The Holocaust as Sacred Text

Can the Memory of the Holocaust be Tamed and Regularized?
  • Marvin Prosono


The manner in which remembering takes place has a history of its own; however, there is something chillingly nihilistic in the idea that the Holocaust must be remembered and, at the same time, acknowledging that its remembrance cannot be expected to produce anything positive. What motive or imperative would lead us to engage in this kind of remembrance? Some might answer that we have no other choice. The Holocaust forces itself upon us. It is there. The dilemma, however, for those who wish to ensure that the Holocaust remains there is the now all-too-evident realization that, like all events, all traces of human behaviour, all things which were once a present, it will eventually fade into a past.4


Sacred Text Pragmatic Perspective Holocaust Memory Murderous Ritual Nazi Concentration Camp 
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  1. 1.
    Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 1995), p.100.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Lawrence Langer, Admitting the Holocaust: Collected Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p.34. This quotation is taken from a discussion of the historian Emmanuel Ringelblum, whose cache of documentary evidence concerning the final destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto was discovered buried beneath the rubble of the ghetto after the end of the war.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    See Jörn Rüsen, ‘The Logic of Historicization’, History and Memory 9/1–2 (1997), pp.125–128.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Jörn Rüsen, ‘The Logic of Historicization,’ History and Memory, vol.9, nos.1/2, Fall, 1997, p.125. Cf. ‘… [there is] the supposedly “scientific,” “academic” treatment of the Holocaust that turns the event into a vast sea of footnotes and rationalistic analyses, a subject matter for academic careers, doctoral theses, and such like, avoiding the abyss that was the Holocaust, turning the Holocaust into the subject of Holocaustology, a subbranch of history on an equal footing with the study of the rise of the silk industry in France…’: Yehuda Bauer, The Holocaust in Historical Perspective (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1978), p.44.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    George Herbert Mead, The Philosophy of the Present (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1932).Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Emil Fackenheim, To Mend the World: Foundations of Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought (New York: Schocken Books, 1989[1982]), p.258.Google Scholar
  7. 17.
    Emil Fackenheim, To Mend the World, p.25. Some voices have been raised against this trend. See, especially, Michael Goldberg, Why Should Jews Survive: Looking Past the Holocaust Toward a Jewish Future (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  8. 19.
    Cf. ‘The dogma of the incurable wickedness of man has another root among some who profess it. This is a Romantic pleasure in picturing the human race as walled in by an inevitable and eternal woe. From this point of view we may say that there has grown up among certain political writers of our time a real Romanticism of Pessimism, as false in its absoluteness as the Optimism of Rousseau and Michelet, in hatred of whom it has arisen, while its haughty and so-called scientific attitude is most impressive to simple souls [cite]’: Julien Benda, The Treason of the Intellectuals (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1956 [1928]), p. 122.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Marvin Prosono

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