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: "...in 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?