Existential implications of the Nazi death camps based on selected readings of four Jewish thinkers / by William S. Proser
Includes bibliographical references (p. 230-244)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
The Holocaust of Nazi Germany raises questions that threaten to undermine current assumptions about the foundations of the Humanities, the Social Sciences, Philosophy and Theology. The academic community and other contemporary institutions fail to appreciate the significance of these camps because they ignore the issues the camps raise. The purpose of this study is twofold; first, to determine a representative spectrum of reaction to the Holocaust within the Jewish community by using four of its prominent thinkers, Elie Wiesel, Emil Fackenheim, Eliezer Berkovits and Richard Rubenstein. Secondly, the study suggests a few of the implications of their answers, especially as they apply to the philosophy of existentialism. Existentialism dominates the intellectual landscape of the post war years and carries within itself the seeds of a moral relativism much at issue today. A confrontation between the inevitable relative position of the existentialist and the impossibility of a relative position among Jewish thinkers concerning the death camps, is a battle that has yet to be fought. Jewish reaction to the Holocaust can be arranged on a continuum displaying several disparate conclusions. On one end of the continuum, Berkovits offers traditional answers in an orthodox framework concluding that no new theological ground need be broken. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rubenstein sees the Holocaust as a novuum in human history that demonstrates the utter bankruptcy of the orthodox view. In the middle, Fackenheim formulates a 614th commandment, forbidding any action that would grant Hitler any posthumous victories over the Jewish people. His position would include a sympathetic nationalism for Israel. Also in some kind of middle position, Wiesel advocates an enigmatic mysticism combined with empathetic action on behalf of the oppressed anywhere as the proper response. Each man's answers carry implications for the existential mindset of this century. If existentialism means anything it means the freedom to determine ones own standard of values. A personal standard that does not account for evil and merely retreats to the relativity inherent in existentialism cannot convict or convince anyone of the wrongness of their actions.
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