This article analyzes the treatment of the Holocaust in Quebec's history textbooks, in view of the subject's potential and actual contribution to human rights education. Given that Quebec's curriculum includes citizenship education in its history program, it could be argued that the inclusion of the Holocaust has particular relevance in this context, as it contributes to the study of both history and civics, and familiarizes Quebec's youth with representations of Quebec's Jewish community, which is primarily concentrated in Montreal. This article demonstrates that the textbooks' treatment of the Holocaust is often superficial and partial, and prevents Quebec's students from fully grasping the impact of this historical event on contemporary society.
Sivane Hirsch and Marie McAndrew
Violence defines the global experience of fascism as an ideology, movement, and regime, as well as its subsequent reception after 1945. This article is part of this a transnational trend in the study of fascism examining such violence, but it also proposes to expand it by way of studying its transatlantic repercussions in the postwar period, especially in terms of what I call a “transcontextual history” of trauma and especially for the case of the so-called Argentine Dirty War. I argue there is a need for understanding these transnational dimensions of fascist violence for victims and perpetrators in light of an equally significant transcontextual emphasis on the traumatic fascist genealogies of the Cold War.
Difficult Histories and Threatening Memories
Victor Jeleniewski Seidler
On the seventieth anniversary of the destruction of the Vilna ghetto I explore ambivalences in Holocaust memory in the Baltic states and troubling notions of a 'double genocide' while tracing train journeys of death that connected Vienna, Vilna and Tallinn and so western and eastern Europe. Exploring how memories are connected to place and investigating how family legacies of Litvak identity also travel, I show how Musar ethical traditions also journeyed as far as South Africa to influence the ethical politics of the African National Congress. Framing questions about the relationship between ethics and memory across generations I return to the painful warnings in the words of Elchanan Elkes at the destruction of the Kovno ghetto. I trace the possibilities that they help to frame a post-Shoah ethics and a vision of 'the human' that questions the rational self that informed Enlightenment thinking and that proved incapable of resisting the brutalities of Nazism.
Elie Wiesel has claimed that testimony is the generic legacy of the Holocaust. Other critics have pointed out that testimony, in the sense of first-person literary accounts of events to which the author was eye-witness, also characterized earlier historical calamities, in particular the First World War. That war produced testimony in the form of lyric poetry, in which the reader recognized the author as a witness and assumed a close fit to the poem’s speaking subject. Yet it is not poetic but prose testimony that is typical of Holocaust eyewitness, while Holocaust poetry is considered a separate and self-contained genre. In this essay, I will explore the reasons why this should be so, and whether there is a closer link than at first appears between the construction of the first-person narrator of a prose testimony, such as Wiesel’s Night (1958), and the lyric ‘I’ of some Holocaust poetry.
Global Memory, Trauma and the 'Negative Sublime'
Andrew S. Gross
This essay argues that the construction of the Jewish Museum Berlin and the Berlin Holocaust Memorial constitutes a paradigm shift in Holocaust commemoration in Germany. The structures architecturally resemble their US counterparts and particularly the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum more than they do the other memorials and museums in Berlin’s complex commemorative landscape. American responses to the European catastrophe have significantly impacted European commemorative forms. Indeed, an internationally recognizable memorial architecture seems to be emerging, one emphasizing gaps, voids, incongruities and the personal relation to what theorists and commentators have begun to call ‘negative’ or ‘evil sublime’. Contemporary memorials and museums are not designed to ‘merely’ house collections; rather, they draw attention to themselves as symbols and symptoms of traumatic memory. They act out the trauma of the Holocaust as architecture; walking through them is supposed to be a step towards working through that trauma as feeling and experience.
Comedy and Transatlantic Connections in Howard Jacobson's Kalooki Nights
The British Jewish novelist Howard Jacobson has, from the start of his career, found himself saddled with the unenviable label of 'the English Philip Roth'. For many years, Jacobson bristled at the Roth comparisons, offering the alternative label 'the Jewish Jane Austen' and insisting that he had not read Roth at all, though more recently he has put on record his admiration for Roth's comic masterpiece, Sabbath's Theater.If Jacobson's early work was certainly imbued with a Rothian Jewish humour, its cultural reference points were almost invariably English. In contrast, Kalooki Nights is saturated with allusions to American culture, in particular Jewish American culture. This article traces some of the ways in which Kalooki Nights explores and exploits these transatlantic connections in a comic novel that both participates in and satirizes what will be called here the fetishization of the Holocaust. It is concluded that Kalooki Nights is Jacobson's audacious attempt to produce a piece of Holocaust literature that exploits the tension between the desire of some Jews of his generation to know all the 'gory details', and the necessity of recognizing that their own historical situation prevents them from ever doing so. The result is to make people laugh not at the events of the Holocaust itself but at the attempt to fetishize them.
A Matter of Myth and Fairy Tales?
This essay will examine the concept of third-generation trauma after the Holocaust and the ways in which Jewish American novelists seek to access, recreate and artistically represent (or 're-present') such a traumatic past that is by definition inaccessible. A striking feature in the novels by the latest generation of Jewish American writers – notably the work of Jonathan Safran Foer and Judy Budnitz – is the almost obsessive return to mythology and fairy tales in the literary recreation of their grandparents' era. My essay will argue that this is due to a commonality of purpose that characterizes and drives both mythology and fairy tales on the one hand, and the third generation's imaginative, postmemorial approach to the past on the other hand.
Fictions of Jewish American Girlhood
The launching of a Jewish American Girl doll in 2009 provides an occasion for exploring the fictions of Jewish American girlhood constructed and consumed in the twenty-first century. Though the Rebecca Rubin doll seemed to herald a progressive version of Jewish American girlhood, Rebecca and the box-set of books that accompany her repackage a nostalgic and triumphalist narrative in which America figures as a benevolent sanctuary and the Holocaust, American anti-Semitism, and the costs of assimilation are elided and smoothed away. This is a narrative we've seen before—most notably in the importing and Americanizing of Anne Frank as an icon of Jewish girlhood, and in Sydney Taylor's beloved All Of A Kind Family series of children's books. These dolled-up versions of history stand in stark contrast to the darker, more complex visions of childhood and history seen in the work of Adrienne Rich, which reminds us to be wary of buying into such nostalgic icons of girlhood.
Over the six decades since the demise of the Nazi regime, thousands of pages have been written about the genocide of European Jews in almost every genre and intellectual forum. Eva Hoffman even concludes that "the Holocaust is the most documented event in history" (192). Nevertheless, the magnitude and complexity of the trauma and its aftereffects—on survivors, their descendents and the political cultures of many countries—left numerous lacunae and taboos that surrounded discourse and scholarship. Only relatively recently have more unconstrained questions been possible and various silences exposed. The three books examined in this review essay all contribute to the ongoing quest for comprehension, delving expertly into previously unexamined issues, while revealing how much still remains to work through the defining event of the 20th century.
More than other collective memories, the Holocaust is the most vivid memory in today’s Israeli existence. As a result of comprehensive official and unofficial memory work that utilizes the Holocaust as a political and educational tool, on the one hand, and due to the advent of the new media, on the other, its grip on everyday Israeli reality is only growing stronger. As part of a broader research project focusing on resistive cultural activity on Israeli Twitter, this article makes visible the striking omnipresence of the Holocaust on this social network, while maintaining that many of the ‘Holocaust tweets’ constitute an act of resistance. That is, users are engaged in oppositional decoding in a battle against the hegemonic Holocaust discourse.