The Holocaust and Collective Memory

How and when did the Holocaust come to loom so large in postwar Jewish and American and international life? Peter Novick's controversial new book sets out to answer this question. In the first decades after World War II, the Holocaust was little talked about, but after the Six-Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973) it began to assume central importance as a defining factor of Jewishness. With the release of Claude Lanzmann's documentary Shoah (1985), the Holocaust had become the moral issue of the twentieth century. In a book likely to provoke heated debate, Novick asks whether defining Jewishness in terms of victimhood alone does not hand Hitler a posthumous victory, and whether claiming uniqueness for the Holocaust does not render other atrocities (Biafra, Rwanda, Kosovo) 'not so bad'.