Punk in England is usually thought of as being related to a critique of stadium rock or to the disillusionment of a generation that saw nothing in the future but drudgery. In this article I argue that punk has more profound connections. Punk in England was driven by two Jewish managers, Malcolm McLaren and Bernie Rhodes, but, more important, punk's general politics of nihilism express in a cultural context the shock and trauma of the Holocaust. After almost three decades of near-silence, by the late 1970s the Holocaust was beginning to be named and talked about. The horror of this event on not just Jews but Western society more generally, as the acknowledgment of the genocide began to undermine the historical acceptance of Enlightenment assumptions about progress, science, and the moral righteousness of Western civilization, led to an existential crisis best expressed in punk. Whereas in the United States many punk performers were Jewish, in England the Jewish connections are to be found in the managers and in the lyrics.


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