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The Holocaust and Historical Methodology

The Holocaust and Historical Methodology

Edited by Dan Stone
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 324
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  • Book Info
    The Holocaust and Historical Methodology
    Book Description:

    In the last two decades our empirical knowledge of the Holocaust has been vastly expanded. Yet this empirical blossoming has not been accompanied by much theoretical reflection on the historiography. This volume argues that reflection on the historical process of (re)constructing the past is as important for understanding the Holocaust-and, by extension, any past event-as is archival research. It aims to go beyond the dominant paradigm of political history and describe the emergence of methods now being used to reconstruct the past in the context of Holocaust historiography.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-493-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface to the Series
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction: The Holocaust and Historical Methodology
    (pp. 1-20)
    Dan Stone

    Twenty years ago, Saul Friedländer published his edited volume,Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the “Final Solution.”The book has become justly famous not as the first but as the most stimulating collection of essays on the problem of how to represent an event which seems to outstrip the ability of language or art to do so. As Hannah Arendt wrote of the Holocaust, “For those engaged in the quest for meaning and understanding, what is frightening is not that it is something new, but that it has brought to light the ruin of our categories of thought and...

  5. Part I: Memory and Culture in the Third Reich

    • CHAPTER 1 A World Without Jews: Interpreting the Holocaust
      (pp. 23-43)
      Alon Confino

      The recognition of the pastness of the Holocaust is a sort of a novelty in a culture where the presence of the event has been entrenched in the last generation. Recognition of its pastness is not equal to forgetting, nor is it simply a result of the passing of three-score years since 1945. Indeed, it is partly a result of the very intense public and professional preoccupation with the Holocaust, the cumulative effect of which has been to make the event not only an integral part of German, Jewish, and European history, but also into a central moral event in...

    • CHAPTER 2 Holocaust Historiography and Cultural History
      (pp. 44-60)
      Dan Stone

      In a recent paper, Peter Burke, Britain’s leading proponent of cultural history, reflected on the problems that had arisen as a result of cultural history’s success.² These, according to Burke, are five in number, though naturally they overlap.

      The first is the very success of cultural history: its ubiquity tends towards the disintegration of the discipline. If cultural history is so widely practiced, then the question is no longer how to convince people of the validity of its claims or how to persuade people to engage with it, but “what isnotcultural history?” The second is the idea that...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Invisible Crime: Nazi Politics of Memory and Postwar Representation of the Holocaust
      (pp. 61-78)
      Dirk Rupnow

      Questions of representation are at the core of scholarly engagement with the Holocaust. The term “Holocaust” has become globally established as a signifier of genocidal crimes, but in its own way it is problematic as a term to signify the complex historical events of the mass crimes against Jewry that were initiated by Germans and Austrians and committed with and by their collaborators all across Europe.¹ As soon as the Nazi crimes began coming to light, the discussion started on what kind of language and imagery was adequate and, most importantly, was able to convey the multifaceted and extreme experiences...

    • CHAPTER 4 The History of the Jews in the Ghettos: A Cultural Perspective
      (pp. 79-100)
      Amos Goldberg

      In his chapter in this volume, Dan Stone argues that despite the fact that cultural history has proved both a popular and fertile paradigm within the historical discipline, it has not staked much ground for itself in the study of the Holocaust.² Following in the footsteps of Alon Confino, Claudia Koonz, Dominick LaCapra, and others,³ Stone is mostly concerned with the study of the “perpetrators.” To understand Nazism, the Holocaust and the “final solution,” he says, it is imperative to return to the research of Nazi ideology, which must be treated with the utmost seriousness. But the research directions and...

    • CHAPTER 5 National Socialism, Holocaust, and Ecology
      (pp. 101-124)
      Boaz Neumann

      The 1990s saw the emergence of a new and surprising research field, establishing a link between the Nazi and ecological movements. Historians began considering whether the Nazi Party, movement, and regime were actually ecological, not to say green. One of the first milestones wasBlood and Soil: Richard Walther Darré and Hitler’s “Green Party”(1985) by the historian Anna Bramwell, who argued that a green wing can be identified in the Nazi movement, including those she calls “Green Nazis.” Bramwell concentrated on the figure of Walther Darré, Minister of Food and Agriculture in Hitler’s government, and the Weltanschauung focusing on...

  6. Part II: Tstimony and Commemoration

    • CHAPTER 6 Bearing Witness: Theological Roots of a New Secular Morality
      (pp. 127-142)
      Samuel Moyn

      In the last few decades, the imperative of witnessing has exploded as a powerful secular norm, connecting what was at first a confined idiom of moral response to the Holocaust to a much larger set of political transformations. The figure whom Avishai Margalit influentially labels the “moral witness” has become a central touchstone of contemporary ethical life.¹ In fact, it is now looking as if the cultural practice of “bearing witness to atrocity,” or even to lesser forms of human evil, is one of the most disseminated and migratory outcomes of Holocaust memory. It may even have become a dominant...

    • CHAPTER 7 Transcending History? Methodological Problems in Holocaust Testimony
      (pp. 143-157)
      Zoë Waxman

      Survivors of the Shoah such as the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel insist that the Holocaust is “a mystery begotten by the dead.”¹ As such, he believes that Holocaust testimony should be placed outside mainstream historical inquiry and instead interpreted in solely spiritual or wholly religious terms. For Wiesel, the diaries and other writings produced in the ghettos and concentration camps of Eastern Europe as well as the memoirs of survivors represent an important form of spiritual resistance against the attempted annihilation of the Jewish people. By contrast, historians wish to transform these “sacred” testimonies into historical documents...

    • CHAPTER 8 Studying the Holocaust: Is History Commemoration?
      (pp. 158-178)
      Doris L. Bergen

      In an interview he gave late in his life, Raul Hilberg insisted that the study of the Holocaust was “not for amateurs.” He contrasted the serious scholarship being done in Germany and Austria with what he deemed the dismal state of the field in the United States. The Holocaust, he concluded, “is not for untrained people, it is not for philosophers”:

      It is for people who know languages, who know history, who know political science, who know economics, etc. At the root they must be well trained. The Holocaust is not today, as it might have been in the beginning,...

  7. Part III: Another Look at a Classic of Holocaust Hitoriography

    • CHAPTER 9 An Integrated History of the Holocaust: Some Methodological Challenges
      (pp. 181-189)
      Saul Friedländer

      “With history,” wrote Michel de Certeau, “you begin by putting aside, gathering, thus transforming into ‘documents’ certain objects that have been distributed differently. This new cultural distribution is the first task. In reality, it consists inProducingsuch documents by copying, transcribing or photographing these objects and, in so doing, changing their place and their status.”¹ In collecting “documents” for the history of the Holocaust, several very different archives have been constituted and several quasi-autonomous histories written. This chapter will deal with reshuffling or, in other words, reorganizing such previously separate entities in order to produce an integrated history of the...

    • CHAPTER 10 Truth and Circumstance: What (If Anything) Can Be Properly Said about the Holocaust?
      (pp. 190-202)
      Hayden White

      Under what circumstances would it be impertinent, tactless, or simply irrelevant to ask of a discourse which manifestly refers to the real world, past, present, or future, the question: “Is it true?” And if there are certain utterances (expressions, allusions, suggestions, statements, propositions, or assertions) about the real world for which the question “Is it true?” is beside the point, what kinds of responses, if any, would be appropriate for utterances of this kind?

      I pose these questions in the context of an ongoing discussion of what would constitute a “proper” representation of the Holocaust, an event so traumatic for...

    • CHAPTER 11 Modernist Holocaust Historiography: A Dialogue between Saul Friedländer and Hayden White
      (pp. 203-230)
      Wulf Kansteiner

      Many years before Saul Friedländer started to write his own comprehensive history of the Holocaust he described the difficult balancing act that a successful synthetic history of Nazi genocide would have to accomplish. In his view, such a comprehensive account should reflect state-of-the-art historical scholarship, including an exhaustive study of available primary documents and testimonies. Only full command of the facts can “establish as reliable a narrative as possible,” convey the true extent of the Nazi crimes, and thus counter lingering revisionist or otherwise apologetic renditions of Nazi history.¹ However, while Friedländer invoked and embraced the rigors of academic historical...

  8. Part IV: The Holocaust in the World

    • CHAPTER 12 The Holocaust and European History
      (pp. 233-254)
      Donald Bloxham

      My title alludes to a particular contextualization of the Holocaust. It is obviously not the only possible contexualization, and cannot claim to be an especially appropriate one, because what qualifies as appropriate depends upon the particular questions asked of the thing contextualized. Dirk Moses’ fascinating chapter discusses the subject in the context of world history; I seek to narrow the focus in a complementary way. My goal is to examine the Holocaust in a spatiotemporalRaumof great violence against population groups, but in a way that retains the historian’s sensitivity to specificity: I portray the Holocaust as an only...

    • CHAPTER 13 Fascism and the Holocaust
      (pp. 255-271)
      Federico Finchelstein

      In this chapter I want to explore the relations between intellectual history and political history vis-à-vis transnational approaches in historiography. My comments are rooted in my own research and theoretical experiences as an historian of transnational fascism and genocide.

      I will first engage in a historiographical reading of fascism as a critical subject of global history. I will then deal with fascism’s ultimate and more extreme realization, the Holocaust. Understood as the product of ideological global encounters, the Shoah poses significant challenges to the global history of ideology and politics.

      It is somewhat puzzling that two historical formations that are...

    • CHAPTER 14 The Holocaust and World History: Raphael Lemkin and Comparative Methodology
      (pp. 272-289)
      A. Dirk Moses

      “The Holocaust and world history” is not a theme usually posited by philosophers of history or world historians. It is implied most often by scholars in Jewish studies, Holocaust historiography and genocide studies when they declare that the Nazi attempt to exterminate European Jewry is unique, unprecedented, unparalleled, or singular—compared to other genocides in world history. Such claims have roots that long precede the genocide of the 1940s. Already in 1846, the prominent German-Jewish historian Heinrich Graetz lamented, “This is the eighteenth hundred-year era of the Diaspora, of unprecedented suffering, of uninterrupted martyrdom without parallel in world history,” indeed...

  9. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 290-309)
  10. Contributors
    (pp. 310-312)
  11. Index
    (pp. 313-323)