Monday, September 8, 2008

“Whose History is it?”

The first three chapters of Edward Linenthal’s “Preserving Memory: the Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum,” gave a detailed the challenges faced in creating of the Holocaust museum. Although, President Carter initiated the project, the measuring stick would be set by the Jewish community. As debates ensued on the importance of the museum’s construction to the Carter Administration; which, if any, group of the Jewish community (living or deceased/Polish Jews/Ukrainian Jews) should be reflected in the historical exhibits; the location of the museum and, most importantly, how the term Holocaust would be defined. A question continued to ring in my mind, “whose history is it?”
Carefully researched and documented, “Preserving Memory”, revealed the constant removal of Jewish sentiment from holocaust ceremonies, specifically, when generalized references were made concerning the Jewish struggle while grandiose observances recognized the Polish, during a visit to Warsaw. Linenthal described forgetfulness as “treachery of memory,” however whether American or Eastern European Jewish the focal point remained clear: to never forget and learn what was perpetrated against a people in history. Blatant oversight and omission of the history of a nation reflects a reporter/historian’s feelings of the group’s historical insignificance. However, the persistence of Elie Wisel ensured the historical content of any commemorative event always reflect the Jewish community at large, not merely a portion. The inclusion of other groups in the Holocaust museum commemorations was unacceptable. I would also question the inclusion of other groups, who have been victims of discrimination, being involved in focus groups and committees for this project. The inquiry can only be made with those who are closest to the Holocaust experience and, therefore the authority also lies within the Jewish community.

1 comment:

Brent said...

I too was impressed by the scope of the task set before the council. It really is difficult to imagine the amount of responsibility they had, their definition of the Holocaust would be taught to generations of American school children. Another shock was the Polish insistence on not visiting Jewish cemeteries. Their memory of the event swirled around courageous Polish actions and their resistance, not horrors that were visited upon the Jewish people. While Jewish memory of the event involved persecution and Polish collaboration not their “courageous” resistance. I thought about inclusion and exclusion throughout this book. I feel that as much as possible should be told about his event, so as much as feasible should be included. However, I feel Jewish primacy should be recognized. So, it is a difficult tightrope to walk.