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 Posted Friday, July 23, 1999

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Here's an interesting, if typical, story told in two parts from the pages of Conrad Black's National Post.

The first part consists of a letter from a typically "horror"-struck Jewish academic, worried gentiles might seek to appropriate a lot or two from the cultural property that is "the Holocaust."

The second part is Mays's article, published to mark the 55th anniversary of the plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

In his letter, Professor Nadler also takes aim at National Post art critic John Bentley Mays for "overeacting" to a bigoted anti-German statement made by New York architect Peter Eisenman during a recent speech he gave in Toronto.

Toronto , July 20, 1999

"...they [Germans] all sound like concentration camp guards anyway."

- Jewish-American architect and designer of the Berlin Holocaust memorial Peter Eisenman, as quoted by the National Post art critic John Bentley May

Art v. memory

by Dr. Allan Nadler


Re: New History, New Memories, But Old Problems Remain, July 20.

JOHN Bentley Mays offers three objections to the planned Holocaust memorial in Berlin. His first objection -- that the tragedy of the Holocaust is so large that "no monument could ever do justice to the victims of the enormity" -- absurdly suggests that the greater a tragedy, the less it ought to be commemorated.

Mr. Mays' second objection then blatantly contradicts his very own "logic" by arguing that the monument should commemorate an even larger calamity than the Holocaust by including non-Jewish victims of the Third Reich. Mr. Mays clearly does not understand the historical definition of the Holocaust, a term that refers specifically to the ghastly implementation of the Nazi endlosung or "final solution" to the "Jewish problem" by systematically annihilating every Jewish man, woman and child from the face of the Earth. While there were certainly countless other, non-Jewish victims of Nazi brutality, including millions of Slavic people, their tragedy should not be confused with that of the Jews, who were the only race slated for extermination.

The Jews were murdered not because they were regarded as "deviants from Aryan perfection," but because they were seen as a sub-human vermin threat to civilization. Mr. Mays' final and most objectionable objection comes in the form of an ad hominem accusation that the immensely gifted New York architect Peter Eisenman has a "vulgar mind." He bases this accusation on a single, unfortunate remark that he attributes to Mr. Eisenman. Clearly, the assessment of any work of art should be based upon its intrinsic, artistic merits and ought never be grounded in a personal distaste for the artist.

Dr. Allan Nadler,
Director, Program in Jewish Studies,
Drew University,
Madison, N.J.

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