The "Holocaust industry" is driven by American and Israeli interests. But, says Samuel Brittan, no one can fully explain why it took so long to emergeby Samuel Brittan / November 20, 2000 / Leave a comment
The horror felt at the Nazi crime of killing 6m European Jews, simply because they were Jews, surely needs no explanation. The puzzling question is, in the words of Peter Novick, “Why now?” Why should so much more have been done to commemorate the Holocaust in the last 20 years than in the 35 years after the second world war when more of the survivors were still alive?
Norman Finkelstein is surely right to claim that commemoration has become an industry. A Holocaust museum was inaugurated in the US by President Carter and subsidised by federal funds. Local versions have sprouted in many parts of the US and a few in some other countries as well. Why do we not leave it to the genuine memorials on the spot? For instance, the Ninth Fort at the top of a green hill outside Kaunas, Lithuania? This was established by the Czars, but is now known as the place where the Nazis took tens of thousands of Jews and others to be shot. A modern memorial of three jagged metallic pieces stands bare against the skyline. It is intrinsically more moving than anything that American publicity efforts can invoke.
These two books have many themes in common. The authors often agree; and Finkelstein acknowledges his indebtedness to Novick’s research. Temperamentally, I was more drawn to Novick’s reflections than I was to Finkelstein’s two-fold indictment-of the state of Israel for using the Holocaust to drum up US support, and of Jewish organisations in the US and their advisers who have made a good living out of their efforts to secure compensation and restitution from Germany, Switzerland, Austria and other countries. He contrasts the $3,500 which his mother received in compensation just after the second world war with the big sums acquired by some of the leading figures in American Jewish organisations. But to discuss his angry accusations fairly, one would need to know more about the intricacies of those organisations. Further, one would have to have deep knowledge and strong views about the minutiae of the Arab-
Israeli conflict. On the latter I can only say that the Israeli “doves” who would make concessions to attain an honourable peace settlement are acting in the best interests of Israel as well as the wider international community.
Neither writer can really tell us “Why now?” Even if all of Finkelstein’s accusations are true, this…