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Auschwitz & Remembrance « Previous | |Next »
January 27, 2005

We should remember the liberation of Auschwitz, sixty years ago, in January 1945 as it a clear symbol for the modern loss of faith in progress. We should remember the history of the Holocaust by listening to the stories of the survivors as their experiences of grief and suffering express many different and complex emotions.

The survivors and their children may well have have different memories and narratives of past and present persecution to the narrative of the State of Israel.The latter is a heroic epic representation of the Holocaust. It is about a heroic Jewish resistance in the Ghettos involving great sacrifice and hardships, and the dire, terrible struggle against the Nazi regime against overwhelming odds. The narrative is about it happening again--even in Australia-- with the destined to wander as perpetual outsiders until they return to their homeland where they belong.

We should also remember that Auschwitz was a killing machine, whilst the death camps were run in accord with the ethos of the enlightenment's conception of a value-free instrumental reason. It is the machine and camps not just the place that we should remember.

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We should also remember that anti-semitism means hatred of Jews, not being anti-Zionist; not being opposed to Likud policies for a Greater Israel; nor anti the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

We should remember the differences between Jews living in Israel and those in the diaspora. In a multicultural Australia we should remember the differences between those who talk in terms of English, French, Australian or American Jews; and those who say that there are only Jews living in England, France, Australia or America. These differences give rise to different identities.

We should remember that not every Jew is, or need be, a Zionist or that they need accept the Zionist narrative as the historical truth.

Consider the very fine article by Julie Szego in The Age that I linked to earlier in the post. Julie writes that:

Even more frightening for most Jews is Israel's vexed place in the world. Sixty years after Auschwitz, the Jew among nations is the target of a virulent and menacing form of anti-Semitism in the West. ... It would be nice to brush this off as the product of angry youths, but such sentiments are gaining resonance among Western intellectuals. It is almost fashionable these days to attack Israel's legitimacy, to scorn and demonise.

We do not need to accept the traditional Zionist national narrative of the birth of Israel as a nation state; a narrative built around the myth of "a people without a land and a land without a people". This narrative has a structure of a past Eden when there was a state and people; of the diaspora as the fall; of the Holocaust as the culmination of the error of way of life of the diaspora; and the foundation of the state of Israel as the redemptive moment.

In the Zionist narrative the answer is Israel. As Julie Szego puts it:

Israel is the ultimate insurance policy against another Holocaust...Israel symbolised the new dawn after a long night in hell; the end of the Jew as sitting duck.

We do not need to accept the Zionist narrative because there are non-Zionist narratives of history.

How then is Auschwitz relevant to Australia?

One suggestion is that Australians need to remember that the Holocaust should be a concern for Christians as well as Jews. The fact that a world that had become fully Christian, that gave us a Christian civilization unchallenged by any other religious tradition (for the war against Islam was won by the beginning of the 20th century), could deteriorate into the idolatry/paganism of the Nazis is a significant challenge to any form of Christianity, which holds that the duty of Christians as Christians is to act in the world. For Christians, especially Catholics, the Holocaust is, or at least should be, a central concern.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:07 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
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