The Holocaust in American Life

TitleThe Holocaust in American Life
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsNovick, Peter
Number of Pages373
PublisherHoughton Mifflin

In recent years, the Holocaust has become an important and prominent symbol in American life. It is a cornerstone of how Jews understand themselves and would have others understand them as well as a moral reference point for all Americans, embodied by Washington's Holocaust Museum, now a national shrine and the repository of lessons all must learn. While ordinarily historical memories are most vivid in the immediate aftermath of events and fade with the passage of time, in the case of the Holocaust the reverse has been true. During the decades following World War II the Holocaust was not much talked about -- even by American Jews. In this volume, the author explores the reasons for this long silence, describing the impact of new cold war alliances and Jews' desire not to be seen by their fellow Americans as victims. He recounts the events and decisions that in later decades moved the Holocaust from the margins of American life to the center, including the desire of Jews to define what made them distinctive and the search for moral ground on which increasingly divided Americans could stand. What, this book asks, are the costs -- for Jews and for all Americans -- of making the Holocaust a defining symbol? Are there really "lessons of the Holocaust" as many presume?

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