Sunday, August 29, 2010

JPost: The Holocaust as a Single Memory

In my genocide class last semester, we learned about the debate between scholars that questioned whether or nor the Holocaust should be viewed as a single, unique event, held out separately from discussions surrounding genocide in general, versus having one single term, i.e., genocide, to encompass all genocides, including the Holocaust.

This article on Jerusalem Post, written by the world's number one Nazi hunter, underscores the scholarly opinion that the Holocaust be considered a unique memory, not to be intertwined with other atrocities committed against the European people, specifically by the Soviets.

The Prague Declaration would recognize those crimes committed by the Soviets as holding the same status as those committed by the Nazis. The article states that the "Prague Declaration...promotes a historically false parity or equivalency between crimes by communists and those of the Nazis..."

Taking it a step further, scholar Yehuda Bauer is quoted in the article as saying: "There is ground for deep concern about repeated attempts to equate the Nazi regime's genocidal policies, with the Holocaust at their center, with other murderous or oppressive actions, an equation that not only trivializes and relativizes the genocide of the Jews... but is a mendacious revision of recent world history.”

And finally this quote by Zuroff sums it up well: "By seeking equivalency with Holocaust crimes, however, it becomes clear that among its primary motivations is to help the countries of Eastern Europe deny, relativize and/or minimize their sins of collaboration with the Nazis in Holocaust crimes and change their status and image from that of perpetrator nations to nations of victims."

The difficulty, in my view, of considering the Holocaust as a unique and separate event from other genocides is the propensity for each group that has fallen prey to genocide to move quickly and submit their own claims of victimhood. Whether it be the Tutsis of Rwanda, the Armenians, the Bosnian Muslims, or those who suffered under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, or others such as Native Americans. 

If the Holocaust were to stand on its own, it's not too difficult to see why. There are even institutions named as such where the words 'Holocaust' and 'Genocide' are both in the title. Take for example Clark University. One can argue that the Holocaust is held as a singular event for not just the number of people murdered, but for the means by which they were murdered and the structures and organizations that were put in place that enabled those committing the murder to carry out their tasks. The Holocaust is, one can argue without disrespecting the victims of other genocides, unsurpassed, both prior to WWII and since in its scale and technology.

Its a worthwhile debate and one which E. Zuroff essentially alludes to in the JPost article.

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