The multifaceted discourses of studies on the Holocaust

We see similar recurring themes in this week’s reading to previous discussions around the ways we understand memory, narratives, reconciliation, and the legitimacy of comparisons. What becomes increasingly clear is that the resulting historical and social analyses of the Holocaust continue to be contentious emphasizing the places where historians and states have failed in response to the mass violence in Nazi Germany.

We can see the ways in which the denazification questionnaire failed to adequately address systemic causes of violence and underlying anti-Semitism. Sollors emphasizes how the American and allied forces that were engaging in the denazification process post-war themselves held anti-Semitic views. This calls into question the purpose of the denazification process when those who were engaging in these bureaucratic processes themselves held similar beliefs. Was the purpose to actively undermine the ideals and propaganda of the Nazi party or was it to facilitate the return to a “normal” post-war reality. Without addressing the underlying issues that facilitated the rise of Hitler or implementing strong measures to undermine anti-Semitism in Germany, what purpose did these denazification questionnaires pose? Did American and allied anti-Semitism undermine efforts to effectively address systemic the different manifestations of oppression that the Nazi party utilized? We see two different American projects in the post-war era, that of Japan and German, with starkly different reactions to the violence perpetrated by each. Why is this the case? American racism? American anti-Semitism? How do we better understand the disparate responses?

Shifting slighting outside of the denazification process and the immediate post-war atmosphere in Germany, we situate the Rothberg article. This article was interesting as it juxtaposes different historical controversies resulting from WWII, specifically Historikerstreit, and more contemporary analysis of Holocaust comparisons, dubbed Historikerstreit 2.0. Comparisons of the Holocaust draw significant amount of attention, both good and bad, and Rothberg outlines the ways in which the left and right have garnered outrage for these actions. What is interesting in the Rothberg article is that the ways in which the right utilized historical comparison was to minimize responsibility and the violence of Germany and German people. Now they have shifted to gatekeeping discussions and comparisons of the Holocaust. In Historikerstreit 2.0 we see the ways in which the left is utilizing Holocaust comparisons to emphasize contemporary violence against other marginalized communities. It is not to minimize but to underscore that similarity of violence which has been seen and to note the potential for devastating consequences. The question becomes, what purpose to comparisons serve and what are the intentions behind them. What also needs to be highlighted within these discussions is that there are peoples and deaths behind these comparisons, and sensitivity and nuanced is required around these specific instances of comparison.

Another important aspect of the Rothberg article is the vehemence and immediate outrage that followed Mbembe. Analyzing whether anti-Blackness facilitated this reaction would be an interesting and important analysis to undertake.

Overall, these articles indicate that there is need for further study and nuance when analyzing the post-war and contemporary discussions around Holocaust memory, understanding, and comparisons.

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