavior is attempted.
Locality and the Hidden Realities of Genocide
This article looks at the significance of local circumstances, including direct encounters between victims and assailants, in the genocide process. In what scholars term “the micropolitical turn in the study of social violence,“ the argument here considers the encounter from the perspectives of both constituent parties. Assailants often acted before they thought, raising questions about the premise of intention and calculation that anchors the defining Article 2 in the United Nations Genocide Convention. Victims in local encounters express in their accounts a recognition of their assailants and describe what amounts to a betrayal of the trust they invested in their compatriots. Expressions of recognition in witness accounts attenuate victims' resentment and recrimination, opening a space that permitted possibilities for postgenocide reconciliation and even qualified forgiveness.
In July 2012, President of France François Hollande recalled the Vel d’Hiv roundup seventy years earlier. He opened his commemorative speech with the usual reference to the “horror of a crime” and used the familiar expression of the “sorrow of those who experienced the tragedy.” What stood out, however, were his allusions to the violation of France’s, and by extension Europe’s, social contract with its Jews. The men, women, and children who were assembled for internment and deportation “could not have known the fate that awaited them.” They believed that the ties that united “the great French family [were] too strong,” he said, quoting a distinguished rabbi just after the 1940 decree depriving Jews of their citizenship, too self-evident “to be broken.” President Hollande then struck the memorable chord: “Therein lies the betrayal.”
Reflections on Auschwitz
Austrian-born Ruth Klüger was a teenager when she and her mother were deported first to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, then to Auschwitz, and later to Christianstadt. This article examines Klüger's memoir weiter leben in which she records her memories and assessments of her experience in these concentration camps. It considers her critical stance toward the postwar Holocaust memory culture and focuses on Klüger's relationship with German thought and language. In particular, during her imprisonment in Auschwitz, German poetry played an important role in her survival. This offers new insight into Theodor Adorno's statement (which he later retracted) that “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.“ As questions about German identity are raised, this article suggests a discourse about the Holocaust from within German culture and points to questions about the intricate relationship of a shared cultural background between victim and perpetrator.
"The Truth about the Mistake"
Perpetrator Witness and the Intergenerational Transmission of Guilt
Katharina von Kellenbach
Based on the archived correspondence between Artur Wilke, a convicted member of Sonderkommando 1005, and Hermann Schlingensiepen, a former professor of theology who acted as spiritual advisor to imprisoned Nazi perpetrators, this article examines the moral and political lessons that Nazi perpetrators communicated to their children. In a seventy-seven-page letter written to his son in 1966, Artur Wilke tried to preserve his paternal authority and moral integrity by denying personal wrongdoing. Instead, he portrayed himself as a victim of his teachers, of politicians, and of religious and legal authorities. He counseled his son to distrust the state and the law, and to submit only to divine authority. His political lessons and deep disillusionment with the German state resonated with the radical politics of the student rebellion of 1968.
Claude Langlois, lecteur de Thérèse de Lisieux
Les travaux de Claude Langlois sur Thérèse de Lisieux ont débouché sur la publication de pas moins de huit livres, représentant quelque 2500 pages, en l'espace d'une quinzaine d'années. Ces ouvrages d'une grande érudition ont surpris beaucoup de lecteurs par leur volume, leur approche et leurs thèses, à mi-chemin entre histoire, histoire littéraire et exégèse. La thèse principale de Langlois est que Thérèse de Lisieux était un véritable écrivain, conscient de l'être, de sorte que son œuvre doit être traitée comme telle. Langlois nous dépeint ainsi une Thérèse de Lisieux très di érente de son sage portrait traditionnel: radicale, pathétique et subversive, aux prises avec l'infini de ses désirs et la perspective de sa mort imminente. Plus largement, le travail de Langlois possède une dimension expérimentale : celle de savoir jusqu'où l'historien peut aller, avec ses moyens propres, dans l'exploration de la subjectivité croyante.
Claude Langlois's French Revolution
Claude Langlois's work on the French Revolution captures the experience of ordinary people in the country as a whole. Against an interpretation that sees the Revolution as resulting in a secular, modernized France, he emphasizes the ambiguity and uncertainties of the outcome. He is above all interested in assessing the impact of the Revolution on the Church. Although the Revolution had a profound impact on the personnel, landscape, finances, and politics of the Church, the Concordat created the conditions for recovery. There were restorations in pastoral care and practices but in addition, there were also ruptures, especially in the long term. Alongside a nineteenth century of unexpected piety, there were also regions and groups of low practice and indifference. The article also discusses Langlois's contributions to the political history of the coup of 1799, and to population studies.
Claude Langlois's Vision of France
Regional Identity, Royal Imaginary, and Holy Women
Claude Langlois’s work points the way out of a long-standing whiggish view, not only of French, but also European historiography. If Western Civ textbooks or respectable general histories reflect the consensus of the profession, it is still easy to find themes of progress toward equality, secularism, and modernity. Such themes are defensible, of course, but they are one-sided. They omit a lot, like the experiences of those left out of the march of progress, of religious institutions, and of unintended victims of revolution and civil war. A more sophisticated rendering would be more satisfactory since it would emphasize resistance, the apparently marginal, and the richness of historical experience. It would replace assumptions about inevitable outcomes with a greater awareness of contingency. Claude Langlois’s work on women, religion, and the French Revolution illustrates how such a complicated history might look.
Claude Langlois's Vision of Nineteenth-Century French Catholicism
This article examines some of Langlois's major works on nineteenth-century French Catholicism, which taken together suggest a vision langloisienne defined by three central, intimately interrelated insights. First, for Langlois a chronology of French Catholicism based on an assumption of an ineluctable process of dechristianization needs to be replaced by a more nuanced and contingent understanding of the evolution of belief and practice. Second, a revised chronology illuminates important sectors of creative vitality within Catholicism, particularly with regard to female religious congregations. Third, historians of religion must be willing to use a variety of methods in exploring their subject; social scientific approaches are crucial, but they complement rather than replace traditional narrative, biography, and a close reading of literary texts. The article concludes with reflections on the normative posture that is implicit in Langlois's historical writing, a position based on his commitment to the values of toleration and equality.