Holocaust
• Nature of the Task
• Impact
– demographic
– qualitative destruction
– the State of Israel???
Holocaust History
• how does it differ from World War II
history?
• what are its tasks?
• impact on Jewish identity has been both
immediate and slow:
– war against the Jews aimed at extermination
– theological -- is there religious significance?
– world reaction; nature of international power
Stage I (1933-39)
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Jan. 30, 1933 Nazis come to power
c. 500,000 Jews within 65,000,000
April 1, 1933 mass boycott
April 4, 1933 eliminated from civil service
April 22, 1933 social security eliminated
April 26, 1933 quotas in schools
Cont.
• May 10, 1933 book burning
• Sept. 15, 1935 Nuremberg Laws revoke
emancipation
• 1938 Aryanization of Jewish corporations
• Anschluss imposes all laws in Austria
Kristallnacht
• 1938 Polish Jews expelled and forced into
detention centers
• November 6, 1938. Hershel Grynspan kills
Ernest von Rath in Paris
• November 9-10, 1938. Anti-Jewish rampage
in Germany. Night of the Broken Glass.
Burnings, arrests and beatings
Jewish Reaction
• 160,000 flee
– restrictions in Palestine, America, elsewhere
• creation of independent schools and selfhelp organization
• suicide
Final Solution
• not officially adopted until 1941 period of
total war
Ghettoization
• Warsaw: 1940 500,000 in 1500 buildings
• questions of Jewish leadership
• Chaim Rumkowski (Lodz) Adam Czerniakow
(Warsaw)
• this is not the pre-modern ghetto
• stages: segregation; strangulation;
deportation and liquidation
• illusory continuity of normalcy
Jewish Reactions
• the Jews don’t know how to react to this
unprecedented institution
• initial hope of status quo gives way to
snatching at any hope
• traditional philosophy of patience is
abandoned only gradually
• most enlightened are the least able to cope
Passivity?
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ability to react is clear
experience misleads
passive restraint
active demoralization by Germans
this issue remains as a defining topic in later
years
Ghettoization (cont.)
• education; medical research
• inversion of values; smuggling is necessary
to survive
• competing leadership centers; youth
movements
• Ghetto humor (“Hitlerplatz”)
Jewish Response
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organization in the ghettos
inversion of moral code and predictability
partisans
tradition of survival are now useless
Massive Exterminations
• 1941 Russian invasion: Einsatzgruppen
– (cf. Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men, and
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing
Executioners)
• death camps
– Chelmno 1941
– Auschwitz 1942 etc
Concentration Camps
• loss of personality
– Bruno Bettelheim, “Individual and Mass
Behavior in Extreme Situations”
– Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz and The
Truce
• invention of a rhetoric of suffering and
dignity -- “lest we forget”
Concentration Camps (cont.)
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total loss of personality
train ride in box cars ends space demarcations
selection; numbered; shorn; Arbeit macht frei;
reversal of status and role definitions
end of predictability
racial anti-Semitism has reached its apex
no limit on human behavior; not hell but a toilet
Power and Survival
• odd cases of Bulgaria, Finland and
Denmark
• could this have been extended?
• internal affair
• UN commission for Refugees
• international commission 1938
• 1939 white paper
• 1938 32-power conference; no quota
revision
• Britain
– 1941 Stürmer sunk
– neutrality between Jews and Arabs
– Dec. 17, 1942 Parliament stands in silence
• April 1943 Bermuda conference