Trivializing the Holocaust?George Brewer
The ADL trained their sites on another Holocaust outrage, claiming that a proposed New York art exhibit would trivialize the Holocaust. The offender this time is a German artist who planned to set up an exhibit at the Whitney Art Museum in New York featuring a room bedecked with red walls, on which quotes from Mayor Rudolf Giuliani and other conservatives were to be written in white paint, using the fraktur Gothic script which was traditional in Germany for hundreds of years. In the background, the artist envisioned a tape playing the sound of marching troops.
It's hard to see how something so hackneyed could be considered art, or even controversial, since identifying Republicans as fascists has been a favorite pastime of the liberati ever since the days of Alger Hiss. But never underestimate the ability of people to delude themselves into paroxysms of hysteria: faster than you could drop to your knees and make the sign of the H the ADL and other Jewish social commentators were boiling with manufactured outrage, topped off by the memorable xenophobia of one writer who suggested that the artist "go back to Germany where he came from." Meanwhile, the ADL issued another one of its press releases announcing that the exhibit should be withdrawn because it threatens to "trivialize" the Holocaust.
We just checked our calendar to make sure that V-E day wasn't last week, but in the meantime the only thing we can say is that the ADL is hardly in a position to talk about "trivializing" the very real suffering and loss of life that destroyed the lives of countless Jews in World War Two. After all, this is the same group that two years ago fired a barrage at DC comics for publishing a Superman comic about the Holocaust which failed to specify that Jews were the main victims of the Nazis, the same agency that criticized the characterization of a lovable Yiddish granpa on "Rugrats" because it reinforced ethnic stereotypes, the same agency that laid into Nintendo for issuing trading cards that featured a sacred Eastern symbol, the same …. Well, you get the point. And we aren't even talking about the practically daily indications of ADL "dismay", "disappointment" or "outrage" on every conceivable topic, ranging from gun control to boycotts of Burger King. Sometimes we wonder if the ADL still exists, or whether it is just a front for the Association of Chronic Kvetchers.
If the ADL wants people to stop "trivializing" the Holocaust , they should consider first how the Holocaust has been remorselessly used over the past three decades for all kinds of political, social and financial purposes, not to mention for the purpose of totally uninhibited German-bashing. Precisely those kinds of use and abuse are probably what jump-started modern Holocaust revisionism in the '70's anyway, after all, if the Holocaust wasn't constantly being thrust under our nose no one would have bothered to analyze it. And, while revisionism has yet to make many heavyweight converts, the fact is that a growing group of mostly Jewish intellectuals are finally indicating that they have had just about enough: witness Peter Novick's Holocaust in American Life and the forthcoming Holocaust Industry of Norman Finkelstein.
Stop trivializing the Holocaust? Easy enough. Let it be. Let people make the kind of gratuitous and silly abuses that they are going to make, either in the US or overseas, and try to memorialize the suffering of the Jewish people in this century with some dignity and privacy, but not by running to ground anyone whose memorialization falls short of mandated expectations. Otherwise, the noisy posture of the ADL and similar groups is liable to have a rather sad and ironic sequel: the Holocaust will not be forgotten, but it will become the object of ridicule, disembodied from the mass of human suffering that it was meant to commemorate.
Installed: 06/04/00, 03: 00 PM, EST