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186 Chapter 7 Israelis and Germany after the Second World War Is Reconciliation Possible? Can Universal Lessons Be Drawn? Fania Oz-Salzberger Israeli-Jewish readers are often surprised when they come across references to the Holocaust in East Asian literature. Such references are quite rare, but they are not expected to be otherwise. While Western, more specifically European, and in particular German remembrance of the genocide of the Jews by Nazi Germany is deemed historically necessary and morally essential, East Asia is not part of this set of expectations. Both geographic and cultural differentials keep spheres of remembrance apart, and while World War II is a common, indeed global, sphere of memory, its genocidal aspects are more circumscribed. Some scholars have at times compared the Jewish calamity to atrocities that took place in China or in Cambodia, but East Asian scholars and artists do not often ponder the Holocaust per se.1 Haruki Murakami’s short but poignant mention of the Adolf Eichmann trial in his novel Kafka on the Shore is, from an Israeli-Jewish perspective, a refreshing exception to the rule.2 Let us consider a stronger formulation of this absence of expectation: East Asia is deemed exempt from understanding the horror of the Holocaust , because the German atrocity toward Jews is seen by many descendants of both victims and perpetrators as historically unique and culturally singular. According to this approach, neither Japanese war atrocities in occupied lands nor Pol Pot’s massacre of many of his own people can compare to the premeditated, systematic, highly technologized, and ideologically nurtured German bid to annihilate the Jewish nation en bloc.3 Nor Israelis and Germany 187 can the Holocaust be measured against Joseph Stalin’s systematic massacre of Russian “antirevolutionary” dissidents, intellectuals, and even whole economic classes.4 This claim for the uniqueness of the Jewish genocide conducted by Nazi Germany has grown stronger in the past three decades, as scholars and intellectuals—Jewish and gentile—have argued against moves to “relativize ” the Nazi atrocity by placing it on the same level as Stalinist extermination policies or other totalitarian horrors. In Germany, the ensuing debate became known during the 1980s as the Historikerstreit—the historians ’ conflict.5 In subsequent years, numerous historians have published research and historiographical analyses offering evidence and theoretical considerations supporting the singularity of the mass murder of Jews under Nazism.6 But as the term Holocaust has become commonplace for the genocide of the Jews, it has also been borrowed for numerous other crimes, including mass killings perpetuated in East Asia.7 Many authors have voiced their aversion to this universalization of the terminology of the Holocaust, while others have opted for the more specific term Shoah, a Hebrew word taken from the Bible and deployed specifically, first in Israel and later elsewhere, to denote the German crime against the Jews. The word Shoah has become more commonplace for denoting the Holocaust in the wake of Claude Lanzmann’s monumental 1985 documentary of the same name.8 At present, many research centers, periodicals, conferences, and books aiming at comparative analyses opt for the combination “Holocaust and Genocide,” which allows universalizing comparisons alongside an ongoing emphasis on the specificity of the German-Jewish case. This uniqueness accrues not only to the sheer extent of the massacre but also to the aim to wipe a whole nation from the face of the earth: not just some of its members, or the residents of a geographic zone, or a particular social class. The singularity of the Holocaust stems from Germany’s standing as a “nation of culture,” steeped in European history and manners , and accommodating numerous Jewish people, Jewish texts and ideas, even Jewish names and words, deep within its cultural legacy.9 Consider the Hebrew Bible, essential to Christianity in general and to Lutheran Protestantism in particular; consider the impact of Jewish thinkers such as Baruch Spinoza and Moses Mendelssohn on the German Enlightenment and indeed the gradual entry of German Jews into academic and scientific life in Germany following the Enlightenment and the nineteenth-century liberalization and emancipation. By the time Adolf Hitler came to power Fania Oz-Salzberger 188 in 1933, a flourishing German culture—epitomized and peaking in the Weimar Republic—incorporated German-Jewish thinkers and scientists, writers and artists, lawyers and teachers at an ever-growing pace. Thus, anti-Semites were obliged to make a vast effort, both pseudoscientific (race theories mobilized to prove the inhumanity of the so-called Jewish race, economic...


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