Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Goldhagen and some of his critics:

Deborah Dwork, professor of Holocaust history and director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, has not read Goldhagen's book and, in a telephone interview, would not address it directly. But she has her own analysis of this history. (She is the coauthor, with Robert Jan van Pelt, of a new book, ''Holocaust: A History.'') Though she also strongly criticizes Pius XII, she and van Pelt write, ''It is easy to draw a direct line from traditional Christian anti-Judaism to the annihilatory Nazi racist antisemitism. Easy, but false. There is no direct line.''

Dwork sees an important distinction between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism that Goldhagen dismisses as meaningless. And she says that while there was historic demonization of Jews by Christians, there was also an ancient history of uneasy coexistence between Jews and the church in Europe, ''rooted in Catholic doctrine, which said that the Jews had a covenant with God, and while there was a second covenant, that did not mean the first one was invalid.''

Hoffmann, Goldhagen's former Harvard adviser, says, ''If you are a very nuanced historian, you say there may be mitigating circumstances. Danny doesn't go for that. I like to believe that everything has many explanations. Ultimately, with events with such moral weight, there is such a thing as being too sophisticated. Sometimes you have to say, `Wait. Look at the cost.' If this provokes a big controversy, that is not bad. History progresses through controversy.'' But Dwork insists, ''The more important the issue at stake, the greater our responsibility to be precise in what we tell people about the past. Are we supposed to simplify this story? Can we not be clear and not be simplistic?''

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