Wrestling with God: Jewish Theological Responses during and after the Holocaust edited by Steven T. Katz, Shlomo Biderman, Gershon Greenberg (Oxford University Press) (Paperback) this volume presents a wide-ranging, extremely diverse selection of Jewish theological responses to the Holocaust. It is the most complete anthology of its kind, bringing together for the first time a large sample of ultra-orthodox sources produced during the war and Just after its end, translated from the Hebrew and Yiddish; a substantial selection of essays, originally written in Hebrew, by Israeli thinkers; and a broad sampling of works by Amencan and European philosophers and theologians. These diverse selections represent virtually every significant theological position that has been articulated by a Jewish thinker in response to the Holocaust.
The essays deal with the many fundamental questions that arise from reflection on the genocidal assault on the Jews by the Nazi State and its collaborators. For example: Can one quantify good and evil? Does the Holocaust disconfirm Judaism's basic theological claims? Does the rebirth of the State of Israel reconfirm traditional theological claims? Is Jewish history in any way singular? Is the Holocaust unique? If so, what is the theological meaning, if any, of this uniqueness? What does it mean to speak of Divine Providence and God's intervention in human affairs? What is revelation? What is covenant? What does the problem of evil say about limits to God's character and attributes? Is the reborn State of Israel God's compensation for the death camps?
Each of the three sections of the book is prefaced by a substantial introduction that contextualizes the material reproduced and explains what is distinctive about it. Introductions to individual authors and selected bibliographies are also provided.
This comprehensive volume is an invaluable resource for scholars and students of Jewish studies, theology, and the Holocaust.
Steven T. Katz: Excerpt from general Introduction: This collection of Jewish theological responses to the Holocaust presents a wide-ranging selection of fundamental and important material. Indeed, it is the most complete anthology of its sort ever assembled. It is constructed in three sections, each the work of a different editor. Part I brings together for the first time a major selection of ultra-Orthodox responses to the Holocaust, written originally in Hebrew and Yiddish during and after the war. These writings show a profound, distinctive, religious sensibility that grew out of a deep commitment to the Jewish theological tradition. Though diverse, they all retain a commitment to the God of Israel and the Orthodox norms ofJewish life. Part II contains a substantial selection of essays written over the past half-century by Israeli authors. These essays were, for the most part, originally written in Hebrew, and they reflect both the subterranean and overt ideological influences operating in the rebuilt Jewish Zionist state. Compared to the selections in the first part, they also reveal a wider spectrum of theological opinion, ranging from staunch defenders of the Jewish tradition to those who affirm the nonexistence of God. Part III collects a broad sampling of works originally written in English and French by American and European authors since the 1950s. These selections contain both defenders of the normative Jewish theological tradition and radical theological innovators. These views range from the claim that "God is dead," to those of conservative thinkers who attempt to respond to the Holocaust by recycling classical defenses of God, drawing on biblical models such as the "binding of Isaac," the "suffering servant" of the Book of Isaiah, and that offered by the Book of Job, among others. Taken in their totality, the highly diverse statements in the three sections of this collection represent just about every significant theological position that has been articulated by a Jewish thinker in response to the Holocaust.
To help readers find their way in the complex theological material that has been assembled here, the editor of each of the three sections has provided both an overall introduction to his section of this anthology, explaining therein what is special, notable, and valuable about the material selected for inclusion, as well as an introduction to each individual selection. Thus, readers can gain a broader contextual understanding of the material being studied as well as a more intimate biographical knowledge of the particular authors whose work is here represented. The introductions to the individual authors also conclude with a selected bibliography that provides material for further study. In addition, each of the three parts of the collection concludes with a selected bibliography. In consequence, students should find this anthology user-friendly, even though the issues it takes up are both emotionally and intellectually challenging.
The material in this collection deals with fundamental theological matters that arise as a consequence of reflecting on the genocidal assault on the Jewish people by the Nazi state and its collaborators. In the separate introductions to the three sections of this work, the many theological responses that have been put forward will be described and analyzed in more detail. Here, at the beginning of this anthology, I will only point out, in brief and schematic form, some of the most pressing methodological and philosophical questions to which students need to be sensitive when pursuing their study of this complex material. For example:
It should also be noted at the outset of this investigation that while the Holocaust raises the host of questions just listed and directly challenges almost all of the basic traditional Jewish theological categories, it does not necessarily falsify nor discredit them such that they require alteration, reformulation, or negation. Any argument in this direction that either asks for specific modifications or reformulations or, more radically, proposes total rejection of the Jewish theological tradition requires coherent and compelling reasons. And, let it be said clearly, to produce such reasons, such an argument, is not a simple matter. Alternatively, one cannot simply assume the correctness of the classical metaphysical assumptions that underlie the traditional theological responses to the world's evil. God's asserted existence, and His nature, have to be argued for by theists no less than God's asserted non-existence has to be argued for by atheists.
Readers should be aware that over the decades since the end of World War II—and even in the midst of the war—a number of Hebrew and English terms began to be used to describe the murder of European Jewry. The most common in English is the word Holocaust. Though it is unclear when it was first introduced to refer to the murder of European Jewry—Elie Wiesel used it early on and is often credited with its employment in this specific context—the word is drawn from a specific form of biblical sacrifice that involved an animal offering that was wholly consumed by fire. A second term that has become commonly used is Shoah, a Hebrew word meaning "catastrophe." This term is often preferred because it does not carry the religious, i.e., biblical, associations connected to the word Holocaust. A third term that is regularly used in Hebrew and Yiddish sources is the term Hurban. This is a term that has traditionally been used in Jewish sources to describe the destruction of the First and Second Temples as well as subsequent national tragedies. In the selections reprinted in this volume, students will encounter all three of these locutions as well as some others, e.g., the tremendum, coined by contemporary authors struggling to find what they feel is a still more accurate description of the tragic, overwhelming, at times seemingly incomprehensible events to which they are referring. Though these terms have different histories and different connotations, this diversity of nomenclature should not present a problem for readers. At the same time, however, readers should be sensitive to the alternative meanings these words carry, especially the deep religious associations carried by the terms Holocaust and Hurban.
Gershon Greenberg: Excerpt Part 1 Introduction: As the Jewish communities in Europe were being shattered and those in Palestine and America were seized with shock and a sense of unspeakable loss, Jewish religious thinkers found a way to continue their activity, both within and around the Holocaust. The history ofJewish thought itself was not broken. But for two decades thereafter, the existence and path of wartime thought were overlooked by the historians, even denied. The situation began to change when Mendel Piekarz published his bibliography of wartime sources for religious thought in 1967; Pessah Schindler wrote on wartime hasidic responses in the 1970s; Pinhas Peli opened the window to the data in terms of religious language; and the journal Sinai ( Jerusalem) identified theological dimensions to wartime Responsa literature. In the 1980s, Ephraim Shmueli wrote about Yitshak Menahem Danziger's response; Yitshak Herman placed Elhanan Wasserman's reaction in the context of his predecessor, the Hofets Hayim Yisrael Meir Hakohen), and his successor, R. Elazar Menahem Man Shakh; and Nehemiah Polen researched Kalonymous Kalman Shapira's Esh Kodesh (Holy Fire) from the Warsaw ghetto. Toward the end of the 1980s, there were conferences at Bar Ilan and Yeshiva universities. In the 1990s, the research of Eliezer Schweid and Gershon Greenberg was published.'
What could account for the delay in integrating Holocaust era religious thought into the history of Jewish thought? To begin with, there was an overall paralysis in reacting to the trauma. Next, the sources were almost exclusively Orthodox (and in Hebrew and Yiddish), and they tended to be ignored by the non-Orthodox.2 Orthodox scholars, for their part, were not inclined to study their intellectual history—perhaps because of a primary concern for religious practice. Also, leading religious philosophers of the Holocaust did not cite them. Emil Fackenheim, for example, wrote in 1970 that questions born of Auschwitz were so terrifying that "until a few years ago Jewish theological thought has observed a near total silence on the subject of the Holocaust. A well-justified fear and trembling, and a crushing sense of the most awesome responsibility to four thousand years of Jewish faith ... has kept Jewish theological thought, like Job, in a state of silence." And Arthur A. Cohen likewise averred, though incorrectly, that the historical caesura identifiable with the Holocaust bore a theological silence which prevailed for two decades until "a new moment in the assimilation of the historical reality had begun."
The wartime thinkers expressed themselves from a variety of situations. Several were in occupied areas, ghettos, and camps. Of these, Avraham Yitshak Bloch, Wasserman,
Shapira, Unsdorfer, Ehrenreich, Tsevi Elimelekh Talmud, Avraham Grodzensky, and Shabtai Rappaport were killed; Yehudah Layb Gersht and Ya'akov Kaplan survived.' Taykhtahl and Rokeah offered their reflections from the border of the catastrophe in Budapest. Others escaped when it began and managed to find safe refuge: Jakob Rosenheim, Elberg, and Schneersohn.6 Eliahu Botschko lived through the war in Montreux, Switzerland;? Eliahu Dessler resided in London and Gateshead, England; Breuer, Reuven Katz, Amiel, Zalman Shragai, Sarna, and Tsimerman viewed the catastrophe from Palestine; and Gedaliah Bublick, Aharon Petshenik, and Eliezer Silver spent the years in America. In existential terms, those within the catastrophe were simultaneously subjects (observers) and objects (victims). Those who escaped became primarily subjects. Those in Palestine and America remained subjects throughout. However, as Eliezer Schweid has observed, all of these thinkers drew from traditional, transhistorical sources to justify God, to repair damaged faith, and to reestablish absolute commitment to God in the present. The classical sources provided a vital energy which helped the communities to endure. Insofar as faith was central, the process of interpretation and explanation may have enhanced the very desire to live.
The theological writings of these Orthodox thinkers mingled historical and empirical terms with biblical and midrashic language. They also alternated their stances among history, metahistory (i.e., God's everlasting covenantal relationship with Israel over time), and what may be called "ontology" (the dramatic interplay among the metaphysical realities of catastrophe, redemption, and penitent return). Thus, divine intervention (metahistorical) was interpreted as a response to Jewish assimilation in the modern era in measure-to-measure fashion—for example, Nazi strictures against Jews' entering public places were seen as punishment for Jews having attended theaters. Or, the onset of the historical tragedy represented by Nazism was interpreted as the consequence of the decline in Torah observance (metahistorical) and indicated that a higher transition was under way from messianic calamity to messianic redemption (ontological). In his study of the Esh Kodesh, Nehemiah Polen has shown how Shapira engaged in the study of the Torah text in order to transcend the horrific circumstances. So, for example, Shapira identified hints in Scripture that pointed to the contemporary situation, creating a reciprocal relationship between the biblical or rabbinic text and the current, horrific circumstance. The human situation prompted a search to uncover new meaning in the inherited text while a central textual idea bestowed significance upon the contemporary events. The metahistorical, that is, timeless, reality of Scripture framed the understanding of historical reality.
Paradox and ambiguity pervaded this form of theological reflection. For example, God was described as free, transcendent, and omnipotent, but when the people of Israel sinned, He necessarily reacted by punishing them. Israel brought about divine reactions in history, but whether Israel's action was causal, coincidental, or evocative was left undefined. Were the people of Israel to atone to remove God's punishment, God's response would not be in kind (historical and metahistorical), restoring the status quo ante, but would shift into the framework of redemption (ontological). Again, while the Nazis were absolutely evil, seeking even to preempt God's role in the world, God, who is absolutely good, was said to employ them as His instrument. Note too, that the chaos of the Holocaust was attributed to the disregard of the Torah and its obligations, but the primary victims were those who observed Torah. God was all powerful, but once He delegated the punishment of Israel to the contemporary descendants of Esau, He lost control over the punishment. Further, the Jews who were sinners were primarily responsible for the disaster, but the suffering of the righteous was disproportionately greater. Then, finally, it was expected that once there was total disaster, redemption would certainly follow, but redemption could not take place unless the people—whose sinfulness had brought about the calamity—performed teshuvah (penitent return). Remarkably, these and other paradoxes and ambiguities did not appear to overwhelm, to silence, the thinkers. They lived with them, demonstrating de facto that the ideas nevertheless functioned as viable components of religious life.
One needs also to note that, in the thought of these luminaries, central theological terms remained imprecise: "Israel" referred both to the corporate Jewish entity and to the spirituality of the nation. "Torah" referred both to the Pentateuch (the five Books of Moses) and to an undefined expanse of scriptural and rabbinic literature. Geza referred variously to racial (but nonbiological), cultural, or tribal legacies. Then, too, the relationship between symbol and reality remained unclear. Tsimennan, for example, invoked the sixteenth-century kabbalist Hayim Vital's notion that the souls of one generation could return to a later generation for punishment, and he averred that the Holocaust was the punishment for several earlier sinful generations. But did he believe this literally, or was this a desperately needed expression to explain the catastrophe without implying that God had lost control over the souls of Israel? Likewise, Schneersohn spoke of the imminent death of all of the non-Jews who did not bear the imprint of (the righteous) Noah, along with Jews situated outside the boundaries of the teshuvah refuge called Goshen. But did he really expect actual mass death, or was this his way of expressing his premise that God controlled the world's good and evil? Similarly, Amid connected the rampant secularism of the emerging Jewish community [in Palestine] (known as the Yishuv, which came into being at the end of the nineteenth century and during the first several decades of the twentieth century) with the suffering ofJews in the diaspora at the hands of God's instruments of punishment. But did he really believe that punishment was so capricious that it touched millions who were innocent and bore no responsibility? Did he believe that the universe, irrespective of geography or causality, functioned in some Manichaean (dualistic) fashion under God? It should also be recognized that references to the Holocaust per se varied from symbolic, to direct, to implicit. Dessler, Harlap, and Yehudah Ashlag wrote of massive suffering and the ascent of the realm of anti-being (the Sitra Ahra), but rarely referred directly to the events of the war."
Shlomo Biderman: Excerpt part 2 Introduction: Is the Holocaust an "unprecedented event"? Eliezer Schweid, in his essay "Is the Shoah a Unique Event?" republished in this anthology, stresses the persistence of this question and argues very convincingly that everyone who studies the Shoah should refrain from seeing the extermination of European Jewry as comparable to other accounts of murder or genocide. Schweid identifies a number of elements that establish the uniqueness of the Shoah. These include the intent to extirpate a people by the physical slaughter of every one of its members, down to the very last individual; the systematic planning of the destruction; the unparalleled extent of the killing, even when compared with attempts at genocide of other peoples; the total dehumanization of the victims; and the intent to commit genocide not for any specific material, political, or territorial advantages but rather because of the victimized group's putative racial identity.' Seconding this view, Pinchas Peli, in an essay also reprinted in this collection, outlines the uniqueness of the Holocaust clearly and sharply, relying on the thought of Emil Fackenheim. He claims that the Shoah was unique not only because it was the embodiment of the ugliest, most iniquitous evil in the Western world, but also because it overturned a number of hitherto accepted historical, philosophical, sociological, and anthropological assumptions.3
As these two essays suggest, any philosophical or theological discussion of the Nazis' annihilation of European Jewry should lead not only to an examination of the nature of evil as such but also to a revision of the regular ways of speaking about evil, as these have found expression in the annals of Western thought. The more one contemplates the monstrous dimensions of the plan to destroy the Jewish people, the harder it is to miss the uniqueness of these evil deeds, even against the background of other acts of evil. But I believe that Schweid, and Peli before him, both neglect a highly important feature of the uniqueness of the Holocaust. I refer here to the complex and morbid combination, second to none, of capricious arbitrariness and minute design, happenstance and planning, chance and ideology present in the destruction of European Jewry.
On the one hand, the Nazis demonstrated incomprehensible randomness in their Jew killing. One image that indicates this randomness is provided, for example, in a terrifying scene in Roman Polansky's film The Pianist. A German SS officer encounters a gang of Jewish prisoners on their way to forced labor. Spontaneously, he orders them to kneel down, and while they obey, he pulls out his pistol and shoots them, head by head, one after the other. He takes no visible pleasure in the deed and has no particular motive; he just kills them for no reason. This randomness—which reflects the actual happenstance of the Shoah—was only possible, of course, because of the process of total dehumanization that the Jews underwent in the eyes of the German. Yet, paradoxically, the annihilation of the Jews revealed consistent premeditation, from its abstract ideological basis (in the Nazi racial Weltanschauung), down to enforcement on the most individual level. A tight thread ran from Hitler's paranoid preoccupation with "international Jewry" and Himmler's speeches morally justifying the right to kill Jews to the punctilious attention to the schedules of the trains operated by the German railway system, which governed the "shipments" to the death camps.
From a philosophical viewpoint, this apparent inconsistency, these apparent contradictions, highlight the unique feature of the evil that was the Shoah. In a way similar to other historical instances of collective brutality, the Germans deprived their victims of their status as human beings; but unlike these other acts of dehumanization, Hitler's negation of the humanity of the individual Jew was invariably intertwined, in the most horrendous manner conceivable, with the attribution of degeneracy to the Jewish people in its entirety. That is, every individual Jew, by virtue of his or her racial character—the "blood" in Nazi parlance—was subhuman. Thus, while the Nazi evil deprived Jews of their status as human beings, it did not invalidate their possession of a distinct, inferior self-identity. The Jew was thus both a subhuman object and an autonomous subject. This double negation was actually vital to the Nazis because it served to justify the annihilation itself, at various levels of abstraction. As such, while the Holocaust is, of course, a "modern" event, it still retains a hidden religious way of thinking: Jews must be exterminated because they all belong to an ethnic group that by virtue of its essential (dangerous, racial) character not only deserves but demands extermination. The "Jew" constructed by Hitler's racial doctrine is both dangerous to the whole of humanity as well as subhuman, belonging to a different order of nature toward which the normal moral obligations that obtain vis-a-vis humankind do not apply.
There is no denying that Israeli philosophers and religious thinkers found these bizarre doctrines and beliefs difficult to understand and assimilate. From the time of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 until the last decade of the twentieth century, one can sense the severe difficulty felt by Israeli intellectuals in confronting the epistemic and moral problems embodied in and generated by the Shoah.4 The source and nature of this difficulty, however, were not intellectual nor conceptual but rather psychological. Indeed, to follow the philosophical and religious reaction to the Shoah in Israel during that period is to learn a lesson in the mechanics of repression.
This repression stemmed from Zionist ideology as understood, interpreted, and implemented during the early decades of Israel's existence as an independent, sovereign country. Zionist ideology, in its various classical forms, sought to establish a unique Israeli identity based on a dialectical synthesis of two opposing factors: traditional Jewish identity, on the one hand, and a vague image of what it understood to be the secular "man of enlightenment," on the other hand. But, in truth, one has good reason to doubt whether Zionism, in practice, ever successfully realized the incarnation of this dialectic pattern. The Zionist principle of the "negation of the diaspora," i.e., the need to end the situation in which Jews lived outside the land of Israel, a dogma taught by classical Zionist thought, was supposed to lead to a sort of Hegelian aufhebung (overcoming and synthetic transformation), which would culminate in a new Israeli Jew. In actuality, however, Zionist ideology based the image of the Israeli upon a simple process of negation. If anything, it established the new Israeli primarily through the methodical deconstruction of Jewish history.
Take, for example, the attempt to base Zionist Judaism on a somewhat synthetic version of biblical Judaism, while ignoring the historical authenticity of the diaspora and the two-thousand-year Jewish experience of exile. Consequently, Zionism, as it was cultivated in Israel, essentially recognized the new Israeli Jew as the consummate negation of the "diaspora Jew," and nothing else. It characterized the diaspora Jew as passive, submissive, and wholly at the mercy of circumstances beyond his control. And then, almost stereotypically, it constructed the image of the modern Israeli as the total opposite of what it took to be the traditional image of the diaspora Jew. As Alan Mintz has succinctly put it, "the new kind of Jew ... consciously defined his stance toward the world of power and the question of self-defense as the antithesis of the passive creatures stigmatized in Bialik's In the City of Slaughter."
The Shoah seems to have supplied cruel support for both the negation of the diaspora Jew and the establishment of the alternative Zionist paradigm of what it is to be an Israeli. Zionist ideology described the Shoah as merely another punishing event in the lives (and deaths) ofJews who were unable, untrained, or unwilling to alter the historic and existential reality in which they found themselves. There is no need to go into detail in recalling the intense difficulties of integration that Shoah survivors experienced in the Land of Israel. Many survivors felt that Israelis who had not experienced the Shoah strongly repressed the entire subject. Indeed, while it was going on, they were involved in building the new Israeli experience. The Shoah was seen as a tragedy better left unmentioned, for any discussion would readily lead to recognition of the contrast between the active Israeli Jew, solely responsible for the reality he was building and maintaining, and his polar opposite, the diaspora Jew who, afflicted and subjugated, was carried along by the tide. Some survivors saw no choice but to cooperate with the repressors. The most shocking example of this was that some survivors attempted to remove the tattooed numbers imprinted by the Nazis from their arms. Others were obsessively careful to wear long sleeves, hiding the tattoos from native Israeli eyes.
Repression was not limited to the strange relationship between survivors and older, more-settled Israelis; the sovereign institutions of the emerging State of Israel also declared it openly. The term Shoah, used to describe the events in Europe in the 1940s, stems from biblical language: "What will you do about the day of retribution, about catastrophe [shoah] that comes from afar?" (Isaiah 10:3), and "There will come upon you suddenly a catastrophe [shoah], such as you have never known" (Isaiah 47:11).6 This word describes misfortune that visits a people from a truly distant place, "from afar," and that falls upon them "suddenly." This adversity comes upon a people (as retribution) without their knowledge of its timing. And it is inevitable. What is more, the Shoah was "bequeathed" to the young country's citizens largely through the emphasis on an ethos of heroic acts performed by a small number of Jews in the ghettos and death camps of Europe who, in contrast to the majority of Jewish victims, who were said to have been passive in the face of death, acted as heroes through their active, physical, military opposition to Nazi persecution.
This identification represented more than a scathing denial of the status of European Jews as victims; it also appropriated the Holocaust and identified it with the underground activities of struggle and vigorous opposition. This move created a common bond between those Jewish fighters in Europe and their Israeli counterparts, who at that same time were organizing their own undergrounds and paramilitary frameworks to fight the British and, later, the Arabs. Reflecting on this connection, Dan Laor has noted the analogy between "the miracle of heroism manifested during the uprising in Europe, and the values of bravery and staunch defiance expressed during the War of Independence."' And he has called attention to the distinctive formulation of the law adopted by the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, for the national Memorial Day that was designated as Yom Hazikaron LaShoah u'La-Gevurah (Day of Remembrance for the Destruction and the Resistance [to the Nazis]). Regarding this legislation he reminds us that:
According to a Knesset decision in 1951, each year the 27th day of Nissan will be declared a national day of unity with the six million. On this date, between Passover and Israel's Independence Day, inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto declared their uprising. The choice of this day for remembering the Holocaust, and the conjunction of the terms "Holocaust" [Shoah] and "heroism" [gevurah], clearly reflects the collective wish to emphasize the place and the value of armed resistance during the Shoah....
The connection between the Jewish reality [of the underground that fought the Nazis] in the diaspora and the present-day reality of Israel has strengthened the by-now familiar rejection of the passivity, submissiveness, and surrender associated with the Jewish masses and the official leadership of their communities.
The inner dynamics of these repressive symptoms represent an inability to accept the identity of the Jew as that of a victim, as happened throughout Jewish history in the diaspora, climaxing in the Nazis' destruction of European Jewry. Israeli identity must never again be based on being a victim. A victim cannot be a subject. If most of those killed in the Shoah behaved with complete passivity (in other words, if most of the murdered were simply "victims"), then the best way of responding to their plight was avoidance, an ignoring of their situation. Thus, philosophers and intellectuals who accepted the Zionist ethos avoided discussion regarding the question of evil during the Holocaust. Turning Nazi evil into a Shoah and then immediately neutralizing this evil through the semantic maneuver of turning the term Shoah into "Holocaust and heroism"—the latter term obscuring the former—preempted such a needed discussion and denied the status of subject to those who were destroyed. The Zionist concept of the Shoah awarded that position, i.e., the dignity of being a subject, only to those who demonstrated activity, who fought and took fate into their own hands.
Even a cursory glance at these attempts at repression reveals that they were usually followed by an aggressive reaction of moral condemnation. I refer here, in particular, to all those debates, polemics, accusations, and denunciations that branded Shoah victims as "sheep taken to the slaughter." Granting esteem to those few who fought the enemy was supposed to facilitate the avoidance of specific reference to the overwhelming majority of European Jews who had seemingly placed their necks on the chopping block. This act of denial, however, did not always succeed. The accusing questions then arose, sometimes indirectly and discreetly but very often so aggressively as to be vulgar: Why did you go like sheep to the slaughter? The rhetorical formulation of this question, as well as the tone in which it was put forward, made it a question that was impossible to answer, especially within the mainstream of the new Israeli society, which essentially maintained a secular way of life. Answering this painful and difficult question was, thus, left to the ultra-Orthodox thinkers, most of whom were also committed ideologically to an anti-Zionist or non-Zionist religiopolitical position.
Steven T. Katz: Part 3 Introduction: The selections included in this section are drawn from European and American authors. The views expressed range across the entire theological spectrum from those that are very traditional to those that conclude that the Holocaust proves God's nonexistence. Each position is thoughtful and, in its own way, provocative. But all are open to critical interrogation and various forms of rebuttal.
The responses come mainly in two forms. The first set primarily draws upon and recycles explanatory models that have their roots in the Bible. That is, they employ explanations that were first offered in the Bible in response to the perennial questions of theodicy and human suffering. Now, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, these accounts are again appealed to, with modifications, to provide an understanding of the interaction of God and man and God and Israel. The second set of responses is composed of new answers that attempt to reconfigure the theological landscape in various original ways in light of the profound theological difficulties engendered by the existence of Einsatzgruppen (Hitler's murder squads in Eastern Europe) and the death camps.
Given the importance of these positions, some old, some new, it will be of help to readers, especially those just beginning their study of these issues, if each is described individually with its main conceptual features highlighted.
Let us begin with an examination of the six biblical models, starting with the famous event of the Akedah, "the binding of Isaac."
1. The Akedah: The Binding of Isaac
The biblical narrative that begins in Genesis 22:2, which reports the "binding of Isaac" by his father, Abraham, in anticipation of his being sacrificed in fulfillment of God's command, is often appealed to as a possible paradigm for treating the Holocaust. Such a theological move is well grounded in Jewish tradition, especially given its use in the medieval Hebrew martyrologies of the Crusader and post-Crusader period (late eleventh and twelfth centuries), during which the biblical event of the Akedah became the prism through which the horrific Jewish medieval experience became refracted and was made "intelligible" to Jews of that era. In these medieval narratives, the Jewish children of medieval Europe, and more generally all the Jews slaughtered by the Crusaders, were perceived, like Isaac of old, as martyrs to God who willingly sacrificed themselves and their loved ones in order to prove beyond all doubt their faithfulness to the Almighty)
Now again, after the Holocaust, this religious model is used to describe the victims of Hitler's crusade to make the world Judenrein, free of Jews. The great appeal
of this decipherment lies in its imputation to the dead of heroism and unwavering religious faith. Their deaths are not due to sin or to any imperfection on their part, nor are they the consequence of any violation of the covenant. Rather, they are the climactic evidence of the Jews' unwavering devotion to the faith of their fathers. Just as the Jews of medieval Europe, confronted by the Crusader bands, chose to kill their children and die themselves'' rather than convert to Christianity and save their lives, thus affirming their belief in the truth of Judaism in the most dramatic and absolute way, so, too, the Jewish people—confronted by the satanic forces of Nazism—died as martyrs for their God. Thus, piety, not sin, is the key factor in accounting for the Holocaust. God makes unique demands upon those who love Him and whom He loves, and as with Abraham and Isaac, so too the Jewish people in our time responded with fidelity and selflessness. As such, the dreadful events become a test, the occasion for the maximal religious service "even unto death."
This response to the Holocaust is not without its intellectual and emotional appeal. Yet readers should carefully evaluate its claims, and the analogies upon which it rests, before concluding that it supplies a full "answer" to Auschwitz and Treblinka. Students need to think hard about just how exact the parallel between the Akedah and the Holocaust is. For example, in the Akedah, it is Abraham who is commanded to kill the son he loves. In the Holocaust, Hitler kills the Jews he hates. This murder creates no emotional or ethical "problem" for him; he is more than happy to carry it out.
The biblical Book of Job, the best-known treatment of theodicy in the Hebrew Bible, naturally presents itself as a second possible model for decoding the Holocaust. For example, Martin Buber, Eliezer Berkovits, and Robert Gordis, all represented in this anthology, have all discussed its relevance in the context of post-Holocaust Jewish theology. That this should be the case is not surprising for Job provides an inviting paradigm in that Job's suffering is caused not by his sinfulness but rather by his righteousness—perceived by Satan as a cause for jealousy. Moreover, the tale ends on a "happy" note: Job is rewarded by God for his faithfulness with a double blessing. On a deeper level, of course, the issues are far more problematic and their meaning ambiguous. Consider that the resolution of Job's doubts is never really clear, that God's reply through the whirlwind (ch. 38) is, in important ways, no answer to his questions, and perhaps most telling, that his first wife and family are still dead through no fault of their own. It is, therefore, not surprising that the ultimate meaning of the book is unclear and much argued about and that its applicability to the Holocaust is much contested.
3. The "Suffering Servant"
One of the most influential biblical doctrines framed in response to the "problem of evil" is that of the "suffering servant."; Given its classic presentation in the Book of Isaiah (especially ch. 53), the suffering servant doctrine suggests that the righteous vicariously suffer and atone for the wicked and hence, in some mysterious way, allay God's wrath and judgment, thus making the continuation of history possible.
According to the majority of traditional Jewish interpreters, the suffering servant is the nation of Israel, the people of the covenant, who suffer with and for God in the midst of the evil of creation. As God is long suffering with His creation, so Israel, God's people, must be long suffering. In this, they mirror the divine in their own
reality and, while suffering for others, make it possible for creation to endure. Moreover, through this act of faithfulness the guiltless establish a unique bond with the Almighty. As they suffer for and with Him, He suffers their suffering, shares their agony, and comes to love them in a special way for loving Him with such fortitude and without limit.
This theme, as already evidenced in Parts I and II of this anthology, has been enunciated in Jewish theological writings emanating from the Holocaust era itself, as well as in post-Holocaust sources. One finds it in the teachings of hasidic rebbes as well as Conservative thinkers, such as Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Orthodox thinkers, such as Eliezer Berkovits—both of whom are represented in this anthology. In these modern sources it receives a classical exposition. For example, Berkovits writes: "God's servant carries upon his shoulders God's dilemma with man through history. God's people share in all the fortunes of God's dilemma as man is bungling his way through toward messianic realization."
It should also be noted that one contemporary Jewish theologian in particular has gone beyond the traditional framework and used the suffering servant idea to construct an elaborate, very novel, reading of the Holocaust. For Ignaz Maybaum, a German Reform rabbi who survived the war in London (and whose position is represented in the selection of his writing below), the pattern of the suffering servant is the paradigm of Israel's way in history. First in the "servant of God" in Isaiah, then in the Jew Jesus, and now at Treblinka and Auschwitz, God uses the Jewish people to address the world and to save it: "They died though innocent so that others might live." According to this decipherment of the Holocaust, the perennial dialectic of history is God's desire that the gentile nations come close to Him, while they resist this call. Therefore, the special God-given task, the "mission" of Israel, is to foster and facilitate this relationship between God and the nations. It is they who must make God's message accessible in terms that the gentile nations will understand and respond to. But what language, what symbols, will speak to the nations? Not that of the Akedah in which Isaac is spared and no blood is shed but rather, and only, that of the crucifixion, i.e., a sacrifice in which the innocent die for the guilty, where some die vicariously so that others might live.
Accordingly, modern Israel repeats collectively the single crucifixion of one Jew two millennia ago, and by so doing again reveals to humankind its weaknesses, as well as the need for man to turn to Heaven for instruction and salvation. In a daring parallelism, Maybaum writes:
The Golgotha of modern mankind is Auschwitz. The cross, the Roman gallows, was replaced by the gas chamber. The gentiles, it seems, must first be terrified by the blood of the sacrificed scapegoat to have the mercy of God revealed to them and become converted, become baptized gentiles, become Christians.
For Maybaum, through the Holocaust, the world again moves morally and theologically forward and upward finally transcending the last vestiges of medieval obscurantism and intolerance, the very phenomena that produced the Shoah.
The theological deconstruction of the Holocaust using the suffering servant model can thus be seen to be interesting as well as challenging. Readers, however, must pause and carefully examine the plausibility of this response—and in particular Maybaum's unique rendering of this doctrine—before concluding that it supplies the needed explanation for the murder of European Jewry. And this not least because they need to ask questions about the logic of the suffering servant thesis itself. That is, they must carefully examine the notion of vicarious suffering and the issues it raises concerning God's activity in history. Would God really cause the deaths of six million people in order to make a point?
4. Hester Panim: "God Hides His Face"
The Bible, in wrestling with the problem of human suffering, appeals in a number of places to the notion of Hester Panim: "the hiding of the face of God." This concept has two meanings. The first, in Deuteronomy 31:17-18 and later in Micah 3:4, is a causal one that links God's "absence" from the unfolding historical events to human sin: God turns away from the sinner. The second sense, found particularly in a number of psalms (e.g., Psalms 44, 69, 88, and variants in, e.g., Psalms 9, 10, 13; see also Job 13:24), does not relate God's absence to sin but, instead, suggests human despair and confusion—and even protest—over His "disappearance" for no reason that can be discerned. Here mankind stands "abandoned" for reasons that are unknown and unfathomable. Thus the repetitive theme of lament sounded in the psalms: "Why" or "how long," God, will You be absent? And the putting of the bewildering question: Is it possible for God to be continually indifferent to human affairs, to be passive in the struggle between good and evil, to be unmoved by suffering and its overcoming?
In applying this unusual doctrine to the Holocaust, modern theologians—for example, Martin Buber, Joseph Soloveitchik, Zvi Kolitz, and Eliezer Berkovits, all of whom are represented in the selections that follow this introduction—are attempting to do three things: (a) to vindicate the Jewish people, i.e., the death camps are not the consequence of sin and do not represent Divine punishment; (b) to remove God as the direct cause of the evil, i.e., the Holocaust is something men did to other men, women, and children; and (c) to affirm the reality and even saving nature of the Divine despite the empirical evidence to the contrary. The first two points need no further explanation; the third does. With regard to this line of reasoning, one must understand that the notion of Hester Panim is not merely or only about the absence of God but rather, at least in specific contexts, entails a more complex exegesis of Divine Providence stemming from an analysis of the ontological nature of the Divine. In such instances God's absence, Hester Panim, is a necessary, active condition of His saving mercy. His "hiddenness" is the obverse of His "long-suffering" patience with sinners, that is, being patient with sinners means allowing sin. As Eliezer Berkovits has argued: "One may call it the divine dilemma that God's Erek Apayim, His patiently waiting countenance to some is, of necessity, identical with His Hester Panim, His hiding of the countenance, to others."
Then too, within the larger mosaic of human purpose, Hester Panim is dialectically related to the fundamental character of human freedom without which human beings would not be the potentially majestic beings Judaism envisions them to be. (I shall return in detail to this doctrine of the absolute need for human freedom in point 6, "The Burden of Human Freedom," below.) It needs also to be recognized that this challenging notion is, at one and the same time, a proclamation of a deep religious faith. The lament addressed to God—even while He seems absent—is a sign that God is and that His manifest presence is still possible. It is an affirmation that one believes that ultimately evil will not triumph for God will not always "hide His face." In this connection, it is relevant to note that for some contemporary Jewish theologians like Emil Fackenheim, Eliezer Berkovits, Irving (Yitzchak) Greenberg, and Martin Buberall of whom are represented in the selections below—the creation of the State of
Israel following so closely upon the Holocaust is proof of this. In the State of Israel, God again openly reveals His saving presence.
The theological claim that God hides His face undoubtedly speaks eloquently to the religious confusion of the post-Holocaust situation. But students should beware of accepting it too easily as an answer to the horror of the Nazi period for, among other reasons, it appeals to a mystery, God's hiddenness, to solve the mystery represented by the evil of the Shoah.
5. Mipnei Chataeynu: "Because of Our Sins We Are Punished"
In biblical and later Jewish (rabbinic) sources, the principal explanation for human suffering was sin. According to this view, there was a balance—established by God—in the universal order that was inescapable: Good brought forth blessing; sin brought retribution (see, for example, Deuteronomy 28). Both on the individual and the national level, the law of cause and effect, sin and grief, operated. In our time, given its undoubted theological pedigree, a number of theologians, especially those of a more traditional bent, and certain rabbinic sages, have employed this explanation to account for the Holocaust. The hasidic (Satmar) Rebbe, Joel Teitelbaum, for example, puts this claim forward clearly and with certitude: "[S]in is the cause of all suffering."
Harsh as it is, the argument that Teitelbaum (and others who share this view) make is that Israel sinned "grievously" and God, after much patience and hope of "return," finally "cut off" the generation of the wicked. It needs to be noted explicitly that the majority ofJewish thinkers who have wrestled with the theological implications of the Shoah have rejected this line of analysis. Still, an important, if small, segment of the traditional religious community has consistently advanced it.
Two critical questions immediately arise in pursuing the application of this millennia-old doctrine to the contemporary tragedy of the Holocaust. The first is: What kind of God would exact such retribution? This crucial theological issue requires close and careful reflection. Second, of what sin could Israel be guilty to warrant such retribution? Here the explanations vary depending on one's perspective. For some, such as Rabbi Isaac Hutner and the aforementioned Satmar Rebbe, Yoel Teitelbaum, and his small circle of hasidic and extreme right-wing, anti-Zionist followers, the sin that precipitated the Holocaust was Zionism. In Zionism, Teitelbaum argued (based on a nonbinding talmudic tradition recorded in B. T. Ketubot 110a), the Jewish people broke their covenant with God, which demanded that they not try to end their exile and thereby hasten the coming of the Messiah through their own means. In consequence, "we have witnessed the immense manifestation of God's anger [the Holocaust]." Rabbi Hutner, in the selection reproduced below, holding a similar theological position, links the Holocaust to the instigations of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who, in his view, persuaded Hitler to undertake the destruction of European Jewry. For others on the extreme right edge of the religious spectrum, the primary crime was not Zionism but Reform Judaism or, again, assimilation. In this equation, the centrality of Germany as the land that gave birth to the "Jewish Enlightenment," i.e., the movement for modernizing Jewish belief and practice, to Reform Judaism, and to Nazism is undeniable proof of this causal connection.") All these justifications and explanations, however, must be treated with great suspicion. Readers need to reflect on the two fundamental questions posed above when deciding whether or not this response, which blames the victims for their own destruction, is plausible.
6. The Burden of Human Freedom: The "Free-Will Defense"
Among the theological and philosophical traditions that have been concerned to uphold God's justice despite the manifest evil in the world, none has an older or more distinguished lineage than that known as the "free-will defense." According to this argument, human evil is the ever-present possibility entailed by the reality of human freedom. If human beings are to have the potential for majesty they must, conversely, have an equal potential for corruption; if they are to be capable of acts of authentic morality, they must be capable of acts of authentic immorality. Freedom is a two-edged sword, hence its challenge and its cost. Applying this consideration to the events of the Nazi epoch, the Shoah becomes a case of man's inhumanity to man, the extreme misuse of human freedom. At the same time, such a position with its emphasis on human actions does not call into question God's goodness and solicitude for it is man, not God, who perpetrates genocide. God observes these events with his unique Divine pathos, but in order to allow human morality to be a substantively real thing, He refrains from intercession. Thus, at the same time that He respects human freedom and is long suffering with an evil humanity, His patience results in the suffering of others.
This defense has been advocated by a number of post-Holocaust thinkers. The two most notable presentations of this theme are found in Eliezer Berkovits's Faith after the Holocaust and Arthur A. Cohen's The Tremendum; sections from both works are excerpted below. Berkovits has employed it to defend a traditional Jewish theological position, while Cohen has utilized it to develop a Jewish "process theology" (for more on Cohen's view see part II, point 3, of this introduction, below). And in both cases—as well as in the work of other thinkers, for example, the argument of Robert Gordis in his selection below—it advances a powerful theological position. But, for all its significance, it does not fully answer the problem, for God is, in some ultimate sense, still responsible for creation. Thus, in the past He is said to have intervened in history, e.g., at the Exodus from Egypt, but this type of intervention seems altogether absent in the case of the Holocaust. (Yet, having said this, one needs to consider that Hitler was defeated; his plan totally to annihilate the Jewish people did not succeed; and after the war the State of Israel was, after 1,900 years, recreated. There are those for whom any one of these outcomes, and all of them together, may/do indicate God's active participation in history. But this is a very complex matter that requires careful and sustained theological reflection.) Again, insofar as human beings are His creation, He could have given us a stronger inclination for the good. In other words, there are many possibilities, Divine and human, that must be examined with great care before deciding to adopt this theological position as definitive.
The first six theological positions that have been analyzed have all been predicated upon, and are the extension of, classical Jewish responses to national tragedy. In the last four decades, however, a number of innovative, more radical responses have been proposed by contemporary post-Holocaust thinkers. Six, in particular, merit serious attention.
1. Auschwitz: A New Revelation
The first of these emerges from the work of Emil Fackenheim, who has contended that the Holocaust represents a new revelation. Rejecting any account that analyzes Auschwitz as mipnei chataeynu (because of our sins), Fackenheim, employing a Buberian model of dialogical revelation—i.e., revelation as the personal encounter of an I with the Eternal Thou (God)—urges Israel to continue to believe despite the moral outrage of the Shoah. God, on this view, is always present in Jewish history, even at Auschwitz. We do not, and cannot, understand what He was doing at Auschwitz, nor why He allowed it, but we must insist that He was there. Equally, if not more significant, God commands Israel from the death camps as He did from Sinai. The essence of this commanding voice, what Fackenheim has called the "614th commandment" (there are 613 commandments in traditional Judaism) is "Jews are forbidden to hand Hitler posthumous victories." That is, Jews are under a sacred obligation to survive. After the death camps, Jewish existence itself is a holy act. Moreover, Jews are now forbidden to become cynical about the world and man, for to submit to cynicism is to abdicate responsibility for the future and to deliver the world into the hands of the luciferian forces of Nazism. And most important, Jews are "forbidden to despair of the God of Israel, lest Judaism perish." The voice that speaks from Auschwitz demands that no one assist Hitler to win posthumous victories. The Jewish will for survival is natural enough, but Fackenheim invests it with transcendental significance. Precisely because others would eradicate Jews from the earth, Jews are commanded to resist annihilation. Paradoxically, Hitler makes Judaism a necessity after Auschwitz. To say no to Hitler is to say yes to the God of Sinai; to say no to the God of Sinai is to say yes to Hitler.
To fully evaluate this interesting, highly influential response to the Shoah (reprinted below), a detailed analysis of a sort that is beyond our present possibilities is required. Nevertheless, it needs to be stressed that the main line of critical inquiry into Fackenheim's position—as well as that of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who draws his main theological argument from Fackenheim's views (see his selections below)—must center on the dialogical (Buberian) notion of revelation and the related idea of commandment, as that traditional notion is here employed. One needs to ask Fackenheim: (a) How do historical events like the Holocaust become "revelatory"? (b) What exactly does he mean by the term "commandment"? And, as a related question, one needs to ask whether one wants to make reaction to Hitler the main reason for continued Jewish existence. This latter topic is pursued, in particular, by Michael Wyschograd (see his selection below), who is highly critical of Fackenheim's attempt to respond to the Holocaust and to justify continued collective Jewish existence on grounds other than the classical doctrines of covenant and Torah.
2. The Covenant Broken: A New Age
A second contemporary thinker who has urged continued belief in the God of Israel, though on new terms, is Irving (Yitzchak) Greenberg. For Greenberg, all the old truths and certainties, all the old commitments and obligations, have been destroyed by the Holocaust. Moreover, any simple faith is now impossible. The Holocaust ends the old era of Jewish covenantal existence and ushers in a new and different one. Greenberg explains his radical view in this way. There have been three major periods in the covenantal history of Israel. The first is the biblical era. What characterizes this first covenantal stage is the asymmetry of the relationship between God and Israel. The biblical encounter may be a covenant but it is clearly a covenant in which "God is the initiator, the senior partner, who punishes, rewards, and enforces the punishment if the Jews slacken." This type of understanding of the relationship between God and Israel is displayed in the crisis engendered by the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. To this tragedy, Israel, through the biblical prophets and in keeping with the logic of this position, responded primarily by falling back on the doctrine of self-chastisement: The destruction of the Temple and the consequent exile of the nation were divine punishments for Israel's sinful ways.
The second phase" in the transformation of the covenant idea is marked by the destruction of the Second Temple by Rome in 70 CE. The meaning adduced from this event by the rabbinical sages of the era was that now Jews must take a more equal role in the covenant and become true partners with the Almighty. "The manifest divine presence and activity [were] being reduced, but the covenant was actually being renewed."14 The destruction of 70 CE signaled the initiation of an age in which God would be less manifest though still present.
This brings us to what is decisive and radical in Greenberg's ruminations, what he has termed the "third great cycle in Jewish history," which has come about as a consequence of the Holocaust. The Shoah marks a new era in which the Sinaitic covenantal relationship has been shattered, and thus a new and unprecedented form of covenantal relationship—if there is to be any covenantal relationship at all—must now come into being to take its place:
In retrospect, it is now clear that the divine assignment to the Jews was untenable. After the Holocaust, it is obvious that this role opened the Jews to a total murderous fury from which there was no escape. Morally speaking, then, God can have no claims on the Jews by dint of the covenant:'
What this means, Greenberg argues, is that the covenant can no longer be commanded and subject to a serious external enforcement. It cannot be commanded because morally speaking—covenantally speaking—one cannot order another to step forward to die. One can give an order like this to an enemy, but in a moral relationship I cannot demand the giving up of one's life. I can ask for it or plead for it—but I cannot order it.
Out of this interconnected set of considerations, Greenberg pronounces the fateful judgment: The Jewish covenant with God is now voluntary! Jews have, quite miraculously, chosen to continue to live Jewish lives and collectively to build a Jewish state, the ultimate symbol of Jewish continuity, but these acts are, after Auscnwitz, the result of the free choice of the Jewish people. "I submit," writes Greenberg, "that the covenant was broken. God was in no position to command any more, but the Jewish people [were] so in love with the dream of redemption that [they] volunteered to carry on with [their] mission." The consequence of this voluntary action transforms the existing covenantal order. First, Israel was a junior partner, then an equal partner. Finally, after Auschwitz, it becomes "the senior partner in action."
In turn, Israel's voluntary acceptance of the covenant and continued will to survive suggest three corollaries. First, this acceptance points, if obliquely, to the continued existence of the God of Israel. By creating the State of Israel, by having Jewish children, the Jewish people show that "covenantal hope is not in vain." Second, and very important, in an age of voluntarism rather than coercion, living Jewishly under the covenant can no longer be interpreted monolithically, i.e., only in strict halakhic (traditional rabbinic) fashion. Third, any aspect of religious behavior that demeans the image of the divine or of people, for example, prejudice, sexism, and oppression of all sorts, must be purged.
Greenberg's reconstruction of Jewish theology after the Holocaust (represented in his selection below) presents a fascinating, creative reaction to the unprecedented evil manifest in the death camps. Whether his position is, finally, theologically convincing turns, however, on (a) the correctness of his theological reading of Jewish history; and (b) the meaning and status of key concepts, such as "covenant," "revelation," "commandment," and the like, in his radically revisionist theological system. For example, can the covenant made at Sinai be broken? And can a new "voluntary covenant" really take its place? Readers will have to think carefully about these issues before accepting or rejecting Greenberg's position.
3. A Redefinition of God
An influential school in modern theological circles known as "process theology," inspired by the work of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne, has argued that the classical understanding of God has to be dramatically revised—not least in terms of our conception of His power and direct, causal involvement in human affairs—if we are to construct a coherent theological position. According to those who advance this thesis (represented in this collection by the thoughtful work of Hans Jonas, Arthur A. Cohen, and Melissa Raphael), God certainly exists, but the old-new difficulties raised by the problem of theodicy for classical theistic positions arise precisely because of an inadequate description of the Divine, i.e., one that misascribes to Him attributes of omnipotence and omniscience that He does not possess.
Jewish theologian Arthur A. Cohen, in his The Tremendum: A Theological Interpretation of the Holocaust, has advanced the fullest, most detailed version of this redefinitional strategy as the most appropriate way to respond to the theological challenges posed by the Holocaust. After arguing for the enormity of the Shoah, i.e., its uniqueness and its transcendence of any "meaning," Cohen suggests that the way out of the theological dilemma posed by the death camps for classical Jewish thought is to rethink whether "national catastrophes are compatible with our traditional notions of a beneficent and providential God."
For Cohen, the answer is that they are not. Against the traditional view that asks, given its understanding of God's action in history, "How could it be that God witnessed the Holocaust and remained silent?" Cohen would pose the contrary "dipolar" thesis that "what is taken as God's speech is really always man's hearing, that God is not the strategist of our particularities or of our historical condition, but rather the mystery of our futurity, always our posse, never our acts." This means that, "if we begin to see God less as an interferer whose insertion is welcome (when it accords with our needs) and more as the immensity whose reality is our prefiguration ... we shall have won a sense of God whom we may love and honor, but whom we no longer fear and from whom we no longer demand." This redescription of God that denies that God is a direct causal agent in human affairs, coupled with a fonn of the free will defense (as seen in Cohen's selection below), appears to resolve much of the theological tension created by the Tremendum.
But this deconstruction of classical theism and its substitution by what Cohen terms theological dipolarity creates its own theological difficulties. For example, one needs to ask: Is "God" still God if He is no longer the providential agency in history? Is "God" still God if He lacks the power to enter history vertically to perform the miraculous? Is such a "dipolar" God still the God to whom one prays, the God of salvation? Students have to think through these and other religious issues raised by Cohen's redefinition of God and His role in human affairs before deciding whether to opt for or against his provocative theological revisions.
Hans Jonas's suggested redefinition of the concept of God (see his selection below) emphasizes, in contradistinction to classical theological claims that the Divine is perfect and unchanging, both that God suffers along with humankind and that through His relation with men and women He "becomes." That is, "the relation of God to the world from the moment of creation, and certainly from the creation of man on, involves suffering on the part of God." And, at the same time: "God emerges in time instead of possessing a completed being that remains identical with itself throughout eternity." God has been altered by—"temporalized" by—His relationship with others and, in the process, has become open to human suffering, which causes Him to suffer and to care. Moreover, insofar as God is not omnipotent, Jonas contends that human action is required to perfect the world. "God has no more to give: It is man's now to give to Him."
As with the ruminations of Arthur A. Cohen, Jonas's revised conception of the Divine is imaginative and provocative. Whether it sacrifices too much in its attempt to make metaphysical and ontological sense of the Holocaust is the essential question for readers to ponder.
The third redefinition of God represented in this collection is advanced by Melissa Raphael who, in an intriguing argument, suggests that during and after the Holocaust the correct way to decipher the action of the Divine is through the model of "God as mother" rather than through the inherited traditional idea of "God as father." The patriarchal notion of God as almighty and omniscient is simply incompatible with what happened in the death camps. Yet, faced with this jarring fact, one need not give up belief in God altogether. Rather, one should refashion one's understanding of God in the image of a caring, suffering, loving—but not omnipotent—mother. Calling into use the traditional rabbinic notion of God's presence in the world as being associated with feminine attributes—this divine presence being known among the rabbis and Jewish mystics as the Shekhinah—Raphael advances the proposal that we should continue to believe in a God who "all the while secretly sustains the world by Her care."
Raphael's proposed revision is undoubtedly suggestive, even profoundly appealing in many ways, but there remains the fundamental theological question: Will the concept of "God as mother" be able to answer all the problematic metaphysical and ethical conundrums produced by the "final solution" better, i.e., both more inclusively and more conclusively, than prior patriarchal accounts of the Divine? Or, like Cohen's and Jonas's views, does her revisionist position sacrifice too much theologically and metaphysically in order to retain some very much reduced role for God in human affairs?
4. God Is Dead
It is natural that many should have responded to the horror of the Holocaust with unbelief. How, such individuals quite legitimately ask, can one continue to believe
in God when God did nothing to halt the demonic fury of Hitler and his minions? Such skepticism usually takes a nonsystematic, almost intuitive form: "I can no longer believe." However, one contemporary Jewish theologian, Richard Rubenstein, has provided a formally structured "death of God" theology as a response to the Shoah.
In Rubenstein's view (represented in the selections below), the only honest response to the death camps is the rejection of God, "God is dead," and the open recognition of the meaninglessness of existence. Our life is neither planned nor purposeful. History reflects no Divine will, and human affairs reveal no Divine concern. In light of the Holocaust, human beings must now reject their illusions and recognize the truth: that life is not intrinsically valuable and that the human condition reflects no transcendental purpose. All theological "rationalizations" of the Holocaust pale before its enormity and, for Rubenstein, the only reaction that is worthy is the rejection of the entire inherited Jewish theological framework: There is no God and no covenant with Israel.
Humankind must, after Auschwitz, turn away from transcendental myths and face its actual existential situation honestly. Drawing heavily upon the atheistic existentialists, Rubenstein interprets this to mean that in the face of the world's inherent nihilism, if there are to be any values, individuals must fashion and assert these values; in response to history's meaninglessness, human beings must create and project what meaning there is to be.
Had Rubenstein merely asserted the death of God, his would not be a Jewish theology. What makes it "Jewish" are the implications he draws from his radical negation with respect to the people of Israel. It might be expected that the denial of God's covenantal relation with Israel would entail the end of Judaism and so the end of the Jewish people as a meaningful collective. From the perspective of traditional Jewish theology, this would certainly be the case. Rubenstein, however, again inverts our ordinary perception and argues that with the death of God, the existence of "peoplehood," of the community of Israel, is all the more important. Now that there is nowhere else to turn for meaning, Jews need each other all the more in order to create meaning: "[I]t is precisely because human existence is tragic, ultimately hopeless, and without meaning that we treasure our religious community." Though Judaism has to be "demythologized," i.e., it has to renounce all of its traditional metaphysical doctrines as well as its normative claim to a unique "chosen status," at the same time it paradoxically gains heightened importance in the process.
Rubenstein's position is certainly challenging, however it is not free of philosophical and theological difficulties. Students need, for example, to evaluate his criteria and method. That is, they have to ask whether the question of God's existence or nonexistence is subject to empirical confirmation, as Rubenstein believes. Again, if historical events like the Holocaust count against God's existence, do positive events like the creation of the State of Israel count as evidence for God's existence? (Compare, for example, the argument linking the Holocaust and the State of Israel made in the readings by Joseph Soloveitchik and Irving Greenberg.) Asking these questions, we begin to see that judging God's existence or nonexistence is no simple matter. Then, too, are Rubenstein's proposals for the need for a Jewish community in a world without God reasonable? Why, for example, should Jews not find the now-constructed meaning of their lives outside the confines of Jewish peoplehood and community?
5. An Ethical Demand
Two thinkers represented in this collection, Emmanuel Levinas and Amos Funkenstein, reject, in different ways and for different metaphysical reasons, the classical theologies and theodicies that would defend God and His justice despite the gas chambers and crematoriums. And both urge that rather than upholding theological doctrines that have been rendered "indefensible" by the Holocaust—what Levinas in a telling phrase describes as "useless suffering"—the primary, absolute demand of our post-Holocaust era is the defense of the ethical obligation that human beings owe to one another. As Levinas explains:
[T]he suffering for the useless suffering of the other person, the just suffering in me for the unjustifiable suffering of the other, opens upon the suffering the ethical perspective of the interhuman.... It is this attention to the other which, across the cruelties of our century—despite these cruelties, because of these cruelties—can be affirmed as the very bond of human subjectivity, even to the point of being raised to a supreme ethical principle—the only one which it is not possible to contest—a principle which can go so far as to command the hopes and practical discipline of vast human groups.
Levinas, while not denying the existence of God, stresses the obligations that one human being has a priori to another human being, i.e., simply by virtue of being human. Whether one is a theist or not, the fundamental human requirement after Auschwitz is caring for the other. Likewise, Funkenstein advances the primacy of the ethical as the appropriate response to the Shoah while arguing for a more negative theological position that denies the existence of God.
This position, i.e., the requirement that we first pay attention to ethics for, at Auschwitz, we saw what the disregard of the ethical permits, is appealing but raises, in turn, a number of deep, interrelated questions: What is the ground of the ethical? What is the source of ethical obligation? Who or what is the guarantor of the value of the ethical? Can there be truly binding ethical obligations without religious sanctions? These are very profound questions that cannot ultimately be evaded. To propound a priori the primacy of the ethical is merely to stipulate the conclusion, not to prove it.
6. Mystery and Silence
In the face of the abyss, the devouring of the Jewish people by the dark forces of evil incarnate, recourse to the God of mystery and the endorsement of human silence are not unworthy options. There are, however, two kinds of silence, two kinds of employment of the God of mystery. The first is closer to the attitude of the agnostic: "I cannot know," and hence all deeply grounded existential and intellectual wrestling with the enormous problems raised by the Shoah are avoided. The second is the silence and mystery to which the Bible points in its recognition of God's elemental otherness. This is the silence that comes after struggling with God, after reproaching God, after feeling His closeness or His painful absence. This silence, this mystery, does not attempt to diminish the tragedy by a too quick, too gauche answer, yet having followed reason to its limits, it recognizes the limits of reason. One finds this attitude more commonly expressed in the literary and personal responses to Auschwitz by survivors than in technical works of theology. For example, it is preeminent in the work of Elie Wiesel (see the final selection in this volume) and Andre Schwarzbart, as well as in the poetry of Nellie Sachs. Assuredly, there is great difficulty in ascertaining when thought has reached its limit and silence and mystery become the proper position to adopt, but, at one and the same time, there is the need to know when to speak in silence.
Still, it should be acknowledged that silence, too, can be problematic for if employed incorrectly, or too casually, or too universally, as a—or the—theological response to the Shoah, it removes the Holocaust from history and all post-Holocaust human experience. And by doing so, it may produce the unintended consequence of making the Holocaust irrelevant. If the generations that come after Auschwitz cannot speak of it, and thus cannot raise probing questions as a consequence of it, then it becomes literally meaningless to them.
One additional independent issue that should be briefly explored in an introduction to post-Holocaust Jewish theology is that of the "uniqueness" of the Holocaust. This topic, this claim (and the denial of this claim) has played a considerable role in the theological debate concerning the implications of the destruction of European Jewry. In this connection, two different concerns arise. First, there is the historical-philosophical question: Is the Holocaust unique? Second, there is the related, but separate, question: If the Holocaust is unique what, if any, theological implication(s) does this have? To answer the first question—"Is the Holocaust unique?"—we have, of necessity, to delineate the conditions that we hold make this event singular. Thus, we have to be able to show that the Holocaust is unique with respect to specific and identifiable conditions. Unless we can do this, the claim that the Holocaust is unique is either just a rhetorical assertion or a historical claim that no one need accept and which may even be false.
Having considered this issue elsewhere in detail, I suggest the following way of proceeding. First, I would argue that the required individuating criteria, if there are such criteria, are not moral or metaphysical. That is, it is not the case that the Holocaust is more evil than certain other events, or that God caused the destruction in some special way. I would also eschew all questions that raise the issue of "who suffered most." There is no way to quantify and compare the suffering of, for example, Africans enslaved in the enterprise of New World slavery, Native Americans subjugated and brutally mistreated by their European conquerors and colonizers, Armenians murdered in World War I by the Turks, inmates of the Gulag, and victims in Nazi death camps. Instead, I propose that the criteria of uniqueness that we employ be phenomenological. And, on the basis of such criteria, I would argue that, in fact, "The Holocaust is phenomenologically unique by virtue of the fact that never before has a state set out, as a matter of intentional principle and actualized policy, to annihilate physically every man, woman, and child belonging to a specific people. This conclusion entails that the Holocaust would not be the Holocaust if the property of "intentionally pursuing the physical annihilation of a people without remainder" were not present. Likewise, other occasions of mass death that lack this necessary intent (to murder an entire people without remainder) are not comparable to the Holocaust, at least not as regards this property. Certainly a full description and analysis of the Holocaust would include consideration of such elements as technology, bureaucracy, dehumanization, and the like in the destruction of European Jewry. But the presence of these complementary phenomena without the property of genocidal intent would not, in my view, be sufficient to establish either the character of the Shoah as such nor, in particular, its uniqueness. One might wish to argue with this conclusion and the criteria used to reach it but to do so one must have detailed knowledge of the historical cases to which the Holocaust is being compared, as well as sound philosophical reasons for proposing other criteria by which to measure and decide this matter.
Now I turn to our second interrelated query: Does this matter theologically? Given how I have defined the concept of "uniqueness," it is not at all clear to me that there is a direct, and preferred, theological meaning to be drawn from the exceptionality of this event. In dealing with and responding to the multiple epistemological and metaphysical issues that are here relevant, both the theological radicals, e.g., Richard Rubenstein, Arthur A. Cohen, and Irving Greenberg, and the theological conservatives, e.g., Eliezer Berkovits, Joseph Soloveitchik, Isaac Hutner, and the Satmar Rebbe, have all run ahead of the available evidence to reach conclusions that are neither epistemologically nor intellectually persuasive.
At present, almost any responsible theological position appears to me to be compatible with the singularity of the Shoal. Religious conservatives, who intuitively reject claims for the uniqueness of the Holocaust on the usually implicit grounds that such an unequivocal conclusion would necessarily entail ominous alterations in the inherited normative Weltanschauung, are simply mistaken. The fact is that the theological radicals who hold that the singularity of the Shoal necessarily entails religious transformations, and within Jewish parameters halakhic (religious-legal) changes, have not shown this to be the case. They have merely assumed it to be so, positing the "required changes" they take to be obligatory without providing either halakhic or philosophical justification for such innovations. The matter of whether the Shoal necessarily entails any religious changes regarding Jewish practices and behaviors remains an open one.
The death camps and Einsatzgruppen do challenge—even while they do not necessarily falsify—traditional Jewish theological claims. However, just what this challenge ultimately means remains undecided.
Making Sense of the Holocaust: Lessons from Classroom Practice by Simone Schweber, Gloria Ladson-Billings (Teachers College Press) (Hardcover) What lessons are conveyed implicitly and explicitly in teaching and learning about the Holocaust? Through three very readable case studies, the author reflects on the lessons taught, highlighting strengths and missed opportunities and illuminating important implications for the teaching of other historical episodes.
The close examination of different narrative treatments of the Holocaust by experienced teachers working with diverse groups of students in American public high schoolsall teachers were recommended for being pedagogically innovative and for affecting their students deeply. A focus on curricular enactments within particular classes that examine what students in each class learned from the Holocaust course.
A non-partisan assessment that identifies the ideological debates surrounding the teaching of the Holocaust and provides guidance for navigating them
A critical assessment of many authoritative organizations and authors whose positions currently dominate Holocaust education.
Excerpt: When I began my study, I was much more confident about how to teach the Holocaust than I am now. I had a long list of assumptions about what good teaching of the Shoah would look like. Although I didn't express these ideas to those I enlisted in helping me find exemplary teachers, I "knew," for example, that I was seeking teachers who valued historical accuracy, who fostered student engagement, who believed in building community in the classroom. I wanted the class material on the Holocaust to forge connections between past and present while at the same time building a strong knowledge base in students about the distinctions. I wanted to see discussions about the impossible moral dilemmas that faced Holocaust victims and survivors, just as I wanted students to investigate why perpetrators, bystanders, and rescuers acted as they did. I also brought my own assumptions about the nature of learning, in particular that exposure does not equal understanding and that reflection is required for sophisticated learning. Finally, I knew that as a Jewish woman with some familial connections to this history, I had high personal stakes invested in what I would see. In short, I knew when I embarked on this study that what I sought was a tall order for any teacher, and I worried that I might be setting up for failure the teachers who participated. My own powerful commitments, after all, would dictate what I considered "good."
Instead, my foray into these teachers' classrooms changed the nature of the equations for me. While I still deem historical accuracy a "good" in and of itself, I no longer see it simplistically. Mr. Jefferson's representation of Jews, after all, was as historically accurate as Mr. Dennis's. To learn about Jews as a collective is no less historically accurate than to consider them as individuals; it is the moral dimensions of this choice that confound easy judgment. The same kind of tension is inherent in the problem of representing Jews positively, or as "normal" human beings despite the overwhelmingly negative history of Nazism and the Shoah, its dehumanization of Jews in propagandistic images or disembodied victims. And similarly, all the teachers' emplotments of the Holocaust can be seen as historically accurate. It is not inaccurate to cover the important concepts of rescue and resistance at the end of a Holocaust course, as did Mr. Zee. Nor is it inaccurate to end a Holocaust unit with the ending of World War II and the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as did Ms. Bess; what is at stake in all these examples are the moral messages embedded in the informational narratives, not their degrees of historical accuracy.
The same layers of complexity have come to be associated in my mind with all the judgment criteria I originally held. Indeed, the problems are inherent in representations of all morally laden history, from slavery to the Armenian genocide to the Vietnam War to the events of September 11. The moral dimensions of historical narratives render perplexing any act of representation.
As a result, I found myself in the course of my study stunned by the numerous complexities inherent in teaching about the Holocaust in particular and the precarious balancing acts involved in the teaching of history in general. It is thus with far more questions that I leave this study than those with which I began; the questions of how experienced high school teachers teach about the Holocaust, what moral lessons they convey implicitly and communicate explicitly, and what their impact on students is, have been joined by a host of others. And while I pose some recommendations in this book, I abstain from making broad generalizations about the teaching of this history.
One conviction, however, has stayed with me since the time I traveled to schools with Holocaust survivors: that the complexities involved in understanding the events of the Holocaust, its iconic status, its politicized usages and inevitable moral lessons, demand that we not pursue oversimplification in its teaching, no matter how seductive that urge. The Castlemont High School students, it might be remembered, were initially injured by just that allure.
Matters: Legacies of the Holocaust and World War II by
Mona Sue Weissmark (Oxford
University Press) In the grim litany of twentieth-century genocides,
few events cut a broader and more lasting swath through humanity than the
Holocaust. How then would the offspring of Nazis and survivors react to the idea
of reestablishing a relationship? Could they talk to each other without open
hostility? Could they even attempt to imagine the experiences and outlook of the
other? Would they be willing to abandon their self-definition as aggrieved
victims as a means of moving forward?
In the fall of 1992, in a small room in Boston, MA, an
extraordinary meeting took place. For the first time, the sons and daughters of
Holocaust victims met face-to-face with the children of Nazis for a fascinating
research project to discuss the intersections of their pasts and the painful
legacies that history has imposed on them.
this remarkable gathering as its starting point, Justice
examines the psychology of hatred and ethnic resentments passed from generation
to generation. Mona Sue Weissmark, a social psychologist and the child of
Holocaust survivors, argues that justice is quite naturally shaped by emotional
responses. In the face of unjust treatment, the natural response is resentment
and deep anger and a desire for revenge. While legal systems offer a
structured means for redressing injustice, such redress often does nothing for
the emotional pain, which, left unresolved, is then passed along to the next
generation leading to entrenched ethnic tension and group conflict.
Examining the legacy of the Holocaust, the burden of confronting unresolved
injustices was passed to another generation, as, clearly, there has been no
reconcilation between Nazis and survivors. Thus, coming to terms with their
parents' past shaped the lives of Nazis' children and survivors' children.
embarked on a study of children of survivors and Nazis, and how they come to
terms with the past and each other. Part of the study included the unprecedented
meeting. Although more than half a century has passed, recollections of the
Holocaust and WWII still sear the lives of survivors, their children and
grandchildren. Weissmark discovered that central to keeping the cycle of ethnic
and religious strife alive is story-telling, with each side recounting the
injustice it suffered and the valor shown by avenging its own group. She
describes how these stories or "legacies" transmit moral values,
beliefs and emotions and thus preserve the past, and thus, based on the
microcosm of their parents' personal experiences, each group maintains an
understanding of themselves as the legitimate victims. Ultimately, Weissmark
argues that coming to terms with their parents' past requires both parties not
just to agree to talk, but also to moderate their emotions and dispense with the
notion that they are the most aggrieved.
focused on the experience of the Holocaust, Justice
insights into ethnic conflicts around the world, such as those in
Theology: A Reader by Dan Cohn-Sherbok (University of Exeter Press) Where
was God when six million died? Over the last few decades this question has
haunted both Jewish and Christian theologians. If God is all-good and
all-powerful, how could he have permitted the Holocaust to take place?
Theology provides a panoramic survey of the responses of over one
hundred leading Jewish and Christian Holocaust thinkers. Beginning with the
religious challenge of the Holocaust, the collection explores a wide range of
theodicies that seek to reconcile Gods ways with the existence of evil. In
addition, the book addresses perplexing questions regarding Christian
responsibility and culpability during the Nazi era.
Designed for general readers and students, each reading is
divided into topics and is followed by a series of questions. For anyone who is
troubled by the religious implications of the tragedy of the Holocaust, this
collection of Holocaust theology provides a basis for discussion and debate.
Bittersweet Legacy: Creative Responses to the Holocaust: Art, Poetry, Stories by Cynthia Moskowitz Brody (Studies in the Shoah Series: University Press of America) (PAPERBACK) excerpt: Included in this anthology are many different Holocaust experiences. Some come from American Jews who lost no family members, yet were changed permanently as human beings upon learning of its horrors. They too needed a place to express their feelings, and I believe they belong here, alongside the works of those who have experiential memories. The work of survivors, their children and grandchildren are replete with intense imagery and emotion and it is clear that the trauma was transmitted through the generations. What was also passed on was a sense of survival. Although the stories, images and themes reflect the pain of this darkest time in history, those who created them have used their own power of artistic thought, drive and determination, to look the monster in the face and transform it into something that can finally be seen, if not understood.
My regret is that the richness and variety of color present in much of the art cannot be appreciated because of the limitations of black and white printing. Color offers the element of hope and celebration of life that the imagery may not convey in its present form. Still, the imagery and symbolism are of great significance. This relates to my reasons for selecting Bittersweet Legacy as the title for this collection. I am aware that this event, the Holocaust, was filled with bitterness and horror, the aftereffects of which we as a human race continue to experience. My belief is that the continuation of the faith, the clinging to important, ancient values is a sweetness that lives as well in this legacy. As an artist I have experienced both the bitterness and sweetness in the creation of images relating to this experience. I see the creative process as a gift with which we can begin to exorcise the pain. I have always seen life after the Holocaust as a vital merging of the most awful with the most beautiful, life where there was and would have been only death. Finally, the sweetness of hope, which allows us to continue living after all of the loss.
Those of us who, as individuals, were creating in a vacuum, unheard and unseen, are now being given the opportunity to give voice to the millions whose voices were silenced. They too were only individuals, seemingly unimportant as such, but overwhelming in the company of six million others like themselves. Those artists and writers who have had the courage to create from their own darkness come together in this book to forge their collective voices into a song of truth that can finally be shared.
History, Religion, and Meaning: American Reflections on the Holocaust and Israel edited by Julius Simon (Contributions to the Study of Religion: Greenwood Press) The Holocaust continues to be a defining event for understanding not only the course of history during the 20th century but the course of human events in general. Perhaps the most contentious issue is that of how the Holocaust continues to be understood, explained, and appropriated. The chapters focus on questions arising from the Holocaust and that have to do with the American understandings of the interrelated web of history, religion, and meaning. In addition, the contributors, from a variety of disciplines, express views that range across several dimensions of receptivity and both support and challenge other views of how the Holocaust should be commemorated and/or historically situated.
Questions and Events; Converting Dreams into Realities: Reflections on the
Shadow of Birkenau by John K. Roth; The Shoah and the Historian's Passion for
the Dead Others by Edith Wyschogrod; Explaining the Holocaust by Yehuda Bauer;
American Guilt During the Holocaust: A Study of U.S. Foreign Policy Makers'
Attitudes Toward Isreal by Gilbert Kahn; Isreal After Auschwitz: Four Questions
about Remembering the Holocaust by Moshe Haar; Re-reading Redemption: The Warsaw
Ghetto Uprising in Passover Hagadot by Liora Gubkin; British Millenarian
Missionaries in Nineteenth Century Palestine by Thomas A. Idinopulos
Philosophy, Genocide, and Nationalism by Julius Simon; Index
From light fiction to an admixture of personal history in Constantine's
Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History by James Carroll (Houghton
Mifflin) In this complex, personal and yet deeply thought-out and researched
attempt to respond to the core of Anti-Semitism which is NT anti-Judaism within
the long night of Shoah, Carroll struggles with the complexity of history and
identity. His investigation of the history of western Christendoms brutal and
anti-Judaism and seed core of Anti-Semitism is a personal quest for the need to
deeply repent (without consolations of redemptive suffering). Carrolls view
of the profound injustice of Christianity is its assertion in its own reason for
being the rejection of Judaism. It is odd how the right wing of Catholicism
finds the discomfort this book attempts to address so threatening. Some
reviewers think that some jingoistic appeals to various Bishops
condemnations to pogroms throughout the Churchs history is a fitting
refutation to Christian complicity in the Holocaust. Such views do not address
the deeper core issues of how Christianity (as well as Judaism and Islam) needs
to profoundly reinvent themselves as institutional entities where the luxury of
falsifying other religions becomes a form haughty evil. Religious bodies need to
reconsider the normative visions of their respective faiths. To embrace a more
universalistic and less sectarian identity to approach the Unity of the God
in the humble spirit of universal love to the God that they all turn to
worship. Carroll attempts to address these issues well within his own heart and
experience. His insights are often too editorializing, but given the need to
invent more sophisticated harmless and non-antagonistic religious messages
within that do not hurt humanity that is not within and is without any of their
saving message, this work moves in the right direction by considering these
issues. Conservatives within Catholicism may not understand that ignoring the
wider non-Christian world is no longer a luxury they can afford without
seriously compromising the truth of their Faith. At least Carroll has made an
attempt to move the discussion along.
In a bold and moving book that is sure to spark heated debate, the novelist and cultural critic James Carroll maps the profoundly troubling two-thousand-year course of the Church's battle against Judaism and faces the crisis of faith it has provoked in his own life as a Catholic. More than a chronicle of religion, this dark history is the central tragedy of Western civilization, its fault lines reaching deep into our culture.
The Church's failure to protest the Holocaust -- the infamous silence of Pius XII -- is only part of the story: the death camps, Carroll shows, are the culmination of a long, entrenched tradition of anti-Judaism. From Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus on the cross, to Constantine's transformation of the cross into a sword, to the rise of blood libels, scapegoating, and modern anti-Semitism, Carroll reconstructs the dramatic story of the Church's conflict not only with Jews but with itself. Yet in tracing the arc of this narrative, he implicitly affirms that it did not necessarily have to be so. There were roads not taken, heroes forgotten; new roads can be taken yet. Demanding that the Church finally face this past in full, Carroll calls for a fundamental rethinking of the deepest questions of Christian faith. Only then can Christians, Jews, and all who carry the burden of this history begin to forge a new future.Drawing on his well-known talents as a storyteller and memoirist, and weaving historical research through an intensely personal examination of conscience, Carroll has created a work of singular power and urgency. Constantine's Sword is a brave and affecting reckoning with difficult truths that will touch every reader.
The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965 Throwing the spotlight relentlessly on Pius XII (most recently declaring him "Hitler's Pope") has skewed the question surrounding Catholicism and the Holocaust, depriving us of a record of what the entire church did or did not do. Such a record is provided for the first time in the Michael Phayer's compelling new book. Phayer shows that without effective church leadership under Pius XII, Catholics acted ambiguously during the Holocaust--some saving Jews, others helping Hitler murder them, the majority simply standing by. After the Holocaust, under the leadership of Pope John XXIII, the church moved swiftly to rid itself of centuries-long anti-Semitic tradition.
HOPE AGAINST HOPE: Johann Baptist Metz and Elie Wiesel Speak Out on the Holocaust by Ekkehard Schuster, Reinhold Bochert-Kimmig, Johannes Baptist Metz, ($8.95, paperback, 96 pages Studies in Judaism and Christianity, Paulist Press; ISBN: 0809138468)
There are probably no two men of such stature who can speak to the Holocaust as Christian theologian Johann Baptist Metz, and Jewish writer, Nobel laureate and human rights activist Elie Wiesel, author of Night. One was drafted into the German army at the age of fifteen; the other was interned at Auschwitz. Both came frown upbringings of deep faith, only to have their lives broken by, the horrors they "witnessed during the war. Both share the sense that the Holocaust is a rift in history itself, after which nothing could ever be seen in the same way as before.
Yet for both, there is hope... "nonetheless."
'This engagement of two honest and complex thinkers with one of the greatest crimes and tragedies of this century, the Holocaust, an event so horrendous that new words such as genocide had to be invented to describe it. HOPE AGAINST HOPE will reward the general reader and specialist alike with fresh perspectives and trenchant analyses
.In the Ghetto of Warsaw: Photographs by Heinrich Jst edited by Gunther Schwarberg (Scalo) Hotel owner Heinrich Jst was a sergeant in the German army, stationed near Warsaw, who became curious about the corpses he had seen lying along the ghetto walls. So on his birthday he made use of his free time and went into the ghetto with his camera. He had no idea what was awaiting him there. The amateur photographer shot several rolls of film in September 1941 and kept them for decades without showing them to anyone. In 1982, he gave the photographs to "Stern" magazine reporter Gnther Schwarberg. The Jerusalem Documentation Center Yad Vashem pronounced them a ''unique find,'' and they certainly are--Jst's pictures belong to the scant number of existing photographs of the Warsaw ghetto, and are a critically important document of its history. "Gnther Schwarberg: In the Ghetto of Warsaw" documents these incomparable photographs along with Jst's own recollections as recounted to Gnter Schwarberg.
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