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Ignatz Bubis, the Chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, warns against Relativizing the Holocaust (November 9, 1998)

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We cannot dispense with showing films about the shame just so that Mr. Walser and others can remain undisturbed in their sense of self and find peace of mind, and so that the impression of instrumentalization does not arise. Since I assume that Walser, like I myself, does not advocate “collective guilt,” I don’t understand why Walser feels attacked as an accused when watching these films.

The word “Auschwitz” is not a threat routine or a means of intimidation or merely a compulsory exercise. If Walser sees it as a “moral club,” he may even be right, for one can, should, and must learn morality from “Auschwitz,” though one should not regard it as a club. I must posit that it may be necessary, according to Walser, to use morality as a club because otherwise some may not want to learn it.

One can hold different opinions about the Holocaust memorial in this form or that, and one can oppose the erection of such a memorial in the first place. But in no case is one allowed to call the design a nightmare, even with poetic license, and most certainly not a monumentalization of the shame. The shame was monumental and is not made such only by a memorial.

These parts of his speech are unworthy of the winner of a peace prize. I have already expressed my thoughts on the speech. Recently, this trend [in Walser’s thinking] has become clearly evident in his utterances. Intellectual nationalism is on the rise and it is not entirely free of a subcutaneous anti-Semitism. I am especially irritated by a whole host of magazines that expressed their surprise that I am criticizing Walser so harshly, for he merely said what most were thinking, anyway. In all of this, Walser and many others also express concern for “normality.” I don’t know what they mean by that. For me, normality is, for example, that Jews believe they can live in Germany once again, that Jews are engaged in social as well as political life, and that we have the kind of democracy that has not previously existed on German soil. But “normality” cannot mean suppressing remembrance and living with new anti-Semitism and a new racism of the kind that is coming to light in right-wing extremist parties. [ . . . ]

We in the Jewish community have learned from childhood that remembering is an important part of our history. As the Talmud says: “The secret of redemption is remembering.” [ . . . ] We owe it to the victims of the Shoah not to forget them! Whoever forgets these victims murders them a second time!

Source: Ignatz Bubis, “Gedenkrede zur Pogromnacht am 9. November 1938” [“Speech Commemorating the Night of the Pogrom of November 9, 1938”], Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 10, 1998.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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