Germany’s Problem Is Not Remembering the Holocaust. Its Problem Is Misusing the Memory

Oct. 28 2019

In a recent essay titled “The Vanity of Guilt,” the conservative German journalist Andreas Lombard criticized the attitude toward the Holocaust, and Holocaust guilt, in his country, and particularly the ways in which the Shoah has been used to justify Angela Merkel’s immigration policies. Michel Gurfinkiel, calling the essay simultaneously “close to the truth” and “manifestly erroneous,” responds:

For Lombard, “the imperative of remembering” the Holocaust contributes to the crisis. Remembering is thus part of the problem. For me, the very opposite is the case. Now more than ever, we need to remember Auschwitz. Contrary to Lombard, Holocaust awareness is as great a political, ethical, and theological necessity today as it was in the immediate postwar era. Remembering can strengthen Germany’s (and Europe’s) resistance and resilience in the present circumstances—provided one sees the Holocaust for what it really was. . . .

German patriots like Lombard are rightly concerned about their nation’s future. . . . [But] I worry that Lombard is tempted to downplay the singularity of the Holocaust, downgrading it from an absolute evil to—so to say—regular evil. He does not go quite so far, but the fact that he plays with such a view is troubling. . . .

Germany became a stable democracy, and it learned to be admirably honest about the past, . . . by insisting upon remembering the Holocaust as a tragic part of its own history. [Still], there is a kernel of truth in Lombard’s assertion that “the German political and cultural establishment” has developed “a vanity of guilt.” . . .

But you don’t abolish money altogether because some counterfeit is around. It does not make sense to discard or revise the “Holocaust paradigm” because it has been misused and distorted. What is needed is a more accurate remembrance. Germans (and others, too) need to remember that the Holocaust did not target “human beings”; it targeted Jews. and it targeted Jews not for being different or exotic, but for being an essential foundation of European Christian and humanistic civilization.

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Read more at First Things

More about: Angela Merkel, Germany, Holocaust remembrance, Immigration

 

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy