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Selling the Holocaust: From Auschwitz to Schindler; How History is Bought, Packaged and Sold [Hardcover]

Tim Cole
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 Sep 1999
Cole shows us an "Auschwitz-land" where tourists have become the "ultimate ruberneckers" passing by and gazing at someone else's tragedy. He shows us a US Holocaust Museum that provides visitors with a "virtual Holocaust" experience.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (1 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415925819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415925815
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,114,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Provocative...It is hard to argue with Cole's assertion that the worldwide image of the Holocaust is now being made in America.."-"The Washington Post Book World "Gifted with a sensitive understanding of the Holocaust, Cole sets out to parse the shifting myths of the Holocaust, especially its morphing into a ubiquitous, feel-good affirmation of America's core values..."[Selling the Holocaust] makes an excellent complement to Peter Novick's superb "The Holocaust in American Life, with which it shares an informed wariness about the perils of historical representation."-"Publishers Weekly "A thoughtful and brave study of how the Holocaust has become an overly central myth and too commercialized for its own effectiveness. Cole is a fellow at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and is well positioned to know that there is no business like Shoah (Holocaust) business....If the Holocaust has assumed our century's moral crown, this book dares to challenge the emperor's clothes."-"Kirkus Reviews "Tim Cole explores the creation and definition of a mythic Holocaust, the Holocaust as symbol divorced from the historical reality of six million murdered Jews. He argues that the veneration of the Holocaust represents an attempt to understand history, but that this attempt is often harmful and belittles the truth."-"University of Nebraska Press "An intriguing book that raises many issues.."-Jewish Book World, February 2001

From the Publisher

"[P]owerful and important. . . . Selling the Holocaust unmasks the self-deceptions and easy evasions that make it possible for Spielberg's Hollywood, Yad Vashem's Israel, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum's America to avoid the pain of the Holocaust and, instead, to transform that pain into uplifting messages of hope. Perhaps this book will undermine some of the self-satisfaction of those who piously chant "Never Again" while doing little to transform the conditions that make equally horrible suffering a likely recurrence."


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At the end of the twentieth century, Anne Frank is ubiquitous. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Misplaced and easy optimism 23 Nov 2000
By recluse
This is a great book which neatly and persuasively summarises the danger of mispalced optimism and the impossibility of easily drawing a "historical lesson" by utilising a number of case studies. the author's conclusion that "Holocaust business" is in the "unintended symbionic relationship" with the "denial of holocaust" and doing a more harm is an ironical but a revealing point.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Provocative 27 May 2001
By Taylor Fleet - Published on
Cole has written a provocative book, one that examines the increasing divide between the Holocaust--the factual event--and the "Holocaust"--our received notion of the event. He points to (among other subjects) "Schindler's List," "The Diary of Anne Frank," and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as evidence that the "Holocaust" is arguably more real to us than the Holocaust itself.
Cole rightly criticizes the (peculiarly American?) need to find a redemptive message, a clear-cut universal lesson somewhere in the Holocaust, a need that ultimately trivializes it and strips it of moral complexity. For example, Anne Frank's diary was originally published stripped of her references to growing sexual awareness or any bitterness harbored against the Germans. The first play about her life downplayed her Jewishness and stressed her universal message that "in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."
While Cole's arguments are insightful, his writing--repetitive at times--makes for labored reading. Annoying, for example, is his liberal use of quotation marks, needless in many cases, to assign some special meaning to a term, as in the following:
"While the process of 'Americanizing' the 'Holocaust' does involve ... stressing the role of the American 'bystander,' 'liberator' and 'survivor,' 'Americanization' also involves a certain distancing of 'self'....
I question the difference between "Americanizing" the "Holocaust" and Americanizing it.
Annoying too are the punctuation errors and subject-verb disagreements that pop up with dismaying regularity.
Despite this, Cole's ideas are well-formed, if a bit heavy-handed, and this book makes for important and interesting reading.
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't confuse Holocaust with "Holocaust" in your marketing. 24 Mar 2000
By John Barry Kenyon - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In a careful analysis, Tim Cole suggests that the actual holocaust is not be confused with the atrocities depicted in museums and movies. He argues, for example, that the movie Schindler's List blurs historical reality by emphasizing the "goodness" of Schindler himself and the happy outcome for the Jewish captives in his Czech factory in 1945. We all have to feel fine when leaving the cinema. Actually, much the same could be said about other movies not considered by Cole, for example Triumph of the Spirit which recounts the survival at Auschwitz of a Greek boxer. The author also feels that the establishment of so many holocaust memorials and museums may actually stimulate Revisionism by allowing holocaust deniers to pinpoint inaccuracies, for example of the Auschwitz (One) gas chamber is indeed a post war reconstruction for tourists. There is much well researched detail in this book, for example on Anne Frank whose Amsterdam house has become just another site for the curious and on Oskar Schindler himself who fled at the end of the war with his wife and mistress (contrary to the movie portrayal). It is Cole's honesty in showing up many holocaust myths that makes the book a convincing read. He is no apologist for nazi crimes, but he has opened an important debate about perception and reality in the mass media.
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How history is portrayed 31 May 2000
By Philip Greenspan - Published on
"Selling the Holocaust" is an excellent study of how history is presented. While Tim Cole uses the Holocaust as the subject for this particular study what he shows is how history generally develops at various times and in various places.
History-at any particular time and place--is a refining and processing of pertinent facts with the cultural values of the existing establishment that creates a `myth' of the historic reality. Different times in the same place or different places at the same time result in varying `myths'.
The subtitle of the book--"From Auschwitz to Schindler, How History is Bought, Packaged and Sold"-is most appropriate in expressing this manipulation of historic events to conform to a particular country's existing policies.
Cole analyzes six subjects for illustration: the diary of Anne Frank; the trial of Adolf Eichmann; Steven Sondheim's film "Schindler's List"; the concentration camp at Auschwitz; the Israeli memorial of Yad Vashem; and the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C.
By exploring each, he shows us that in different places (Israel, United States, Poland) and at different times (post World War II, post six-day war, `80s, `90s) the Holocaust has been interpreted and portrayed differently. The cultural values of each unique time and place determine how we perceive the Holocaust.
This is obviously a study of how all of history is revealed. Events looked at in distant places and times acquire different meanings-often at variance with what actually occurred. Writers who challenge conventional history by disclosing the truth are usually criticized as revisionists and are reviled and disregarded by the establishment.
This analysis is obviously in conflict with the author's message and with other readers' interpretations. Nevertheless, it relies on six excellent case studies for validation.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Gradual Development of the Holocaust "Myth" 11 Aug 2006
By Jan Peczkis - Published on
Cole traces the development of popularization of the Holocaust in the US, Israel, and in other parts of the world. He uses the term "myth" not to question the fact of 5-6 million murdered Jews in any way, but to point out the gradual emergence of the Holocaust in much contemporary thinking. Cole (p. 6) quotes Yaffa Eliach on the fact that "there is no business like Shoah business."

In common with other writers (e. g., Novick, Finkelstein), Cole points out that there was little special attention paid to the WWII extermination of Jews, by either Jews or gentiles, in the first years after the war: "While the Holocaust was perpetrated in Europe during 1941-45, it was not really until the early 1960s that anything like widespread awareness of the `Holocaust' began to emerge."(p. 7). Also: "During the 1940s and 1950s, throughout Israeli society, there was an effective silence about the Holocaust."(pp. 51-52). Finally, "After 1961 the Holocaust ceased to be a taboo, and instead assumed an increasingly central--if contested--position in Israeli society and politics."(p. 63).

Cole concludes: "There is little question that in the 1970s and 1980s the `Holocaust' assumed a critical role in self-definition as Jewish." (p. 13). In fact, he also shows that the Holocaust had become a substitute for Jewish tradition, for self-identity as Jews, among many assimilated American Jews (pp. 118-119).

By the 1990's, the Holocaust had assumed nothing short of staggering dimensions on the American scene: " the United States there are more than one hundred Holocaust museums and research centres, suggesting that the `founding of Holocaust museums' is `a particularly American phenomenon.'"(p. 147).

Cole devotes a moderate amount of attention to the Auschwitz Carmelite convent controversy. For a long time, Christian symbols in Jewish places of death had not aroused Jewish antagonism at all (p. 103). He also points out the fact that, ironically, Auschwitz itself had assumed a prominent place in Jewish Holocaust consciousness only gradually: "From being a site of Warsaw bloc memory of fascist atrocity, `Auschwitz' became recognized not simply as a site of the mass gassing of Jews, but the site of Jewish memory of the `Holocaust'. Yet alongside this `Jewish Holocaustisation' of Auschwitz, a process of `Catholising' Auschwitz started to take place, in particular centered on the Polish-Catholic martyr Father Maximilian Kolbe."(pp. 102-103). Cole continues: "What was being contested during the controversy was less ownership and use of the physical fabric of the camp, and more ownership and use of the `brandname''Auschwitz'."(p. 105).

Cole (p. 108) then recounts Cardinal Glemp's suggested compromise solution: Oswiecim-Auschwitz, where mostly Poles died, would be central to Poles and Christians, while Brzezinka-Birkenau, where mostly Jews died, would be central to Jews. However, most Jews rejected this compromise solution on the grounds that it would impinge upon the symbolic status of Auschwitz. What is unclear in all of this is how the fact that 90% of the victims of the entire Auschwitz complex were Jews is supposed to entitle them to dictate to everyone else how and how not the site of the Auschwitz complex is to be memorialized. It is easy to see that all the talk about the Jewish victims of Auschwitz being forgotten, or about Auschwitz becoming "Christianized", are simply smokescreens. The real reason clearly is Jewish intolerance against the sufferings of non-Jews being associated, even indirectly, with the sufferings of Jews. As further proof of this, note Cole's citation of Israeli philosopher Adi Ophir on the latter's statements concerning the Holocaust becoming a religion of sorts that supplants the Ten Commandments: "...Holocaust religion offers new commandments:'Thou shalt have no other Holocaust', `Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or likeness", Thou shalt not take the name in vain'. .."(p. 143). No wonder that there was so much Jewish opposition to the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz! Its very presence dared juxtapose the Polish Holocaust with that the Jewish Holocaust, thereby violating the first and third of these new commandments!

Cole describes Holocaust education in contemporary Israel as follows: "Not only do they have `Holocaust' lessons at school--where `since the early 1980s, questions on the Holocaust have accounted for 20 per cent of the overall score in the high school diploma examination in history'--but as mentioned earlier they all visit Yad Vashem, and an increasing number visit the death camps in Europe."(p. 141). In view of this intense education, the ignorance of Israeli students who visit Poland is unbelievable (unless, of course, it is intentional). Cole does not mention the fact that visiting Israeli students hold to grotesque Polonophobic errors, even to the point of believing that Poles killed more Jews than the Germans, and asking, in all seriousness, about the size of pensions "those Polish guards at Auschwitz" are receiving. What kind of education are these young Israelis truly getting?
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food For Thought Rather Than A Fully Developed Theory 14 April 2001
By Karl Self - Published on
The title "Selling The Holocaust" does not do the book credit -- Cole is not uncovering a "Holocaust marketing conspiracy", rather he is looking at and analysing several places and people that have become a mainstay of modern Holocaust discourse, such as Yad Vashem, Oskar Schindler and Anne Frank. The book does not come up with a succinct answer or bottom - line analysis, instead it plainly offers food for thought, which is good enough for me. If you are interested in the subject matter you should also read Peter Novick's "Holocaust In American Society" (title varies somewhat depending on the country of publication).
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