Saturday, August 1, 2015


AFTER AUSCHWITZ: THE BATTLE FOR THE HOLOCAUST (dir. Paul Yule, 2001) is probably one of the more intelligent documentaries I have seen not just on this subject but in a while, period. Why? Simple, it is dealing with not just history but historiography and is offering a cogent and mature discussion of the 'politics of memory', something you almost never see in America. In a succinct and clear fashion, through interviews with Peter Novick, Gulie Ne’eman Arad, Saul Friedlander, Henry Kissinger, and Norman Finkelstein, the film lays out a chronological vision of how the cultural treatment of the Shoah has been a matter of realpolitik and socio-political concerns related to the Cold War. One notion that Novick discusses which I find fascinating and worth studying is the idea that the Holocaust has become a sort of Jewish Passion Play, with the various memorials and museums serving as crude analogues to the reliquaries of Christendom. The Catholics have Golgotha and the cross, now Jews have Auschwitz and the gas chambers. The penitent makes all sorts of obligatory rituals in front of the wood of the true cross, the tourist looks at piles of hair and suitcases. This is a notion that is markedly un-Jewish and part of the reason why Judaism and Christianity broke apart in the first place. The ancient Jews were believers in something much different than Christians, they held in esteem the covenant and the Torah as a manifestation of that covenant, ergo there was a space for a variety of ideas about the identity of G*d and the composition of the commandments on Sinai. By contrast, Christianity has always been strict and absolutist about the nature of Jesus, the validity and nature of the Gospels, and the role of the Church as the guardian and custodian of the new covenant made manifest not in the New Testament but in the Eucharist. What intrigues me to no end, ergo, is that perhaps this is a place to begin a discussion of a marked changed in Jewish theology that embraces the expansionist efforts of the settlers. Up until after the founding of Israel, Zionism was seen as a heresy by the Old Yishuv of Palestine and was a self-professed secular movement. The coming of the settler culture and its violence, deeply reminiscent of the Christian colonialist terrorism, could find some links there.

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