Is the Holocaust Unique?: Perspectives on Comparative Genocide
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In essays written specifically for this volume, distinguished contributors assess highly charged and fundamental questions about the Holocaust: Is it unique? How can it be compared with other instances of genocide? What constitutes genocide, and how should the international community respond? On one side of the dispute are those who fear that if the Holocaust is seen as the worst case of genocide ever, its character will diminish the sufferings of other persecuted groups. On the other side are those who argue that unless the Holocaust’s uniqueness is established, the inevitable tendency will be to diminish its abiding significance.
The editor’s introductions provide the contextual considerations for understanding this multidimensional dispute and suggest that there are universal lessons to be learned from studying the Holocaust. The third edition brings this volume up to date and includes new readings on the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, common themes in genocide ideologies, and Iran’s reaction to the Holocaust. In a world where genocide persists and the global community continues to struggle with the implications of international crime, prosecution, justice, atonement, reparation, and healing, the issues addressed in this book are as relevant as ever.
crucial issue for Holocaust pedagogy and its intersection with uniqueness debates. This issue has to do with the idea that learning about the Holocaust will not let us take very much from the Holocaust when it comes to lessons, moral insights, and determination to check genocidal tendencies. To get at those challenges, I want to return to Charlotte Delbo and her “useless knowledge” before turning to two Holocaust scholars, Lawrence L. Langer and Peter Novick, who also make important contributions
collection, for example, the murder of Armenians in World War I, the devastation of the Native American communities over the centuries, the decimation of Ukraine by Stalin, the treatment of the Gypsies during World War II, and the enslavement and mass death of black Africans during the enterprise of New World slavery. I know of no method or technique that would allow one to weigh up, to quantify and compare, such massive evil and suffering, and I therefore avoid altogether this sort of
evidence to the contrary is so overwhelming that it has become institutionalized (e.g., the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) and readily accessible to the general public. In addition, responsible scholars4 have made timely and persuasive refutations of specific fraudulent claims, laying bare the Holocaust deniers’ incredulity and antisemitic motivation. Nevertheless, when Holocaust denials are considered in tandem with another set of recent tendencies to “normalize,” historicize,
accordingly, either assisted in the process of destruction or condoned it. One should not underestimate the ballast of Martin Luther’s legacy of antiJewish animosity in Protestant and even Catholic Germany. In the Turkish case especially, Muslim fanaticism was ignited through the manipulation of religious hatred that reached its acme by the proclamation of “holy war” against “the infidels.” As in the case of Nazi Germany, so in the case of the Turks, the exterminatory massacres were somehow an
well. None was so vulnerable.”43 The Opportunity Structure However motivated, tempted, or eager, no potential perpetrator can proceed from contemplation to action without suitable opportunities. This is a basic law of criminology encompassing many forms of criminal behavior. More often than not, the greatest restraining force for criminally inclined individuals or groups is not the penal codes of criminal justice but, instead, want of suitable opportunities. It is no coincidence that the two