1/30/2007

Haredi Holocaust Research

There's an article in today's Haaretz about Holocaust studies in Haredi society. I wonder if this signifies a shift from Holocaust as 'memory' to Holocaust as 'history'. It's not like the Holocaust has been absent from Haredi consciousness until now. Rather, the Holocaust (or the Shoah, or Churban Europa) has shaped post-War Haredi society in profound ways, and often consciously so.

[the following story comes to mind: A Haredi couple sits at the airport, many kids in tow. The kids get antsy and make some noise. A bystander (in some versions it's a non-religious Jew; in others, it's a German) asks contemptuously how many kids will they need to have until they decide they are finished. The mother replies, "Six million"]

However, Holocaust consciousness in the Haredi world doesn't take the shape of a historical discipline. It's about stories - some aporcyphal, some not; some with tragic endings, some with happy endings; some natural, some miraculous - that transmit a memory of massive loss that we have not yet overcome. Hard facts, research, and even long memoirs are not part of the process.

If there is a shift, I would think that it's somewhat sad. History, as Yerushalmi wrote in Zakhor, comes to take the place of failed memory. I think that there's still a lot of memory being transmitted, but perhaps fewer and fewer people have access to it. In any event, I'm very interested to see how this develops. The story of Haredim in the Holocaust, other than a few examples like the Piaceczno Rebbe, the Mir in Shanghai, the Beis Yaakov martyrs, the Belzer Rebbe's farewell speech, and the stories in Yaffa Eliach's "Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust ", hads not been adequately told.
Hat tip: Joel
Post a Comment