German-Jewish Philosophers Facing the Shoah

  • Julius Simon
Chapter

Abstract

As we face the past in considering the events of the 20th century, we tend to continue to describe armed conflicts as theatres of war, our backs to the future. Such descriptions presuppose that we are capable of speaking about how the actions are staged and performed and that the experience of such events is not only presentable but also capable of representation. As we look back through the debris, we also notice another tendency, i.e., that genocides frequently have been associated with actions of modern war and rationalized and justified as necessary extensions of violent struggles for survival. This has been no less the case in, most recently, the Balkans, than during the 1970s in Rwanda or Cambodia and from 1939–45 in Nazi Germany. Speaking of genocide as a kind of ‘theatre’, however, seems even more absurd than referring to the performative acts of war in terms of protagonistic and antagonistic actors, directors, spectators, and impartial critics of the whole process. But what other choice do we have than to deal with the terms of absurdity? Are we not constrained in our engagements with others to act in one way or another through exercising simulation or dissimulation, revealing or concealing our intentions or desires behind the masks which we daily don? Are we not forced to admit and confront what are considered human aberrations from our stipulations of normal human behaviour? Are we not also then constrained to engage again and again in the difficult tasks of expression and interpretation of signs and gestures? Given that constraint, in the intermingling of our roles as actor, spectator and critic, then, we present and perceive public faces which are marked and masked with lines and traces of our ethical relations.

Keywords

Burning Europe Assimilation Decon Defend 

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Notes

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Julius Simon

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