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Of Fire and Water

Holocaust Testimony, Biblical Texts and German ‘After Auschwitz’ Theology
  • Björn Krondorfer
Chapter

Abstract

In the context of reflecting on the Holocaust, or Shoah, certain biblical texts lose their innocence. Passages like the prophetic words of Deutero-Isaiah quoted above have the power to evoke images which we — as a post-Holocaust generation — connect with what we know about Nazi Germany’s systematic attempt to annihilate European Jews. The Shoah seems to have turned words of solace into a mockery: the fire that shall not burn has burned the innumerable.

Keywords

Ethical Approach Christian Theology Cultural Criticism Biblical Text Germany Today 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Anton Kaes, From Hitler to Heimat: The Return of History as Film (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990): 198.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Judith Sternberg Newman, In the Hell of Auschwitz (New York: Exposition Press, 1963): 16.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Elie Wiesel, Night, trans. Stella Rodway (New York: Bantam Books, 1982): 26.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Rather than listing the many Jewish and Christian scholars who have contributed to religious and theological inquiry regarding the Holocaust, let me point the reader to some selected books. The volumes by John K. Roth and Michael Berenbaum, eds., Holocaust: Religious and Philosophical Implications (New York: Paragon House, 1989).Google Scholar
  6. and by Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza and David Tracy, eds., The Holocaust as Interruption (Edinburgh: Concilium and T. & T. Clark, 1984) contain selected writings of some of the important voices of the early generation.Google Scholar
  7. For critical summaries and discussions of Jewish and Christian thought, see Steven Katz, Post-Holocaust Dialogues: Critical Studies in Modern Jewish Thought (New York: New York University Press, 1983);Google Scholar
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  9. Donald J. Dietrich, God and Humanity in Auschwitz: Jewish-Christian Relations and Sanctioned Murder (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1995);Google Scholar
  10. Eva Fleischner, ed., Auschwitz: Beginning of a New Era? Reflections on the Holocaust (New York: KTAV, 1977):Google Scholar
  11. Ellen Z. Charry, ‘Jewish Holocaust Theology: An Assessment’, Journal of Ecumenical Studies 18/1 (Winter 1981), 128–139;Google Scholar
  12. and Britta Jüngst, Auf der Seite des Todes das Leben: Auf dem Weg zu einer christlich-feministischen Theologie nach der Shoah (Gütersloh: Chr. Kaiser, 1996): 136–143.Google Scholar
  13. A book less often discussed is Arthur A. Cohen, The Tremendum: A Theological Interpretation of the Holocaust (New York: Crossroad, 1981).Google Scholar
  14. A controversial post-Shoah Jewish theologian is Marc H. Ellis, Ending Auschwitz: The Future of Jewish and Christian Life (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/ John Knox Press, 1994);Google Scholar
  15. for a discussion of Ellis’s work, see Richard L. Rubenstein, After Auschwitz: History, Theology, and Contemporary Judaism, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1992): 266–280.Google Scholar
  16. 6.
    The 614th commandment refers to Emil L. Fackenheim, ‘Jewish Values in the Post-Holocaust Future: A Symposium’, Judaism 16 (Summer 1967), reprinted in Roth and Berenbaum, eds., Holocaust, 291–295. See also Fackenheim , God’s Presence in History: Jewish Affirmations and Philosophical Reflections (Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, 1997): ix–xvi.Google Scholar
  17. The questioning of traditional Jewish notions of the covenant refers to Richard L. Rubenstein, After Auschwitz. The notion of the abusing God refers to David R. Blumenthal, Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  18. See also Eliezer Berkovitz, Faith After the Holocaust (New York: KTAV Publishers, 1973), who rejects the idea of giving the Holocaust a singularly authoritative voice.Google Scholar
  19. 11.
    The quote is from Haynes, ‘Christian Holocaust Theology’, 553–555. An example of a wounded and shamed Christian post-Shoah theology is the recently published, thoughtful work of Henry F. Knight, Confessing Christ in a Post-Holocaust World: A Midrashic Experiment (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  20. 13.
    Jürgen Moltmann, ‘“Die Grube:” “Wo war Gott?” Jüdische und christliche Theologie nach Auschwitz’, in Als Gott weinte: Theologie nach Auschwitz, eds. Manfred Görg and Michael Langer (Reenburg: Pustet, 1997): 53.Google Scholar
  21. 14.
    Norbert Reck, Im Angesicht der Zeugen: Eine Theologie nach Auschwitz (Mainz: Grünewald, 1998), 14.Google Scholar
  22. 15.
    Important titles of the authors can be found, among others, in the excellent bibliography of Reck, Im Angesicht. Reck, and in ibid., ‘Lernt zu lesen: es sind heilige Texte. Die Theologie nach Auschwitz und die Zeugen’, in Görg and Langer, Als Gott weinte; Jüngst, Auf der Seite des Todes; Tania Oldenhage, ‘Parables for Our Time? Rereading New Testament Scholarship After the Holocaust’ (Ph.D. diss., Temple University, 1999); and Kirsten Holtschneider, who is currently completing her Ph.D. thesis in Birmingham, United Kingdom, on a third-generation perspective on German Protestant identity in relation to the memory of the Holocaust.Google Scholar
  23. 16.
    For details about my work with the ‘third generation’, see Björn Krondorfer, Remembrance and Reconciliation: Encounters between Young Jews and Germans (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995); and ibid., ‘Third-Generation Jews and Germans: History, Memory, and Memorialization’, in Working Papers of the Volkswagen-Foundation Program in Post-War German History (Washington, D.C.: German Historical Institute and AICGS/John Hopkins University, 1996).Google Scholar
  24. See also my afterword to Edward Gastfriend’s, My Father’s Testament: Memoir of a Jewish Teenager, 1938–1945, ed. with afterword by Björn Krondorfer (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  25. 27.
    Carol Christ, ‘Whatever Happened to Theology?’, Christianity and Crisis 35 (May 1975): 114.Google Scholar
  26. 30.
    Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, trans. R. A. Wilson and John Bowen (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 278;Google Scholar
  27. A. Roy Eckardt, ‘Jürgen Moltmann, the Jewish People, and the Holocaust’, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 44/4 (December 1976): 675–691;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. and Alice L. and Roy A. Eckardt, Long Night’s Journey into Day: A Revised Retrospective on the Holocaust (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1982): 109–117.Google Scholar
  29. 35.
    Rudolf Höss, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz, ed. Steven Paskuly, trans. Andrew Pollinger (New York: Da Capo Press, 1996): 162.Google Scholar
  30. 37.
    See Ralph Giordano, Die zweite Schuld oder von der Last ein Deutscher zu ein (Hamburg: Rasch und Röhring, 1998).Google Scholar
  31. 38.
    See, for example, Doris L. Bergen, Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1996): 206–230.Google Scholar
  32. 39.
    For new research on intergenerational transmission and German family history, see the work of Gabriele Rosenthal, ed., Der Holocaust im Leben von drei Generationen: Familien von Überlebenden der Shoah und von Nazi Tätern (Giessen: Psychosozial Verlag, 1997);Google Scholar
  33. ibid., ed., Als der Krieg kam hatte ich mit Hitler nichts mehr zu tun: Zur Gegenwärtigkeit des ‘Dritten Reiches’ in Biographien (Opladen: Leske + Budrich, 1990); Dan Bar-On, Legacy of Silence: Encounters with Children of the Third Reich (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989);Google Scholar
  34. Barbara Heimannsberg and Christoph J. Schmidt, eds., The Collective Silence: German Identity and the Legacy of Shame, trans. Cynthia Oudejans Harris and Gordon Wheeler (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1993);Google Scholar
  35. and Björn Krondorfer, ‘Biographische Arbeit in jüdisch/deutschen Begegnungsgruppen nach der Shoah’, in Biographische Arbeit in der Erwachsenenbildung: Beispiele aus der Praxis (Berlin: Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft, Forschung und Technologie, 1998).Google Scholar
  36. 40.
    Charlotte Klein, Anti-Judaism in Christian Theology (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1978).Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Björn Krondorfer

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