Chicago professor's new book on Americans and the Holocaust heaps criticism on Deborah Lipstadt: He makes the "shoah-business" argument, Novick cites her work as an example of the santification of the Holocaust.
Holocaust in American Life
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THE same ambiguity, the same confusion and uncertainty, characterize general American discourse about the Holocaust. Americans are exhorted that they must "confront" or "remember" the Holocaust, but what is it exactly that they are to confront or remember? This isn't a matter of different interpretations or different theories but of what event we're talking about.
It's a truism -- Philosophy 101 -- that we never directly encounter events, only representations of events, which offer different versions of events. The more highly charged the event, the more evocative it is, the greater the incentive to become invested in different versions of it.
An illustration. No text from the Holocaust is more often quoted than Martin Niemoller's confession of his moral failure during the 1930's:
Time magazine, Vice President Al Gore, and a speaker at the 1992 Republican Convention follow "The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust" in moving Jews from last to first place: "First they came for the Jews."
Time, Gore, and the Republican speaker omitted Communists and Social Democrats; Gore omitted trade unionists as well. All three added Catholics (not on Niemoller's original list.)
Catholics are also added to the version of the quotation inscribed on the Holocaust memorial in Boston, a heavily Catholic city. The US Holocaust Museum preserves the list and order intact except for prudently omitting Communists. Other versions include homosexuals on Niemoller's list.
(The quotation has been invoked for causes ranging from Jewish settlement in the West Bank to freedom of the insurance industry from government regulation.) [*]