Jump to content
Chaos

New Holocaust K Article

Recommended Posts

The Forget the Holocaust K is one of the most interesting ones out there, it has limited utility but it's a favorite of mine. Here's the name of an article that I found while researching a paper. This article, like the Zupancic one, seems to draw a lot from Nietzsche. I'm posting it here because otherwise it would likely just go to waste because I'd forget about it before I had need of it.

 

IS FORGETTING REPREHENSIBLE? Holocaust Remembrance and the Task of Oblivion

Björn Krondorfer

Look it up. It's excellent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chaos.

The Forget the Holocaust K draws from a surprisingly wide variety of literature to argue that remembering the Holocaust as an ethical tragedy is a bad thing. One popular aspect of this argument uses Alenka Zupancic's interpretation of Nietzsche to argue that only when we "forget" past tragedies in the sense that we no longer find ourselves ethically bound by their invocation can we emotionally move on and live valuable lives. Other aspects of the argument argue that discourse about remembering the Holocaust is coopted by Neocons into supporting bad policies, like hostility towards Iran or similar things. There are also various arguments about how treating the Holocaust as the quintessential genocidal tragedy is bad.

The reason I like the K is because it's an idea that shocked me enormously at first, but that I later found to have some good arguments justifying it. It made me rethink the way that I thought of the Holocaust.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chaos.

The Forget the Holocaust K draws from a wide variety of philosophical positions to argue that we should stop treating the past event of the Holocaust as an emotional and moral tragedy. This doesn't mean that we develop intentional amnesia and deny the historical reality of the Holocaust, but that we deny its moral hold over us. One popular aspect of this argument draws from Lacanian Alen Zupancic's writings on Nietzsche and "forgetting". Zupancic uses Nietzsche to argue that we need to forget about tragedies in order to move past them and to live meaningful lives. Interestingly, there are apparently some Jewish scholars who have similar opinions.

Another justification for forgetting the Holocaust is that discourse about the Holocaust is coopted to justify neocon policies, like unjust support for Israel against Palestine, or hostile attitudes towards Iranians. It's also sometimes argued that treating the Holocaust as the quintessential genocide or tragedy is bad and ignores the suffering of other people. Finally, the Holocaust is often treated as sacred, it's used as an argumentative tactic to put your opponent in an position where its impossible for them to advance their arguments credibly. There's literature that says these sort of discursive tactics are bad (this is similar to some of Judith Butler's arguments - if she herself has written about this I wouldn't be very surprised).

There are similar arguments sometimes made about 9/11, by the way.

I like this K because it initially shocked me enormously, but later seemed to be founded on some quite clever arguments. It made me rethink many of my assumptions about what the role of the Holocaust today should be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought the site deleted my first post, so I tried to duplicate it. Since they are slightly different, I'll just leave both.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is an interesting argument.  I come from a line of holocaust survivors so I don't totally agree with it, but I agree that we shouldn't let past injustices taint our future.  That being said, when 5 million of your people are killed in piles because we have big noses, it doesn't exactly make you want to forget.  I don't blame anyone that's still alive, but forgetting destroys are ability to A) put things in historical context, B ) understand cultural roots, and C) to make sure nothing like it happens again.  My issue with the forgetting part of Nietzschean philosophy is that it seems that here Nietzsche contradicts himself.  He says we should grow in our pain, but forgetting the pain of the past doesn't allow us to grow from it.  Pain of the past is a part of all of us, we shouldn't forget it.  That being said, we shouldn't let it cloud our reality, which is the argument Nietzsche's trying to make (I think), but think about the cultural phenomena that grew out of pain (the blues, Israeli culture, etc.)

 

The Israel Palestine argument is stupid.  You're both there, neither one of you is going to leave, so you might as well get the hell along.

 

Still, one of my favorite cards against humanity scenarios:

Reasons why my relationship status is single:

---Poorly timed holocaust jokes.

 

EDIT: Lol, BBCode wants to turn B into B) emoticon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I might have overemphasized Nietzsche's role in this K. I don't know whether he actually advocated this as a response to tragedies, only that Zupancic thinks he did.

Assuming that Zupancic's reading is correct, I recognize that it seems to conflict with his ideas about suffering but ultimately I don't think that's so. I think Nietzsche would agree that we should allow pain from the past to shape ourselves, but would disagree with your belief that pain from the past is a part of all of us. Pain was what caused you to be who you are today, but the cause of an event is not equivalent to the event itself. You are not your past self, even though your past self brought you to this point. Your interpretation seems less like allowing pain to change us and more like allowing pain to freeze us in stasis (that's Zupancic's argument anyway).

 

I don't blame anyone that's still alive, but forgetting destroys are ability to A) put things in historical context, B ) understand cultural roots, and C) to make sure nothing like it happens again.

 

I think A and B are checked because it's not a literal forgetting, just an emotional one. We don't need to have a special emotional reaction to the Holocaust to be able to understand it, in fact it should be perceived in the same emotional terms as all other aspects of history so we don't bias ourselves. While writing my paper, this is actually one of the things I am realizing most. I'm seeing the Holocaust as just a overextension of normal human behaviors rather than as an aberration, and I think this is more productive.

You might possibly be referring to something other than knowledge with the word "understand", if that's so then your position is more complicated and I'll need some elaboration on what you're saying.

I think C makes more sense. I think I agree, but I've got some half formed counterarguments floating around in my mind right now so I'm not sure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm seeing the Holocaust as just a overextension of normal human behaviors rather than as an aberration, and I think this is more productive.

 

This is certainly one of the takeaway ideas of Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem, though she would have disagreed with the main thesis, as the "banality of evil" seems to stem precisely from our lack of emotional engagement with our fellows. e.g., Eichmann's protestation that he was just following orders in the best and most efficient manner he could devise. One of the myths she is so anxious to puncture is that the Nazis were a bunch of psychopaths, somehow fundamentally different than you and me, though this idea's opposite (that there's an inner Nazi inside all of us) is rejected as well. Nonetheless, our own complicity in both the evil that befalls us and the evil that is perpetrated in our names is an idea that reoccurs throughout-- to the point that you become increasingly frustrated with human selfishness, greed, and willful moral blindness.

 

I'm not suggesting, however, that Arendt would be helpful in cutting the Kritik, though I wish more people would read the book (as I would the works of Primo Levi), since what is so often taught in high schools and universities is the cartoon version of history where the moral of the story is always neat and tidy-- all the better to not really engage how such a thing was not only possible, but practically encouraged by our own failings as individuals and societies.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The paper I wrote was about the psychology of moral disengagement in relation to the Holocaust. One thing that I discuss was the banality of evil, so it's interesting that you mentioned that. I argue that it's been overused as a concept at best. Eichmann wasn't just an administrator following orders, he actively shaped decisions and killed as many Jews as he could manage. There was a quote of his used against him at the Nuremburg Trials, at one point he said that "I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction". More generally, Nazi administration overall was very flexible and rarely gave direct orders. Most individuals were given a lot of discretion. To speak even more generally and move away from the governmental aspect of things, German citizens were never given any orders to harass the Jews, yet they often did. Also, I argue that most people knew (vaguely) that the Nazis were pursuing the extermination of the Jews and supported the idea.

The interpretation that I argue for is the one that says there's a Nazi inside of each of us (although political propaganda is what brings it out and makes it deadly). Nazis killed Jews because they thought they should. In fairness, though, few of them were motivated by cartoonish sadism. Instead, they killed because it matched a racist political ideology that was driven to a furvor through some very clever media and speeches. I'm interpreting that ideology in terms of common cognitive biases in the paper, which is what made it seem more universal and less like the Holocaust was a particularly unusual event.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The paper I wrote was about the psychology of moral disengagement in relation to the Holocaust. One thing that I discuss was the banality of evil, so it's interesting that you mentioned that. I argue that it's been overused as a concept at best. Eichmann wasn't just an administrator following orders, he actively shaped decisions and killed as many Jews as he could manage. There was a quote of his used against him at the Nuremburg Trials, at one point he said that "I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction". More generally, Nazi administration overall was very flexible and rarely gave direct orders. Most individuals were given a lot of discretion. To speak even more generally and move away from the governmental aspect of things, German citizens were never given any orders to harass the Jews, yet they often did. Also, I argue that most people knew (vaguely) that the Nazis were pursuing the extermination of the Jews and supported the idea.

 

To clarify, Eichmann claimed to be following orders, but, as you point out, as a moral salve it doesn't hold quite hold water, and to be fair, Arendt doesn't buy it either. Whether she exaggerated the degree to which Eichmann saw himself as just another bureaucrat doing his duty (as opposed to being motivated by religious and racial hatred as some of her critics have contended), I still believe her essential point to be correct insofar as Eichmann clearly took pride not so much in the killings themselves, but in the administrative and technical problems that he had solved in making them possible. At the very least, it's an object lesson in how easy it is to be co-opted into a morally questionable system without necessarily being virulently supportive of the ends of the system itself.

 

If you're interested in the mechanics of the Holocaust, the standard reference is Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews. Even in its abridged version, the amount of detail Hilberg documents in codifying the scope, dimension, and method of the genocide is astonishing.

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Could someone post a link to - or at least a citation of - the Zupancic article that keeps being referred to in this thread? I've never read anything of Zupancic's but I decided I'd read these articles and write a Holocaust K from it. Any help would be appreciated - thank you.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Could someone post a link to - or at least a citation of - the Zupancic article that keeps being referred to in this thread? I've never read anything of Zupancic's but I decided I'd read these articles and write a Holocaust K from it. Any help would be appreciated - thank you.

I believe it's this book - http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/shortest-shadow

 

but I may be mistaken

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's the one. I no longer have the full file of this K, but I found a card citing page 59 in one of the files that I still do have, so that might be a good place to start.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...