Racing with catastrophe : representations of the Holocaust and American Jewish anxiety / by Sandie Ruth Friedman
Includes bibliographical references (p. 211 216)
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This dissertation focuses on a self-perpetuating cycle that has evolved in American Jewish discourse in the last fifteen years: anxiety about Jewish vulnerability feeds discussion of the Holocaust, and discussion of the Holocaust in turn generates fears. I argue that teaching the Holocaust as a moral and political lesson is both a symptom of, and a salve for, anxieties about vulnerability. Chapter One examines Ronald Reagan's 1985 visit to the military cemetery in Bitburg, Germany, which became the occasion for a protest that was both an assertion of Jewish power and a performance of victimhood. Chapter Two critiques Schindler's List and the assumption that Oskar Schindler, as a white gentile man, has the capacity to be the bearer of a universal moral message. Chapter Three, on amateur Holocaust museums, begins to focus on the image of the victim's body. In order to teach and memorialize the event, Holocaust museums must display the body of the Jewish victim; this body generates anxiety because it evokes long-standing anti-Semitic conceptions of the Jew as inherently weak or feminine. To counteract the feminized body of the victim, the museums I study pair the victim's body with the masculine body of the Jewish soldier. Chapter Four argues that the fabricated figure of the heroic masculine survivor becomes, in the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a model for the American citizen. Although these Holocaust spectacles are framed as lessons in tolerance and diversity, they display an ideal of the citizen and moral agent as white, masculine and, in the case of Oskar Schindler, gentile.
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