How is the Holocaust Best Remembered?

Reflections on History, Religion and Morality after the Holocaust
  • John K. Roth


The holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel says that memorialization and study of the Holocaust should bring people together and make them more sensitive. The extent to which this has happened bears reflection. It does so, at least in part, because of recent events that included what some have called ‘the Roth affair’, a controversy that swirled around my aborted appointment to direct the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. If memorialization and study of the Holocaust can bring people closer together, it is also true that those activities have aggravated Holocaust politics and ‘memory wars’ that reveal and exacerbate serious divisions. For example, as Holocaust memorialization, research, and education become institutionalized, the ways in which this happens have been criticized in multiple ways. Among the criticisms is the fear that the Holocaust will be ‘de-Judaized’, trivialized, or even hijacked by special interest groups. What do such fears mean? What responses should they receive? How is the Holocaust best remembered? This essay focuses especially on the last of those questions. Responses to it have far-reaching implications when one considers the future — and especially the ethics — of Holocaust memorialization and scholarship.


Holocaust Survivor Holocaust Education Nazi Party International Military Tribunal Holocaust Memory 
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    Elie Wiesel, ‘Let Him Remember’, in Against Silence: The Voice and Vision of Elie Wiesel, 3 vols., ed. Irving Abrahamson (New York: Holocaust Library, 1985), 1:368.Google Scholar
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    My discussion of Mengele is indebted to Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 1986), 338–44.Google Scholar
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • John K. Roth

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