The challenge of genocide

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  • Published 20070904
  • ISBN: 9780733321269
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

THE HOLOCAUST CONTINUES to pose a challenge to history. In History, Memory and Mass Atrocity (Vallentine Mitchell, 2006), Holocaust historian Dan Stone argues against approaches that suggest the mass murder of the Jews was carried out in a bureaucratic spirit without passion or emotion, thus distinguishing it from other mass killings; or that the Nazis were bestial and psychopathic in a way that set them apart from those who inhabit modern, rational, liberal postwar societies. Stone observes there is a false distinction between the modern and the pre-modern. Because of this, he contends, we have failed to recognise that the perpetrators of the Holocaust, even in the use of technology for mass killing, acted primarily with their hearts, through passion and emotion.

In this failure to recognise our common humanity, we have tried to “conceal from view the unnerving similarity of the perpetrators to ourselves”. We should not treat the Holocaust as unique, but rather relate it – in the spirit of comparative study – to other modern genocides: as Stone points out, “it quickly becomes apparent that the murder of the Jews shares many features with many other of the twentieth century’s most gruesome events”.

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About the author

John Docker

John Docker is a well-known literary and cultural critic, and public intellectual.He has written on contemporary theories of culture, identity, and diaspora; Orientalism and...

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