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Monday, August 20, 2012

After Holocaust Denial, Is Mocking The Holocaust Now Acceptable?

Holocaust, Holocaust, Holocaust



Rabbi Avi Shafran


When Palestinian Authority presidential adviser Ziad Al-Bandak paid his respects recently at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the Palestinian’s visit there “a marketing of a false Zionist alleged tragedy.”

A newly appointed Romanian government official, Dan Sova, averred earlier this year that “No Jew suffered on Romanian territory” during World War II. (Tens of thousands of Romanian Jews were killed on Romanian territory, and hundreds of thousands others deported to their deaths. The historian Raul Hilberg concluded that “no country, besides Germany, was involved in massacres of Jews on such a scale.”)

We tend to get exercised by Holocaust denial, and for good reason.
The refusal to accept the facts that part of the ostensibly civilized world went on a genocidal murder spree over the years 1938-1945 and that most of the rest of the world didn’t much care implies a certain regret that the genocide failed.

In the end, though, deniers of that historical truth are—at least outside the Arab world—generally marginalized, recognized as either mentally deficient or depraved.

But then there are those, even among our fellow Jews, who are, if not Holocaust deniers, then Holocaust deriders. Like a writer for Tablet, an online magazine, who recently wrote (Warning: deeply offensive quote ahead) that “Each time we clapped for the old Hungarian lady who spoke about Dachau, each time Elie Wiesel threw another anonymous anecdote of betrayal onto a page, I eyed it askance, thinking What did you do that you’re not talking about? I had the gut instinct that these were villains masquerading as victims who, solely by virtue of surviving (very likely by any means necessary), felt that they had earned the right to be heroes, their basic, animal self-interest dressed up with glorified phrases like ‘triumph of the human spirit’.”

And more (if the reader has the stomach for it): “I wondered if anyone had alerted Hitler that in the event that the final solution didn’t pan out, only the handful of Jews who actually fulfilled the stereotype of the Judenscheisse (because every group has a few) would remain to carry on the Jewish race—conniving, indestructible, taking and taking.”

And, finally, there’s a more subtle challenge to the memory of the six million, though in a way more disturbing for its subtlety. Call it Holocaust fatigue.

Like some recent blogging by a reporter for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the premier American Jewish news service. Reporter blogs allow journalists to let their hair down a bit and offer reports that are more informal and personal than the writers’ official, supposedly objective products. The blog entries are thus windows on their writers’ minds.

This particular writer, who produced a short, straightforward report on the recent Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas, used his blog platform to present his followers a “real time” series of observations from MetLife Stadium on August 1. Meant to be droll and funny, they came across, at least to some readers, as more smarmy than savvy.

One entry reads: “8:02: First mention of the Holocaust (‘Auschwitz,’ ‘Nazis,’ ‘ghetto,’ ‘gas chambers’).”

A second one reads: “8:19: Another mention of the 6 million.”

And a third: “8:20: Hitler mention: On this day in 1936, the Olympic Games began at a stadium of similar size in Berlin…”

The writer doesn’t spell out his precise feelings about the references, but in the context of the “sassy” tone of the blog, it’s pretty clear that he found them somewhat… tiresome.

The Holocaust has, sadly, been misappropriated in the service of various purposes. But if ever there were a proper and fitting place for invoking the designs of the would-be destroyers of Klal Yisrael, indeed, of Judaism, then a mammoth Jewish celebration of Torah is it. “Yehei Shmei Rabba” declared by 90,000 Jewish voices in unison was thunderous testimony to the fact that our enemies, again, have failed and that both our people and our Torah have emerged from unspeakable national tragedy faithful and strong.

I don’t mean, of course, to in any way compare Holocaust fatigue to sewage like Holocaust denial and Holocaust derision. The latter are evils, the former an unfortunate problem.

But it’s a problem, a deeply discomforting one, all the same.

© 2012 AMI MAGAZINE

The above essay may be reproduced or republished, with permission and the above copyright appended.

Communications: rabbishafran@amimagazine.org

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