In March 2006, performance artist Santiago Serra constructed a homemade gas chamber inside a former synagogue in the Cologne area and invited Germans to be symbolically gassed. Exhaust pipes from six cars were hooked to the building, which was then filled with deadly carbon monoxide and visitors entered the space wearing protective masks. What was the artist’s intention? Serra said his aim was to give people a sense of the Holocaust. The Jewish community was furious. It was considered a provocation at the expense of Holocaust victims, an insult to survivors and the whole community. “What’s artistic about attaching poisonous car exhaust into a former synagogue?” said writer and Holocaust survivor Ralph Giordano (1923-2014), “and who gave permission for this?”
On the 29th of November 2016, State representative Frank Hornstein (DFL) organized a public lecture through the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College entitled The Use of Holocaust and Nazi Analogies in American Politics. The speaker for the event, Professor Gavriel Rosenfeld (Fairfield University), was interviewed for this month’s scholar spotlight.
Below is an open letter sent to President-elect Donald Trump by Generations of the Shoah International.
November 30, 2016
Donald J. Trump
President-elect of the United States
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Dear President-elect Trump:
In your election night speech, you said, “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division. It is time for us to come together as one united people.” Instead, those divisions are escalating. When members of the alt-right meet in Washington, DC and question if Jews are really people, it is time for moral leadership to put a stop to hate speech, to anti-Semitism, to racism.
Minnesota State Representative Frank Hornstein is inviting students and community members to a guest lecture with Dr. Gavriel Rosenfeld, Professor of History at Fairfield University. Dr. Rosenfeld’s presentation, titled The Use of the Holocaust and Nazi Comparisons in Contemporary American Politics, will discuss the implications of comparisons between the Holocaust and the current political climate. Rep. Hornstein writes:
“For the past year, I have been researching the use of Holocaust and Nazi comparisons in the contemporary American political scene as a fellow with the Sabo Center for Democracy & Citizenship at Augsburg College. The use of these comparisons is quite common; for example, Donald Trump is compared to Adolf Hitler on an almost daily basis. The Iranian regime was routinely compared to Nazi Germany during last summer’s debate on the Iran nuclear agreement, while some in the gun lobby blame the Holocaust on gun control measures. Nazi comparisons are often made in a variety of issue debates ranging from abortion to climate change. The phenomenon has significant implications for how the Holocaust is remembered, and how history is interpreted. It also has profound and complex impacts on American civil discourse.”
The lecture will be Tuesday, November 29th at 2:00pm. Those interested in attending the lecture are invited to attend in person at Augsburg College in the Riverside Room in Christensen Center, or participate online. For more information or to register, log onto the lecture’s Eventbrite page.
In addition to Rep. Hornstein, the event is sponsored by the Sabo Center.
Paper presented by Francisco Ferrandiz (CSIC, Madrid), Alejandro Baer (U.Minnesota) and Natan Sznaider (Academic College of Tel Aviv Jaffo) at the 115th meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Minneapolis.
CHGS Director Alejandro Baer has written about the analogies drawn between refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938 and the current global refugee crisis. The ease in which comparisons are made between those who fled World War II and those fleeing the atrocities committed by ISIS and other groups is made stronger by the widely circulated images of refugees we see on a near-daily basis.
A competent accomplished woman goes up against a populist outsider who has created a reputation built on lies. Sound familiar? Maybe, but this is not about the 2016 US election: it is the plot of the film Denial (2016), based on the true story of the trial between Jewish Studies and Holocaust scholar Deborah E. Lipstadt and British Holocaust denier David Irving.
There is no denying that Denial is a film for our times. Conceived nine years ago, and filmed in 2015, the parallels between the trial and the President election is not lost on viewers. Frustratingly, we do seem to live in a time in which history is ignored, facts seem like an inconvenience and there is a prevailing ideology – that one’s opinion is more important, regardless if you can back it up with facts or not. What happens in this scenario is that there can be no debate between anyone because those espousing opinion, cannot rationally articulate their argument against those who cite facts.
Natan Sznaider, Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo
This is the second half of Natan Sznaider’s critique of Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust. You can find the first half here.
Multiple Modernities and the Memory of the Holocaust
We do need to talk about modernity (the concept as such makes sociologically no sense), but about multiple modernities and multiple Enlightenments. One of the clues is Arendt’s book “On Revolution” where she compares and contrasts the French and the Anglo-Saxon traditions of Enlightenment
When we look at the Scottish Enlightenment, for instance, it is grounded on the sentiments or a moral or common sense as a kind of intuitive judgment. Capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, exercising power of judgment, anchored in religion and balancing between morality and utility in the basis of a liberty seen as granted to all. Look at Adam Smith’s exploration of virtues like compassion and benevolence. Arendt was working in this tradition when she in her “On Revolution” takes side with the legacy of the American Revolution and the Scottish Enlightenment against its French contender. Thus, in the French tradition (and we are talking caricatures) there is a strong opposition between reason and religion, while the Scots tried to reconcile reason and faith. I think these distinctions are important even though they do not play much or a role in Bauman’s text.
Natan Sznaider, Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo
Many of us were deeply impressed when Zygmunt Bauman published his “Modernity and the Holocaust” almost a quarter century ago. When I studied sociology in the 1970s there was not much sociological thinking going around about the Holocaust.
When the book came out we weren’t very aware of the consequences. The book came out when the Berlin Wall fell and one year later, Germany was reunified and I would argue that these things are connected. Bauman himself was much more aware of the context. In his Amalfi Prize lecture Bauman was very clear about the context of his book and I quote him: “The ideas that went into the book knew of no divide; they knew only of our common European experience, of our shared history whose unity may be belied, even temporarily suppressed, but not broken. It is our joint, all European, fate that my book is addressing“ (p.208 of the second edition of Modernity and the Holocaust).
This month, Jodi Elowitz shares five selections that explore recent Holocaust fiction and documentaries from a variety of perspectives.
Now Streaming on Netflix
What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy (2015) is a documentary based on the article My Father, the Good Nazi (2013) written by British Lawyer, Phillipe Sands in the Financial Times Magazine. The article discusses the relation of Niklas Frank, son of Hans Frank, Governor General of occupied Poland (General government) and Horst von Wächter, son of Otto von Wächter, District Governor of Krakow, Poland and later District Governor of Galicia during World War II. Both men were responsible for overseeing the extermination of Jews and charged with war crimes. Frank stood trial at Nuremberg and was found guilty on counts three and four (war crimes and crimes against humanity), sentenced to death, and executed on October 16, 1946. Wächter escaped prosecution and died while hiding in Rome in 1949.