The Holocaust in American Life

Front Cover
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Sep 20, 2000 - History - 384 pages
Prize-winning historian Peter Novick illuminates the reasons Americans ignored the Holocaust for so long -- how dwelling on German crimes interfered with Cold War mobilization; how American Jews, not wanting to be thought of as victims, avoided the subject. He explores in absorbing detail the decisions that later moved the Holocaust to the center of American life: Jewish leaders invoking its memory to muster support for Israel and to come out on top in a sordid competition over what group had suffered most; politicians using it to score points with Jewish voters. With insight and sensitivity, Novick raises searching questions about these developments. Have American Jews, by making the Holocaust the emblematic Jewish experience, given Hitler a posthumous victory, tacitly endorsing his definition of Jews as despised pariahs? Does the Holocaust really teach useful lessons and sensitize us to atrocities, or, by making the Holocaust the measure, does it make lesser crimes seem "not so bad"? What are we to make of the fact that while Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars for museums recording a European crime, there is no museum of American slavery?

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User Review  - FPdC - LibraryThing

This is an outstanding book about the uses (and abuses) of the Holocaust in American life. The author, an american Jew and professor of history at the University of Chicago, traces the way the murder ... Read full review

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User Review  - marialondon - LibraryThing

Before anything else, I'd like to comment on some previous (negative) reviews on this book, which said that it was, among other things, 'trite' and 'boring'. The word 'trite' in particular has been ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

THE WAR YEARS
17
THE POSTWAR YEARS
61
THE YEARS 0F TRANSITION
125
RECENT YEARS
205
FUTURE YEARS
265
Back Matter
283
Back Cover
377
Spine
378
Copyright

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Page 15 - For if once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing ; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.
Page 140 - The whole truth was that if the Jewish people had really been unorganized and leaderless, there would have been chaos and plenty of misery but the total number of victims would hardly have been between four and a half and six million people.
Page 101 - Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, as such...
Page 294 - If an action of good intent leads to bad results, then, in the actor's eyes, not he but the world, or the stupidity of other men, or God's will who made them thus, is responsible for the evil.
Page 4 - To understand something historically is to be aware of its complexity, to have sufficient detachment to see it from multiple perspectives, to accept the ambiguities, including moral ambiguities, of protagonists' motives and behavior. Collective memory simplifies; sees events from a single, committed perspective; is impatient with ambiguities of any kind; reduces events to mythic archetypes. Historical consciousness, by its nature...
Page 136 - the banality of evil" and meant with this no theory or doctrine but something quite factual, the phenomenon of evil deeds, committed on a gigantic scale, which could not be traced to any particularity of wickedness, pathology, or ideological conviction in the doer, whose only personal distinction was a perhaps extraordinary shallowness. However monstrous the deeds were, the doer was neither monstrous nor demonic...
Page 292 - The question of Jewish persecution in Europe is being given top news priority by the English and the Americans. ... At bottom, however, I believe both the English and the Americans...
Page 222 - First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist — so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat — so I did nothing.
Page 3 - An event in the subject's life defined by its intensity, by the subject's incapacity to respond adequately to it, and by the upheaval and long-lasting effects that it brings about in the psychical organization.
Page 65 - The things I saw beggar description. . .The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty, and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick.

About the author (2000)

Peter Novick is professor of history at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Resistance Versus Vichy and That Noble Dream: The Objectivity Question and the American Historical Profession, which won the American Historical Association's prize for the best book of the year in American history.

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