This museum is not a metaphor

Gediman, Paul

THIS MUSEUM 1S NOT PAUL GEDIMAN A METAPHOR CONFRONTING THE HARD FACTS OF THE...

...Objects meant to evoke the time are thrust in your in the end and properly, is simply to make you look again at way: the striped prisoner uniforms...
...Joan Chittister, OSB Ellen Grady and Peter DeMott Benedictine Sisters of Erie Griffiss Peace Community Bernhard Clasen, Russian-German Translator...
...I vivors will be gone and knowledge of the Holocaust will have remember those stones...
...to pass from living to crafted memory...
...A memorial doesn't so much tell a story as assert the meaning of one...
...But to stop there begs the question of how we are to grapple with it now...
...The museum refutes the response that the Holocaust was inhuman, and in would be an abject failure if, when confronted by the iconog- so doing resists the temptations of moral vanity...
...If the museum catered too read- the First World War...
...After fifty years, the black and white images of what is missing from so many accounts of the end of Jewish the camps familiar from newsreels have become ciphers...
...But what is the meaning of the Holocaust...
...Trainer, Conflict Resolution Studies International Institute of Concern for Public Health, TorontoJim Forest & Nancy Forest-Flier Wendell Berry Founders/Director, Peace Media Service, Netherlands Author and Environmentalist Richard J. Foster Sidney Callahan, Ph.D...
...Our moral destiny is not manifest...
...I life to three paragraphs and a bar code is only a more intimate wondered if it were possible that she had only then remembered form of dehumanization...
...I decided not...
...The point is not that a Holocaust After you leave the museum, you can enter a hexagonal room could happen here...
...If the Holocaust must flagship state of Western civilization, the United States bears be incorporated into any eschatological narrative, that is a job more than a cousinly resemblance to nineteenth-century best left to synagogues and churches, or to individuals, but not Germany, the most scientifically advanced and culturally into a state-sanctioned act of institutional memory...
...Properly then, the museum affirms the profanity of the Holocaust profanity in the sense that there was absolutely nothing otherworldly about it...
...The exhibit lets you know more than you knew a mowho killed them except that they killed, or about how such a ment ago, but among the things it lets you know is that you thing came to occur except that it did...
...How can it be represented...
...The former is offensive to memory and to historical veracity...
...Rhonda Chervin, St...
...Ostensibly, chine in order to find out what happened to your surrogate by the woman was speaking to a boy, presumably her grandson, 1939, by 1944, and, in the end, whether or not your shadow who stood beside her...
...The Holocaust is not a metaphor...
...Before the mock entrance to Auschwitz, in a display of objects taken from prisoners, there is a rusting prosthetic leg...
...are incomplete...
...of producing a sense of cathartic revulsion that causes real an- This, much more effectively than three paragraphs and a bar guish, they can also feed our moral vanity...
...We stood before a pile of stones taken from At three stations in the exhibit, you punch your card into a mathe quarry of the Mauthausen concentration camp...
...cobblestones from the Warsaw Ghetto...
...Many assert that it can't...
...In the New ily and simply to the senses, and above all to the eye, it risked Republic, Leon Wieseltier wrote of this installation: "That is moral laziness...
...Thomas Gumbleton, Auxiliary Bishop, Detroit Anti-nuclear Activist, West Germany Ruth Heaney, OSR Mairead Corrigan Founder, Families & Friends of Persons in Prison 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate Nat Hentoff, Columnist and Author Harvey Cox Christine Herbes -Sommers Harvard Divinity School C.M.H...
...Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC Author, Disarming the Heart: Toward a Vow of Non-Violence President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame Marie Dennis, Associate for Latin America, Ingrid Hill Maryknoll Justice & Peace Office Founder, Mothers Against the Draft Jim & Shelley Douglass Raymond J. Hunthausen, Archbishop of Seattle Peace Activists Lana Jacobs, Companions of Shalom...
...Some objections arose because I am an American and value being so...
...All speech, and language itself, can be said to do this, but a memorial is a singularly collective enterprise...
...Text inoccurred in a particular time and place, and with a multitude forms you that Jews had lived in the town for 900 years, and of arguable historical causes...
...Alverno, Redwood, CA President, Presbyterians Prolife Jo Anne Lyons, Professor of Women, Church & Society, Bonnie Shullenberger, Correspondent, Asbury Methodist Theological Seminary The Living Word, News magazine of the Episcopal Church Leroy T. Matthiesen, Diocese of Amarillo Ronald J. Sider Elizabeth McAllister, Antiwar Activist Author, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger Colman McCarthy Tom Siemer, Producer, Gods of Metal Columnist, The Washington Post Robert Moss Smith Kathleen and James McGinnis Brandywine Peace Community Authors, Parenting for Peace and Justice +Mitch Snyder A. J. McKnight, CS Sp...
...The images have become can't begin to know all of these people...
...He is working on a novel...
...ire linked under a consistent ethic of life...
...The stones from the Mauthausen The principal (though by no means the only) victims were, quarry are heaped in front of blown-up photographs of the camp, of course, precisely Jewish...
...There is a danger in placing too great a pre- ters at the beach, graduation photos, pictures of mium on feeling, especially regarding the Holocaust, in the face the orthodox and of the assimilated, portraits of men preening of which it is all too easy to forget that the intellect as well as in the uniforms of the countries for which they had fought in the gut is obliged to respond...
...More likely, she was say- The ID cards, together with other aspects of the museum, ing something which, every time it is uttered, must be spoken elicit a wariness about entering a Holocaust theme park...
...Men and women stand in line, listening to their chastisement...
...The Community for Creative Non-Violence Executive Director, Southern Development Foundation Roberta (Bobbie) Stewart Susan Carpenter McMillan Lutheran Peace Fellowship Los Angeles County Commissioner Bishop Walter F. Sullivan on the Status of Women Catholic Diocese of Richmond, VA Richard M. McSorley John Michael Talbot, Composer, Musician Director, Center for Peace Studies, Georgetown University Marcia Timmel Catherine Meeks, Ph.D...
...Though understandable, this response is unacceptable, for soon all the surPAUL GEDIMAN, a writer, lives in New York City...
...The latter is necessary, because not to represent the Holocaust, to surround a historical event with the prohibitions of idolatry, is to succumb to a reverential horror that verges on viewing the Holocaust as somehow sacred...
...As the constrictingly to any meaning of history...
...0 Commonweal 4 June 1993: 15 WE THE UNDERSIGNED are committed to the protect war, abortion, poverty, racism, the arms n We believe that these issues are linke We challenge those working on all or some of these issues to maintain a coopera AFFILIATIONS ARE FOR ICD, Michael Affleck, Ph.D...
...Perhaps, after enjoying all Bible, whose frontpiece engraving depicted the the celebrations of our culture's mastery over nature and hisExodus...
...Patricia Driscoll, Womanity International Coordinator, Greenpeace Eugenia & Bill Durland Robert C. & Janet A. Aldridge Founders, Center on Law & Community Authors, Children and Non-Violence Eileen Egan, Catholic Worker Fr...
...Mauthausen...
...Franciscan Sister of Mt...
...They are pictures of life...
...It also renders you a symbols of an abstraction called evil, an abstraction torn from bystander, because you know what will happen to them and the fact that the attempted extermination of European Jewry they don't, and there is nothing you can do about it...
...To answer the question is absurd...
...America, appropriate something that is not yours for your sunny drama of redemption and the comfort it may offer to your Benefactors $1.000 Supporters $500 Patrons $250 sense of national virtue...
...is a three-story tower filled with more than a thouKnowing of these things before entering the museum, I wor- sand photographs, taken before the war, of Jews ried that the cumulative effect would be to go over thought's from the Polish town of Ejszyszki...
...Political Prisoner Enclosed is my contribution so this ad can be widely published: Name The Committee of Southern Churchmen) Evangelicals for Social Action Address iurg, Worcester, Columbia (MO), New York City, Los Angeles City State _ Zip Conference of Major Superiors of Men-USA Liberals for Life Donation $ I Common Ground of Upstate New York Peace Community (Chicago) Seamless Garment Network Faith & Resistance Community AGAPE Samaritan House (Denver) 109 Pickwick Drive, Ireater Philadelphia Intercommunity Justice & Peace (Cincinnati) Rochester, NY 14618 716 / 442-8497 iversity Buddhist Vihara Society Contact us for information on how your organization can be a member...
...oculates against abstraction...
...ing in much the same way...
...It is not a metaphor for anything, and the more it becomes one, the more it is removed from the time and place necessary to any true telling of historical events, the less it will be anything at all...
...THIS MUSEUM 1S NOT PAUL GEDIMAN A METAPHOR CONFRONTING THE HARD FACTS OF THE HOLOCAUST hat's where I was...
...You are urged seventies speak these words that I to take an identity card of "a real person who lived during the realized that most of my objections to the United States Holocaust," a person who, if you followed the instructions propHolocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., had long erly, is the same gender and roughly the same age as yourself...
...Don Bauer, Executive Board, NYS Labor & Religion Coalition;The Reverend Kathleen Eickwort former member, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE...
...She looks cide...
...5 ARE FOR IDENTIFICATION ONLY Lawrence Martin Jenco, OSM, Former Hostage Judith Johnson O'Brien, Commission on Women in the Timothy Jessen, Moderator, Church and in Society, Rochester, NY Transylvania Presbytery, Presbyterian Church (USA) Dan O'Neill Dr...
...Productions John Dear, SJ Rev...
...Memorials are erected usually only after a society has arrived at a consensus concerning the meaning of the event or person it has chosen to remember...
...This room, it was without what are commonly accepted as the achievements which is the official memorial, constitutes, when taken with of Western civilization...
...The as if for the first time...
...John's Seminary Frye Gailliard, Journalist, Writer Sr...
...Holocaust Memorial Museum's strategies, man who looked to be in her early its artifice of empathy is the most problematic...
...Just because ail thought about and representation of-the Holocaust is ultimately incomplete, it does not follow that the attempt to think about it and represent it is unnecessary...
...Seeing the striped uniforms hanging from a steel rack, a replica of a Polish border post forces an abrupt ninety-de- you notice that they are blue and gray and you realize (and feel gree turn...
...While these images are capable that it took the Nazis two days to make Ejszyszki judenfrei...
...Episcopal Priest, Diocese of W. Michigan Prisoner of Conscience, Operation Rescue Lowell O. Erdahl Consuelo M. Beck-Sague, MD Bishop, EMMS, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America National Public Health Professional Adolfo Perez Esquivel Philip Berrigan and Daniel Berrigan, SJ 1980 Nobel Peace Laureate Antiwar Activists Ellen Flanders Rosalie Bertell, GNSH, President Friends Meeting...
...As a Jew, the last thing I wanted from an American museum of the Holocaust was a reduction of the event to an object lesson about human intolerance...
...where she had been...
...Commonweal 4 June 1993: 13 layout of the permanent exhibition is an exercise in plotted so that the pictures you may be familiar with remain in the backmisdirection, a deliberate echo of the disorientation of victims ground, while the objects extend toward you, requiring a new who were herded from homes to ghettos to death camps (e.g., response...
...Will D. Campbell Dean, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry Author, Forty Acres and a Goat Howard Goeringer Rachel Cann Editor, Jesus Journal: A Magazine on Christian Nonviolence Director, Brookline Women's Shelter, Boston Doris Gordon +Jean H. Cardinali National Coordinator, Libertarians for Life Author, Poverty Profile USA: In the Eighties Hildegard Goss-Mayr and +Jean Goss John Cavanaugh, SJ Honorary Presidents, Author, Following Christ in a Consumer Society International Fellowship of Reconciliation Dr...
...10038 be blunt, don't nail them to a figurative cross and scavenge their memory for scraps of transcendence...
...The dead did not die for the moral edCharter $125 Sustaining $50 ification of Americans...
...cer addressing some Germans who worked at Bergen-Belsen...
...There was, instead, wonder in her voice, the numbing anonymity of 6 million...
...There is just enough history in the exhibit to evade this trap...
...They are not a sacrifice...
...The fallacy of moral equivalence is it, the museum tries, figuratively and literally, to leave open a not necessary in order to see that, broadly speaking, the two space where the mind and the moral imagination can try to ful- cultures go about the business of learning and knowing and thinkfill their obligations...
...It provides historicity without the hubris of drawing a too like a little girl receiving a reprimand from a grade-school prinneat and untenable line of cause and effect to the piles of corpses...
...Sojourners Center for Action and Contemplation (Albuquerque) The Committee: Witnesses for Reconciliation (formerly The Commit Catholic Worker Communities in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Houston, Waterbury (CT), Philadelphia, Trumansburg, Worces New Covenant Justice & Peace Center (Omaha) Feminists for Life of America Prolife Nonviolent Action Project Conferenc Ancilla Domini Sisters S.H.O.W...
...64cw...
...Near the end raphy of evil, people were made merely to feel "good" by con- of the permanent exhibition there is a video of a British offitrast...
...Those and history, and be duly reminded of what exists, double-hepilgrims, however, did not find a promised land or build a city lixed with all our nobility of achievement, at the very core of on a hill, for in the end the new world was not at all new...
...Any memorial or museum, no matter how brilliantly conceived, is an act of taxonomy and taxidermy...
...Maureen Jones-Ryan, Executive Director, Co-founder, Mercy Corps International Sexual Assault Recovery Institute, Phoenix Cathryn Holderread Passmore, Film Producer Angela Jones +Igal Roodenko, War Resisters League Prisoner of Conscience, Australia Richard Rohr, OFM Lois Yake Kenagy Founder, Center on Action & Contemplation Peace & Justice Committee, PCC, Mennonite Church Sandra M. Schneiders, IHM Faye Kunce Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, CA Coordinator, Pro-Life/Pro-Peace Challenge Suzanne Schnittman, Ph.D...
...Judgment being a code, evokes the human weight of what was lost...
...There is a room in the museum with 4,000 pairs of shoes...
...A distinction must be made between using the Holocaust as an instrumental metaphor to affirm some transcendent ideal and using metaphor as an instrument to speak and think about the Holocaust...
...Professor of Theology, Friends University Associate Professor of Psychology, Mercy College William C. Frey, Former Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Colorado...
...Still others were aesthetic and epistemological, tied both to what I knew about the museum's design and, more fundamentally, to an anxiety about the power of representation to convey things too neatly and its attendant impotence to penetrate to a complete truth about anything...
...But as iconography of starvation and barbed wire that says nothing they rise to the top of the tower, they elude your ability to touch about the people who died except that they are dead, about those and see...
...cipal, and in this incommensurate response it is impossible not And, too, the sheer physicality of the collected objects-frag- to see that the Holocaust was absurdly, uniquely, precisely ments of Torah scrolls, scissors, prayer shawls, cutlery-in- human...
...There are sishead to the viscera...
...They did not die for anything...
...since evaporated...
...Historical specificity is offered in the sequential account of One woman, with her head bowed and her hands clasped subHitler's ascent to power and the evolution of the policy of geno- missively in front of her, appears to be sniffling...
...nothing about it, it is to be hoped that on their way from the aerospace museum to the Washington Monument they will enter The Jeffersonian rhetoric of tolerance tells us less the new museum...
...railroad he most devastating lesson in the power of the eye tracks from Treblinka...
...It survived...
...Rosen is right...
...tor, says: "The geographical motif of design is that whenever The black and white images you know are almost background you think you know where you're going, you end up some- noise to the three-dimensional relics and replicas whose effect, where else...
...Maybe, after marveling at replicas of Apollo about why the museum belongs in the capital than spacecraft, a handful will remember by whom the pioneers of do the Puritans, who brought with them the Geneva rocket propulsion were employed...
...Rational, orderly, characterized by great the museum, an elegant incorporation of the twinned demands industrial ingenuity, abetted by propaganda disseminated by of speech and silence...
...Visitors to the new museum already aware of the Holocaust Speaking at the dedication ceremony, President Bill Clinton should find themselves feeling what I read into the voice of said: "Here on the town square of our national life we dedi- that woman who had survived Mauthausen: the need to concate the United States Holocaust Museum and so bind one of front it as if for the first time...
...life in Europe: the eros of Jewish life in Europe before the ends" Distilled meaning without narrative, they comprise a frozen Some of the photographs you can see clearly and touch...
...function of comparison, each of us is reassured to be outraged Perhaps the best measure of the museum's success is that it by the outrageous, disgusted by the disgusting...
...As for those who know little or the darkest lessons of history to the hopeful soul of America...
...Some derived from the fact that I am a Jew and value that too...
...14: 4 June 1993 Commonweal As Jonathan Rosen, executive editor of the Forward, a Jewish weekly, wrote on the New York Times op-ed page: "The murder of 6 million Jews is not a metaphor for human suffering...
...Before I entered the museum, my skepticisms were many and tangled...
...To its cred- fluential nation of its day...
...cooperative spirit of peace, reconciliation, and respect in protecting the unprotected...
...The intention of this device is transparent: to cut through wasn't pedagogic either...
...Recipient, Martin Luther King Award The Seamless Garment Network A selection from the eighty-five member groups...
...Ultimately, metaphor being all we have the Holocaust was a product of a civilization confident in its to work with, speech and representation are as necessary as they ability to manipulate the world...
...Europe did not cleanse them of Europe, and those who followed These objects point metaphorically to a historical event, not brought with them a burdensome cultural inheritance...
...Eventually, however, the silence and white- the newest machinery of the early communications revolution, ness have to be filled...
...You can sit on the hard stone is that the Holocaust is unique to the extent that the murder of steps and, surrounded by whiteness and filled with what you European Jewry could not have been carried out in the manner have just seen, will likely feel compelled to be silent...
...trance to Auschwitz...
...The eye is a goad to thinking, after sign, Arbeit Macht Frei [Work Makes You Free], from the en- all...
...f f It was when I overheard a wo- Of all the U.S...
...Fleeing what we are...
...Michael Berenbaum, the museum's project direc- an idiot for having to realize) that all of this happened in color...
...So, to Commonweal Associates 15 Dutch Street, N.Y., N.Y...
...Director, Northwest Maternity Home, Washington DC African-American Studies, Mercer University Jim Wallis, Sojourners Gary Mitchener, Canon Pastor, Trinity Cathedral (Episcopal) Elizabeth Williams Omilami, Don Mosely / Josie Winterfeld People's Survival Theatre Jubilee Partners Martha Yonke Elena Mueller-Garcia Founder, Caritas Community Columnist, La Voz, Miami +George Zabelka, Do Something for Peace Henri J. M. Nouwen, L'Arche-Daybreak Jerry Zawada, OFM Missouri Peace Planters '88...
...Have you renewed Against this prospect, it is appropriate to launch jeremiads: Don't, your Associate membership...
...Ruth A. Lawrence, MD Professor of History and Women's Studies...
...Physicians for Social Responsibility State University of New York Randy Loney, Ph.D...
...But this reduction of a an inflection of stunned surprise...
...a casting of the infamous what you thought you knew...
...Memorials classify and preserve meaning...
...The point called the Hall of Remembrance...
...This part of their story accords with the tory, a few will be brought back to a truth about human nature idea of America as the world's refuge from persecution...
...Students Helping Others Worldwide) Starthrowers Peace on Earth News (Indiana) Common Catholic Peace Fellowship Prolife Ethics and Consistent Human Rights (Luton Beds, England) Agnostics for Life, NYC Faith & RE Prolifers for Peace (London, England) Center for Justice (Buffalo) Intercommunity Coalition of Justice & Peace of Greater Phila New Harmony Weavers (Dayton) Pax Christi USA Notre Dame de Lafayette University Bu protection of life, which is threatened in today's world by arms race, the death penalty and euthanasia...
...a freight car used to transport people to the camps...
...She was talking to herself...
...Martin Sheen, Actor Death Penalty Abolitionist Honorable Sargent Shriver Rosemary Lynch, OSF Benjamin Sheldon, -ado...
...But her voice wasn't conversational...

Vol. 120 • June 1993 • No. 11


 
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