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Holocaust Discourse in the Era of Extreme Nationalism

Mon, December 17, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Beacon Hill 1 Complex

Session Submission Type: Roundtable

Abstract

Recent political events have destabilized Holocaust memory and research the world over. Holocaust relativism and denial, once practiced by fringe groups, is now mainstream. The growth of ultra-nationalism, partly in response to globalization, has led to intensified debates about national suffering, which often hinge on differing Holocaust narratives. Reactionary sentiment has manifest itself in an entrenching of the "real estate" model (Michael Rothberg), which guards Holocaust memory against comparison—as well as its opposite, an insistence on constant comparison and reticence towards remembering the Holocaust on its own terms.

Questions for discussion:
(1) Which recent public events have had the most significant impact on Holocaust memory in the region where you live and/or study?
(2) How have these events affected your work as a scholar? How ought we respond?
(3) What is the role of new media in reshaping Holocaust discourse?
(4) What types of international alliances presently endanger open Holocaust discourse? What types of intellectual alliances might counteract that?

We wish to address these questions regarding the following regions:

(1) Poland, Hungary and the Baltic States: From the late 1990s on, Poland was a prominent scene of public Holocaust discussion—in contrast to countries like Hungary and Lithuania. This work is now threatened by the “national” memory of the Second World War which focuses on Polish suffering and curtails freedom of historical research. (Discussant specialists: Katarzyna Person and Zvi Gitelman)
(2) Israel: Previously predictable categories—left-wing, right-wing, anti-Semitic, philo-Semitic, pro-Israel and anti-Israel—have become unreliable in relation to Holocaust discourse in Israel. Along with a general state of public confusion, unforeseen alliances have formed across borders between Israeli ultra-nationalists and Holocaust deniers in Europe and the United States. (Hannah Pollin-Galay and Zvi Gitelman)
(3) France and Germany: The rise of the Alternative for Deutschland in the German parliament and the National Front in France have coincided with challenges to teaching the Holocaust in some schools. To an extent unprecedented in recent decades, the Holocaust has become an explicit topic of political debate. (Fabien Théofilakis)
(4) United States: Especially since November 2016, Holocaust memory has become entangled in rising neo-Nazism, immigration debates and antisemitism. Whether in President Trump equating neo-Nazis to anti-fascist demonstrators in Charlottesville or in his omission of Jewish suffering from his 2017 International Holocaust Remembrance Day remarks, American threats to Holocaust recognition are concrete and reverberate internationally. (Noah Shenker)

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