"If students learn any history at all, it is the history of the Holocaust," writes Sam Schulman in the latest issue of The Weekly Standard. Western culture overflows with books, museums, and memorials centered on the Shoah. All of them, says Schulman, hope to "prevent the production of future mass murderers and their willing executioners." All of them "share the belief that they are engaged in a virtuous struggle against hate."
But all of them may be doing more harm than good. Schulman argues that when we single-mindedly focus on the Holocaust, holding it up as the "'gold standard' of evil," it becomes easy to overlook the present-day anti-Semitic acts that fall short of genocide--and these, he says, are on the rise. "Jewish populations in Sweden are leaving entire cities," Schulman writes. "The retired chief of Holland's major conservative party last month advised Jews who are 'identifiably Jewish' to leave the country, because the Dutch state cannot protect them from anti-Semitic violence."
It's time to put away our obsession with the Holocaust, says Schulman. It distorts our perspective, and it gives leverage to enemies of human rights. As an example, Schulman cites last summer's meeting between Fidel Castro and The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg:
Castro confessed [to Goldberg], one gentleman to another, that the crude anti-Semitism of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and the flamboyant Holocaust-denial of Iran's Ahmadinejad were rather embarrassing to a man of the world like himself. This was enough to win the heart of Goldberg, who quickly dialed Haaretz to tell them how impressed he was that Castro felt "genuinely offended" by Holocaust-denial (a generation after Castro had removed the burden of their businesses and other property from Cuba's own Jewish community).
Giddy with his discovery that Castro was salonfähig, Goldberg was willing to overlook a number of character faults far more consequential than Holocaust-denial to current Cuban dissidents, political prisoners, nonwhites, gays, and the rest of the long-suffering Cuban people.
In the full article, Schulman addresses the question of Hitler-Stalin equivalence, wonders whether Ahmadinejad really believes the Holocaust didn't happen, and pokes momentary fun at Al Gore. There's also the provocative idea that Holocaust education is unfairly undermining Israeli legitimacy:
One thinks of the little girl who objected to being taught the Ten Commandments in Sunday School: "They don't tell me what I should do and they just give me ideas." The current generation of university students--Holocaust-educated from the nursery on--have been given ideas. And on campuses around the world ... it is fair to say that the more the current student generation have been taught about the evil of the Holocaust, the more Israel seems to them to resemble Nazi Germany rather than itself. Even if we resist the false suggestion that Israel is conducting a genocide of Palestinians, our Holocaust-instruction has left us all with an equally false notion: that Israel was created by Europeans in the Middle East in order to make amends to European Jews for a European Holocaust.
You can read the whole thing here.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.