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Transformation of the Holocaust Legacy THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE HOLOCAUST LEGACY by Judith Apter Klinghoffer Judith Apter Klinghoffer is a member of the Center for Historical Analysis at Rutgers University; in the spring of 1996 she is the Fulbright Professor ofAmerican History at Aarhus, Denmark. She is the author of four books including the forthcoming Fallout: 1be Effect of the Vietnam War, on tbe Triangular Relations Between the Johnson Administration, Israel and American Jewry (University of North Carolina Press). 53 The emergence of the Holocaust as a central feature in American Jewish discourse is usually traced to the three-week waiting period that preceded the Six-Day War, when fears of a second Holocaust reawakened the memory of the first one and led to a novel Jewish preoccupation with "survivalism."! However, as this paper seeks to demonstrate by focusing on the Jewish response to the Vietnam War, the Holocaust figured as prominently in pre-1967 discourse as it did in the post-1967 one. Thus, lSee Charles E. Silberman, A Certain People (New York, 1985), pp. 182-83; Melvin I. Urofsky, We Are Orlef Americanjewry and Israel (New York, 1978), pp. 318-19; Jonathan S. Woocher in Sacred Survival, The Civil ~eligion of American jews (Bloomington, IN, 1986); Jack Wertheimer, A People Divided: judaism in Contemporary America (New York, 1993), pp. 28-32; Steven M. Cohen and Leonard J. Fein, "From Integration to Survival: American Jewish Anxieties in Transition," Annals ofthe Arrlerican Acaderny ofPolitical and Social Science Guly 1985), p. 76; Jacob Neusner, Stranger at Home: "The Holocaust, " Zionism, and ArrU!ricanjudaism (Chicago, 1981), pp. 78-79; Richard G. Hirsch, "Jewish Peoplehood: Implications for Reform Judaism," Forum (Spring 1980); Henry Friedlander, "Toward a Methodology ofTeaching About the Holocaust," Teacher's College Record 18 (3); , and Michael R. Marrus, "The Use and Misuse of the Holocaust," in Peter Hayes, ed., Lessons and Legacies: The Meaning ofthe Holocaust in a Charlging World (Evanston, IL, 1991), pp. 106-113. 54 SHOFAR Winter 1996 Vol. 14, No.2 rather than reawaken interest in a donnant issue, the dramatic events of 1967 merely transfonned the diaspora understanding of its legacy. The diaspora in the main jettisoned its pre-1967 universalist perspective advanced at the Nuremberg trial that the Jewish demise was just one of many Nazi "crimes against humanity" in favor of the Israeli view advanced at the 1961 Eichmann trial that the Holocaust was primarily a "crime against the Jews" which mandated a unique Jewish response. Just as importantly, both positions were equally rooted in conflicting perceptions of what was necessary for Jewish survival. Rather than representing a diaspora turn from idealism to survivalism, the 1967 transfonnation merely represented a Jewish reevaluation of the lessons of the Holocaust in light of the Six-Day War and its aftennath and the most useful ways to use them to enhance continued Jewish survival. As Emil Fackenheim so aptly observed, Jewish life "intennittently and often unconsciously ... is in the grip of, and responding to, epoch making events" which Jewish thought then follows.2 In Israel, the Holocaust has been routinely coupled with Jewish resistance. Thus, in 1951 the Knesset set aside the 27th day of Nissan as the "Holocaust and Ghetto Rebellion Memorial Day." The Zionist lesson was simple: the world could no longer be entrusted with the continued survival of Jews. If Jews were to continue to exist, they must be in a position to protect themselves, with force if necessary, and that could be done only within the confines of a Jewish state.3 Indeed, the Eichmann trial, as Hannah Arendt well understood, was primarily designed not to educate the young but to serve notice that, for the first time in modern history, "Jews were able to sit in judgment on crimes committed against their own people" instead of having "to appeal to others for protection and justice or fall back upon the compromised phraseology of the rights of man.,,4 Confronted with the growing indifference of the diaspora to the Jewish state, Israel was attempting to reassert its role as the vanguard of the Jewish people by serving notice that it was willing to function as the 2Emil1. Fackenheim, ToMend the World: Foundations ofPost...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 53-75
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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