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

October 28, 2019 | Michel Gurfinkiel
About the author: Michel Gurfinkiel is the founder and president of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative think-tank in France, and a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum. His “You Only Live Twice,” on the contemporary situation of European Jews, appeared in Mosaic in August 2013.

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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