In march 2000 a laudatory review appeared in the New York Review of Books of Peter Novick’s The Holocaust in American Life, a book publication accompanied by high praise from the Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary and three chaired professors of history at distinguished universities.1 Professor Novick himself teaches history at the University of Chicago and the reviewer, Eva Hoffman, is a member of the faculty of history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The book is supported by no less than 65 pages of notes, an index of 18 pages, and the work of four research assistants. These are then really impressive credentials, and since the book is a serious, sometimes polemical challenge to those who keep the recorded memory of the Holocaust in the briefs of witnesses and survivors and in the work of many other scholars and writers who are not historians, it should be considered with great care.
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- 1.Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Eva Hoffman, New York Review of Books, 17 March 2000.Google Scholar
- 3.Lucy S. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews (New York: Viking Penguin, 1975), xxiv, xxvi ‘Furthermore, people are moved to action not by structures, but by their ambitions, intentions and goals, They are motivated by ideas, values, beliefs and the force of passion.’ This is normative history as opposed to the socially determinist history of structural forces. I should note that Dawidowicz is a target of criticism in Novick’s book. As an historian she wrote another text twenty years ago (The Holocaust and the Historians) that attacked the general neglect of the subject of the Holocaust by other historians. The battle among the historians and non-professional memorialists is an old and sensitive one. Novick and Dawidowicz express a distinctly sharp aspect of this quarrel.Google Scholar
- 11.Lawrence Langer, Holocaust Testimonies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991). See my own discussion of Langer’s theme, Conscience and Memory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 134–39.Google Scholar