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Book Cover for: The Holocaust and the War of Ideas, Edward Alexander

The Holocaust and the War of Ideas

Edward Alexander

The Holocaust and the War of Ideas begins with an analysis of ancient and modern anti-Semitism as the primary cause of the destruction of European Jewry. Alexander proceeds to interpret representative works from the three main bodies of Holocaust literature--Yiddish, American, Hebrew--in relation to the war of ideas that surrounds the historical catastrophe that is their subject.

The chapter on Yiddish writers explores religious ideas and the claim that Yiddish, having become the language of martyrdom, has replaced Hebrew as the Jews' sacred tongue. The discussion of American writers centers on the attempts to Americanize Anne Frank, and criticizes the "personalization" of the Holocaust by literary latecomers to the subject who knew little of the Jewish past other than the Holocaust. Alexander treats sympathetically writers like Kovner and Appelfeld who integrated the European tragedy into the Israeli imagination, but charges that some Israeli dramatists have perpetrated travesties of the Holocaust that resemble anti-Semitic polemics.

The second half of the book enters the seething cauldron of controversy in which the Holocaust is now engulfed. The chapter on Italian Jewry evaluates accusations of Vatican indifference and Primo Levi's allegations about German national character; the chapter "Crime and Punishment" reevaluates the writings of Arendt, Wiesenthal, and Weiss on the nature of Nazi war crimes, arguing that attempts to exculpate killers on the grounds that they were compelled to obey orders lack historical foundation.

Alexander concludes the book with a survey of recent controversies: denial of the Holocaust; appropriation and relativization of it; the scandals of Bitburg and the Auschwitz Convent. He imputes the pervasive deformations of the Holocaust to the fact that the war of ideas over the Holocaust has become part of the larger war forced upon the Jews by the foes of Zionism as an ideology and Israel as a nation.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Publish Date: Jan 31st, 1994
  • Pages: 252
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 9.20in - 6.30in - 1.00in - 1.15lb
  • EAN: 9781560001225
  • Categories: Modern - 20th Century - HolocaustJewish StudiesHuman Rights

About the Author

Alexander, Edward: -

Edward Alexander is professor emeritus of English at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is the author of The Jewish Idea and Its Enemies, The Holocaust and the War of Ideas, Irving Howe: Socialist, Critic, Jew, and Lionel Trilling and Irving Howe.

Praise for this book

"In this... valuable book, Alexander surveys the historical, ideological, and literary disputes that inform the writings on the Holocaust. Alexander argues that the war of ideas over the Holocaust should be understood in a larger context of efforts on the part of both Jewish and non-Jewish universalists to undermine Zionism as an idea and the moral legitimacy of Israel as a state... To be read along with Alexander's The Jewish Idea and Its Enemies (1990). For all libraries."

--J. Fischel, Choice

"In this... valuable book, Alexander surveys the historical, ideological, and literary disputes that inform the writings on the Holocaust. Alexander argues that the war of ideas over the Holocaust should be understood in a larger context of efforts on the part of both Jewish and non-Jewish universalists to undermine Zionism as an idea and the moral legitimacy of Israel as a state... To be read along with Alexander's The Jewish Idea and Its Enemies (1990)."

--J. Fischel, Choice

"This is a thoughtful, timely book that is bound to provoke and challenge readers. Edward Alexander is engaged with his subject in a passionate way, and he leaves no doubt as to where he stands on some of the most pressing issues of our time."

--Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Director, Roberta A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program

"In this... valuable book, Alexander surveys the historical, ideological, and literary disputes that inform the writings on the Holocaust. Alexander argues that the war of ideas over the Holocaust should be understood in a larger context of efforts on the part of both Jewish and non-Jewish universalists to undermine Zionism as an idea and the moral legitimacy of Israel as a state... To be read along with Alexander's The Jewish Idea and Its Enemies (1990)."

--J. Fischel, Choice

"This is a thoughtful, timely book that is bound to provoke and challenge readers. Edward Alexander is engaged with his subject in a passionate way, and he leaves no doubt as to where he stands on some of the most pressing issues of our time."

--Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Director, Roberta A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program

-In this... valuable book, Alexander surveys the historical, ideological, and literary disputes that inform the writings on the Holocaust. Alexander argues that the war of ideas over the Holocaust should be understood in a larger context of efforts on the part of both Jewish and non-Jewish universalists to undermine Zionism as an idea and the moral legitimacy of Israel as a state... To be read along with Alexander's The Jewish Idea and Its Enemies (1990).-

--J. Fischel, Choice

-This is a thoughtful, timely book that is bound to provoke and challenge readers. Edward Alexander is engaged with his subject in a passionate way, and he leaves no doubt as to where he stands on some of the most pressing issues of our time.-

--Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Director, Roberta A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program