- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Routledge (1 Sept. 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: 867,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Selling the Holocaust: From Auschwitz to Schindler; How History is Bought, Packaged and Sold Hardcover – 1 Sep 1999
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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."
--Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor of TIKKUN and author of JEWISH RENEWAL: A PATH TO HEALING AND TRANSFORMATION
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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?
"*Shoah* Business" he calls it.
Cole focusses on two questions: *how* and *why* has the Holocaust emerged as an "icon" in the US and Israel?
First, there's the Anne Frank "phenomenon": how did she become the "patron saint of liberalism", dehistoricized and universalized, her Jewishness, her sexuality, and her grisly death revised out of her history?
And what about "Schindler's List"? What does it *mean* that this film is probably the single most important source of (mis)information about the Holocaust our children have, distorted as it is by its happy ending and unearned faith in human nature?
Cole is also interested in the various Holocaust museums in the world, and how they skew Holocaust history to their own ends. The Auschwitz memorial (or "Auschwitz-land" as Cole calls it, punning on "Disneyland")has become, Cole says, "to the Holocaust what 'Graceland' is to Elvis." And Yad Vashem's raison d'etre is largely to legitimize the state of Israel, he says, as it implies that "the only solution to the Jewish problem was an independent state in Israel."
The US Holocaust Museum in DC is also censured. Cole says that in order to make the Holocaust"meaningful" to Americans, its absurdity is traded for images of the heroism of the US "Liberators," and for an implicit civics lesson on why such things could never happen in the US.
Finally, Cole says that such misrepresentations actually play into the hands of deniers by offering so many patently and demonstrable skewed versions fo the Holocaust to the public, and by elevating the Holocaust to the level of an "iconc status."
What's to be made ot these claims? Cole has a point: the reality of the Holocaust is that it *is* and always will be "meaningless"--no attempt to impose meaningfulness upon it can do anything less than trivialize it. But the net is cast too wide: most Holocaust education serves no ulterior motives. It's done out of love for this generation and out of hope that the Nazi Judeocide will remain unforgotten as a warning against the dangers of ethnic intolerance. And if these are ulterior motives it's hard to think of legitimate ones.
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