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Note the Hans Frank canard, as well as the lie of the Armenian 'quote'.
http://www.globebooks.com/servlet/Artic ... 14/BKHOLO/
Holocaust book's focus too broad
By ERNA PARIS
Saturday, December 14, 2002
Holocaust: A History
By Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt
Norton, 444 pages, $39.99
The early Christian church; the history of the Jews in the Middle Ages; the French Revolution; the Enlightenment; the First World War; the Second World War; the Holocaust . . . taken together, this sweep of Western civilization represents 2,000 years of history. To exploit this massive background in an effort to illuminate the political and cultural conditions that prepared the ground for the destruction of the Jews by the Nazis is a monumental task. Indeed, this work by historians Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt -- she's Rose Professor of Holocaust History at Clark University, in Massachusetts, he's a professor of cultural history at the University of Waterloo (Ont.), and they co-authored the award-winning Auschwitz -- may be the most ambitious project ever undertaken in the field of Holocaust studies.
Situating themselves within an emerging (and welcome) tradition, the authors reject the ahistorical belief that the catastrophe visited upon the Jews of Europe was a unique event imbued with sacred significance -- an anti-commonsensical notion that originated with Eli Wiesel and has since grown to dominate much of the discussion on the subject of the Holocaust. As historians, Dwork and van Pelt locate the attempted genocide of the Jews in real-time history, at the end of a long, meandering path where the convergence of chance happenings continually created new environments where previously unthinkable behaviours sometimes be- came possible. Their thesis, though not entirely new, has the ring of truth: History, like life itself, rarely proceeds in straight, predictable lines.
The anti-Judaism of the early Catholic Church (which emerged from the root of the parent religion and was in direct competition with it) encouraged Christians to regard Jews as outsiders, a stance that intensified during the Middle Ages as crusaders made war against infidels in the name of the dominant creed, and Jews were attacked as universal enemies.
The European revolutions, which began in France in 1789 and spread across the continent, secularized this religious "otherness." Now the state, rather than the Church, was the overseeing "parent" to which all needed to belong. To facilitate this transition, many governments emancipated the Jews into general citizenship (first in France then elsewhere); but this too brought problems of identity and belonging in its wake.
Dwork and van Pelt claim, interestingly, that the massive and senseless slaughter of the First World War opened a chapter that helped make the Holocaust possible a generation later; in this respect, they argue, the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks was a transforming event. Adolf Hitler took special notice of the destruction of this ancient community, a horrific event that is still denied by Turkey and other interested nations, for strategic reasons. When questioned about the possibility of negative world opinion over the persecution of the Jews, he famously replied: "Who today remembers the Armenians?"
In their final, and most developed, chapters on Germany and the Holocaust itself, Dwork and Van Pelt break from conventional scholarship by interviewing survivors all over the world and by reproducing riveting newspaper reports.
One chilling article by the Italian war correspondent Curzio Malaparte quotes his 1941 interview with Hans Frank, the governor-general of Nazi-occupied Poland. Frank argues smugly that civilized Germans disapprove of slaughter in the streets. "We Germans are governed by reason and method, and not by bestial instincts," he brags. "We always act scientifically."
Such details add appeal and texture. But in spite of its important subject and point of view, Holocaust: A History left this reader unsatisfied. The authors' guiding idea is not the problem: Although they are not the first to situate the Holocaust within the context of European cultural history, they have taken this interesting line of study further than most.
Ironically, the very scope of their work is part of the problem: Superficiality is a risk in a book that ties its analysis to such a vast swell of human history. It is hardly enough to announce in just a few paragraphs that early Christianity was anti-Jewish without a layered analysis of this seminal issue. Or to generalize about a complex institution like the Inquisition in a paragraph. We learn that "the Jews" were expelled during the plague years of the mid-14th century -- without being told from where. (They were certainly not deported from medieval Spain.)
By page 30, we have already reached the First World War -- breathless from a speed marathon during which we have been told what the authors take to be important, but left hungry for convincingly elaborated evidence. Furthermore, the omniscient voice has long fallen out of fashion as an approach to historiography. Most contemporary historians admit the controversies surrounding their subject and readily acknowledge the difficulty of reaching incontrovertible conclusions. Since there is so much public controversy over differing interpretative aspects of Holocaust history, it is surprising to find this dimension missing or understated in what purports to be a global account, particularly when most of the book has been drawn from secondary sources. Had they, perhaps, divided their work into two volumes, Dwork and van Pelt might have had the space to develop their narrative more convincingly. As it stands, Holocaust: A History is uneven and overly ambitious, in spite of some important conceptual underpinnings
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