Conference: talks, panels, concerts

Hijacking Memory: Day 3

The Holocaust and the New Right

Sat, Jun 11, 2022
10 am
Free admission

In German and English with simultaneous translation in each language

Photo: Peter Hapak (2021)

10 am–12.15 pm
The Hidden Agenda: The Holocaust in Israel between Tragedy and Strategy
Avraham Burg

In the first decades of its existence, the State of Israel did not identify with the Holocaust. Indeed, as Tom Segev and other historians have shown, the Holocaust was in conflict with the image the State wanted to convey: that Jews were finally agents of history and not its subjects, heroes rather than victims. Only later did certain Israeli politicians decide it was opportune to underscore the Holocaust as the prime example of murderous antisemitism in order to discredit all criticism of state policies as antisemitic. This lecture will describe the history of the deliberate strategies involved in this process.

The Singularity Thesis and German National Identity
Omri Boehm

To understand the current controversies about the Holocaust’s singularity, it is necessary to understand the original debate from the 1980ies. Contrary to common opinion, the Historikerstreit did not revolve on the question of the Holocaust's singularity; it revolved on the question of German national identity. Understanding Auschwitz as a singular crime was deemed necessary by Habermas et al. to oppose the rehabilitation of German national consciousness as the origin of political norms – and replace it by constitutional patriotism. Considering the Bundestag’s BDS Beschluss, the government’s relation to the International Criminal Court and the response to Amnesty International in the aftermath of the apartheid report, Boehm argues that the singularity thesis has been hijacked to defend what originally it was supposed to oppose: it rehabilitates German National consciousness at the expense of constitutional patriotism.

Antisemitism in History and Politics
Omer Bartov

Antisemitism can only be understood by tracing its deep historical roots, as well as its modern transformation. And because antisemitic arguments have always been answered by counterarguments, anti-antisemitism has a similarly extended and multifaceted history. Hence, over time, both have meant different things to different people, have been repeatedly mobilized for political ends, and have become dependent on one another. Long before the term antisemitism was coined, anti-Jewish animus played a role in how Jews were perceived by others, and how Jews interacted with the world and perceived themselves. Conversely, anti-antisemitic rhetoric gains public attention and visibility whenever it persuades the public that antisemitism is a real and present danger.

Lectures, followed by a discussion and Q&A, moderated by Susan Neiman

1.45–3.15 pm
Palestine and Holocaust Memory Politics
Tareq Baconi

The talk will explore how the memory of the Holocaust is being deployed to expand Israel’s colonization of Palestine, including but not solely through the weaponization of charges of anti-Semitism to dismantle the movement for Palestinian rights.

Antisemitism in Britain: the Corbyn Years
Rachel Shabi

In the midst of the 2019 general election campaign, the UK’s chief rabbi declared the then Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had allowed a “poison sanctioned from the top” to take root in the party. Making a rare intervention in politics, Ephraim Mirvis, who represents 62 of the UK’s Orthodox synagogues, castigated Corbyn’s “utterly inadequate” response to the party’s antisemitism crisis and asked people to “vote with their conscience” – in other words: not Labour. How had it come to this? Let’s take a tour of the Corbyn years and how antisemitism played out in British politics: a series of allegations and evasions, escalations and denials. Shabi argues that this crisis weakened an understanding of antisemitism, fractured solidary in fighting all forms of racism and makes it harder to talk about the Palestinian cause.

Lectures, followed by a discussion and Q&A, moderated by Daniel Levy

3.45–5.45 pm
Hijacked from the Centre: Holocaust Memory in Britain
David Feldman

Forty years ago, the British government led by Margaret Thatcher was indifferent when the Board of Deputies of British Jews proposed erecting a Holocaust memorial on the parliamentary estate. It had nothing to do with Britain, according to the foreign secretary, Lord Carrington. Today, by contrast, the Conservative government, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats are all committed to building a Holocaust memorial next to Parliament. Moreover, the Holocaust is the only compulsory subject in the history national curriculum for pupils aged 13 to 14. Feldman will explore and explain this transformation in the status of Holocaust memory: Why it is that at a time when anti-racism divides the public sphere in Britain, the struggle against antisemitism unites the political class as little else?

Whitening of the Jews and Misuse of Holocaust Memory
Gilbert Achcar

“Antisemitism” was originally coined to relegate the European Jews to a non-white status. It was linked to the inflow of Eastern European Jews into Western countries in the late 19th century. While the defeat of Nazism favoured the gradual (re)whitening of European Jews after 1945, the rise of anticolonial struggles and the inflow into Western countries of Muslim migrants determined a shift in xenophobia and racism, supported by the Zionist far right. There has been a reorientation of Western racism involving its own whitening of European Jews to pervert the Holocaust legacy into an ideological weapon that could be instrumentalised for its anti-Muslim agenda.

Dubious Benevolence: The Holocaust and the Extreme Right in France and Italy
Diana Pinto

What are we to make of Holocaust remembrance and commemoration by Europe’s extreme rights in today’s topsy-turvy world? Who is hijacking whom? Does it still make sense to view the Holocaust in terms of left-right wing divides? What is one to make of Jewish (and Israeli) support for these illiberal movements? On these counts, France and Italy offer two interesting examples of how the extreme rights have “adopted” generic Holocaust commemoration while still honoring their fascist ancestors and pursuing their own present-day racist programs. In their use of shocking equivalences, their rereading of the fate of the Jews in World War II, they can be seen as precursors for Putin’s own “anti-Nazi” war against Ukraine, one of the most sensitive territories in which the Holocaust unfolded.

Lectures, followed by a discussion and Q&A, moderated by Carinne Luck

6.15 pm
Sentiment, Seduction, Soreness: Countering the Right with Holocaust Comedy
Susanne Rohr

In her talk, Susanne Rohr will examine the latest developments in a highly sensitive genre, a genre the philosopher Slavoj Žižek has termed “camp comedy” or “Holocaust comedy.” What are the consequences of a substantial breach in taboo within artistic practice? Does the initial breach create a compulsion to continually push the taboo boundaries, to out-perform the taboo as it were, or does the perceived provocation initiate a desire and movement towards reconciliation, or placidity? These are some of the questions Susanne Rohr will address in the context of resurging right-wing extremism around the world.

Lecture, followed by a discussion and Q&A, moderated by Miriam Rürup

7–8 pm
Andere (Täter-)Länder, andere Sitten?
A conversation between Hanno Loewy and Eva Menasse, moderated by Miriam Rürup

9 pm
Daniel Kahn & Yeva Lapsker

The Detroit-born troubadour performs a radical program of songs new and old, smuggled across the borders of Yiddish, English, Russian, German, past and future. A contemporary collection of brittle ballads, warped klezmer, prison laments, revolutionary anthems and apocalyptic blues. The program is accompanied and embellished by projected images and surtitles by video artist and translator Yeva Lapsker.

Hijacking Memory

Hijacking Memory: Day 1

The Holocaust and the New Right

Conference: talks, panels, screenings

Jun 9, 2022

Hijacking Memory

Hijacking Memory: Day 2

The Holocaust and the New Right

Conference: talks, panels, screening

Jun 10, 2022

Hijacking Memory

Hijacking Memory: Day 4

The Holocaust and the New Right

Conference: talks, panels, performances

Jun 12, 2022