HOLOCAUST EDUCATION IN PEDAGOGY, HISTORY, AND PRACTICE 78 Yet, if truth is to be told, many places will not find an easy place in the grand narrative of the Holocaust because they lack that simple connection to Auschwitz as the narrative core. I think, for example, about the killings by the Romanian Army or the deportations of Romanian Jews to Transnistria. This is certainly a problem, but I believe that, as educators who are responsible to carry the story of the Holocaust forwards to the next generation, we must make tough choices about the level of narrative complexity our teaching can accommodate. For a story to work, it must present the mind-boggling complexity and incapacitating infinity of the world into a simplified form, reduce the world to absorbable and manageable proportions. Indeed, as a historian I fully accept that we must ignore most of the information about the past if we are to preserve that past as a story—that is as a history that is told, and shared, and transmitted from generation to generation. Zygmunt Bauman articulated this well in a remarkable aside in his book on waste. Knowledge, he argued, can only exist in relation to ignorance. Bauman compared stories, an essential bearer of knowledge, to the spotlights that only seek to brighten up parts of the stage, deliberately leaving the rest in darkness. “Were they to illuminate the whole of the stage evenly, they would not really be of use. Their task, after all, is to ‘cure’ the stage, making it ready for the viewers’ visual and intellectual consumption.” And stories do the same, “by separating the relevant from the irrelevant, actions from their settings, the plot from its background and the heroes or the villains at the centre of the plot from the hosts of supernumeraries and dummies. It is the mission of stories to select, and it is in their nature to include through exclusion and to illuminate through casting shadows… Without selection there would be no story.” And, returning to knowledge in general, Bauman argued that, “it is the courtesy of the surrounding darkness that the light of knowledge illuminates. Knowledge is inconceivable without ignorance, memory without forgetting.” 24 I do not know what coming generations will care to remember about the Holocaust. Certainly, I think they will remember Anne Frank as she was writing her diary in an attic in Amsterdam, and György Köves— Kertész’s alter-ego—as he accommodated himself to the concentration camp universe in the Nobel-Prize winning masterpiece Fatelessness. And, certainly, they will recognize the contours of Auschwitz.
Endnotes 1 The theme of this essay deals with a theme that I have discussed, with different emphasis, in various lectures and publications. See, for example, Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2002), 6–14; Robert Jan van Pelt, “The Memory of Auschwitz and the Oblivion of the Bloodlands,” Toronto Journal of Jewish Thought, vol. 4 (2015): http://tjjt.cjs.utoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Van-Pelt-Vol-4.pdf 2 Zygmunt Bauman, Life in Fragments: Essays in Postmodern Morality (Oxford and Cambridge MA, Blackwell, 1995), 193. 3 Imre Kertész, Kaddish for an Unborn Child, Tim Wilkinson trans. (New York: Vintage International, 2004), 33. Fö Street was the location of a prison run by the secret police 4 Imre Kertész, Galeerentagebuch, Kristin Schwamm trans. (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 2002), 32–33. 5 See Friedrich Nietzsche, “Richard Wagner in Bayreuth,” in Untimely Meditations, R.J. Hollingdale trans. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 236; and Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Birth of Tragedy,” in The Birth of Tragedy and the Case of Wagner, Walter Kaufmann trans. (New York: Vintage Books, 1967), 135–36. 6 Imre Kertész, “Eureka!: The 2002 Nobel lecture,” trans. Ivan Sanders, World Literature Today, vol. 77, no. 1 (2003), 7. 7 Imre Kertész, “Die Unvergänglichkeit der Lager,” in Eine Gedankenlänge Stille, während des Erschiessngskommando neu lädt: Essays, Kristin Schwamm trans. (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1999), 44–45. 8 Thomas Mann, The Holy Sinner, H.T. Lowe Porter trans. (New York: Knopf, 1951), 3ff. 9 Kertész, “Die Unvergänglichkeit der Lager,” 43–44. 10 Ibid., 51–52. 11 See William Gass, “The Nature of Narrative and its Philosophical Implications,” in William Gass, Tests of Time: Essays (New York, Knopf, 2002), 3–5. 12 Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Revised and Definitive Edtion, 3 vols. (New York and London: Holmes & Meier, 1985), vol. 3, 1201–20. 13 See, for example, Henry L. Feingold, “How Unique is the Holocaust?,” Genocide: Critical Issues of the Holocaust, Alex Goodman and Daniel Landes, ed. (Los Angeles: The Simon Wiesenthal Center, 1983), 398; Franklin H. Littell, “The Credibility Crisis of the Modern University,” in Henry Friedlander and Sybil Milton, The Holocaust: Ideology, Bureaucracy and Genocide (Millwood: Kraus, 1980), 284. 14 André Schwarz-Bart, The Last of the Just, Stephen Becker trans. (London: Secker & Warburg, 1961), 408. 15 Nelly Sachs, O the Chimneys: Selected Poems, including the verse play Eli, Michael Hamburger a.o. trans. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giraoux, 1967), 3. 16 Pierre Vidal-Naquet, The Jews: History, Memory, and the Present, David Ames Curtis, trans. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 148–49. 17 Elie Wiesel, The Town Beyond the Wall, Stephen Becker trans. (New York: Atheneaum, 1964), 67–68. 18 Claude Lanzmann, Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 48. 19 Arthur W. Frank, Letting Stories Breathe: A Socio-Narratology (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2010), 119. 20 See Zev Garber and Bruce Zuckerman, “Why do we call the Holocaust ‘The Holocaust?’ An inquiry into the psychology of labels,” Modern Judaism, vol 9., no. 2 (1989), 197. 21 David Irving, “Battleship Auschwitz,” The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 10 (1990), 498–99. 22 Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry, 2nd edition (Torrance, Calif.: Institute for Historical Review, 1992), 363–64. 23 Kertész, “Die Unvergänglichkeit der Lager,” 51. 24 Zygmunt Bauman, Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts (London: Polity, 2004), 17–18. 79 HOLOCAUST EDUCATION IN PEDAGOGY, HISTORY, AND PRACTICE