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The Holocaust Industry

by Gad Nahshon

Abba Eban used to remark, "There is no business such as Sho(w)a business." He made a joke, but the rise of Holocaust industry should be a concern to Jews and Holocaust survivors as well. This "industry" has been mushrooming in America. It became the Midas touch of many scholars, writers and publishing houses. Scholars, in order to be "in," are writing about the Holocaust. They find new "aspects," such as: The Holocaust and philosophy. The Holocaust and the gays. Most of these new Holocaust "experts" do not understand German, Yiddish, Hebrew or Eastern European languages. But they write and write. The Holocaust industry is based on marketing and on the quest to make profits, but the writers can hide their motives behind the slogan: "Remember, do not forget." They are smart for who will dare to question their "dedication" to the Jewish tragedy?

Of course, America cherishes freedom of press. You can write stories about "Treblinka" based on your neighbor, a Jewish Holocaust survivor's eyewitnesses to the Nazi crimes. But those who write today know that the Jewish establishment since the 1980's decided to espouse Holocaust survivors as its new "stars," replacing the Israeli "stars."

Many honest scholars already have tried to explain the timing element of this "industry." It is no secret that Jewish organizations in the past ignored the issue of the survivors as well as the issue of the Holocaust, or "Shoah." I'll note that in Israel, the scholars tend to use "Shodi," the Hebrew term for "Holocaust." Why? Because people used the term "Holocaust" to describe their own catastrophy. The African Americans, for example, compare "slavery" to the Holocaust. Jews and Israelis believe that "Shoah" was unique to the Jews. We should and must protest against the new tendency of trivialization of the Shoah the same way that we protest against the denials of this catastrophy. Many new writers tend to use statistics in order to show that other people suffered heavily in World War II, but no national lost 6 million people. Actually 6 million out of a total of 16 million Jews in 1939!

One objection to the "Holocaust Industry" stems from the fear that someone will write a book in which he will distort the values of the Holocaust as an educational program when we teach Jewish or Israeli history. We should have a health collective memory of the Holocaust. We should integrate "Holocaust consciousness" into our system of values and into our system of education. We also can and must draw conclusions. For example, the relationship and the feedback between leaders and masses. I think that the Holocaust demonstrates the "crisis of Jewish leadership."

Peter Novick, who is Jewish and a well-known and respected historian from the University of Chicago, decided to join this "industry" and also to be "in." He is the author of "That Noble Dream" and other books. Now he decided, perhaps too late, to join the club. His book, "The Holocaust in American Life," was published by Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1999.

As we always do with books, we looked into his notes and bibliography.

Sure: Novick ignored primary sources. He ignored oral history. It is not clear if he understands German, Yiddish or Hebrew. It is not clear if he defines himself as an expert on the Holocaust. Did he write at least one original article on a topic of the Holocaust?

So Peter Novick simply reviewed or surveyed articles, books and secondary sources, rather than original documents!

One might expect from Novick modest statements or remarks. But in his books, Novick expresses a high degree of self-confidence. He raises good issues, such as the timing of the mushrooming of Holocaust museums in America. He also asked: "Why America, this kind of Holocaust consciousness? Why in America and not in Israel?" But he never gives an answer.

My criticism of this book is based on the fact that Peter Novick has a personal agenda. His attitude to the "Holocaust consciousness" is always negative. He does not deny the Holocaust. He just would like to minimize its role in our life. Often, he said: "You the Jews are not the only ones. . ." Or: one cannot and should not draw conclusions from the Holocaust experience on national trauma. Novick's approach to this issue smells bad. One can feel it between the lines. So he suggested, "let's forget about the Holocaust," or "Jews used the Holocaust as a means to stop assimilation." For example, he rushed to tell the reader that even Rafael Lamkin, who developed the concept of "genocide," did not relate only to Jews but also to other nations, like the Poles.

When discussing facts from the Holocaust or "the other planet," Novick expressed a "chutzpah." For example, he claimed, without researching in Israel or Germany, that the Nazis did not produce soap ("Borit-Hebrew") from human fat. Of course they did! They had a special institution to research this terrible idea of modern cannibalism.

One more example that really made me sick: In discussing the Palestinian issue, he stated that the Mufti or Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the leader of the Palestinians before 1948, did not have relations with the Nazis. First, you wonder why Novick suddenly defended the Mufti. I think that Novick has some kind of a radical agenda. Perhaps he believes in the post- Zionist idea or in the concept in which Zionism is defined as a pure Jewish imperialism in Palestine. Second, the Mufti met Hitler and Eichmann. He pressed them to kill Jews and help him to stop Jewish immigration to Palestine. The Mufti also organized Muslim pro- Nazi divisions.

It is very strange that Novick, without research, rushes to save the prestige of the most Palestinian extremist who called on his people to kill the 600,000 Jews in Palestine. As I noted, it smells bad...

Novick used secondary sources to prove his own agenda, saying that the "Holocaust Industry" is detrimental to the Jewish interests. I would like to note:

(1)It is a mistake to quote time and again in his 373 page book all kinds of Jewish writers who are not experts on the Holocaust. Also, he does not tell the reader about these writers. He used some books on the Holocaust and defamed great scholarly books by David Weiman as: "Bad History." Bad history? What should someone write about Novick's book?

(2)Novick claimed to work a few years on his "The Holocaust in American Life" but he suffered from the fact that he did not conduct even a minimum of original research. For example, to review text books used in the Jewish schools. What is written over there on the Holocaust? When were these text books updated? And so on. He did not use a sample of public opinion attitudes of Gentiles to the Holocaust and its ramifications. But how could he omit the unique crusade of the Irgun or the "Bergson Group" and Ben Hecht in the 1940's against the silence of America, against the behavior of F.D.R.'s administration?

Okay. Let's assume that he is not willing to give them the right recognition. But how could he omit the rise and fall of the "Goldberg Commission" (1981- 1984). How can a serious scholar ignore the discussions which took place inside this Commission which had 28 representatives from the plethora of Jewish organizations and movements? Well, this is a terrible price of writing a book whose contents are based on secondary sources.

This "Commission" was the first and the last attempt by the establishment to answer the question: Were we our brothers' and sister's keepers? Novick does not like to discuss this "taboo." He knows that Americans are still very emotional and sensitive to this "Broker keeper syndrome."

To conclude, Novick developed a line of negativism to the "Holocaust consciousness" and he likes the Jews and the establishment which stimulates its rising to contain the scope, to limit the "Industry," and the "Industry" that he himself is part of.


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