Peter Novick is a professor of History in the University of Chicago. After "The Noble Dream : The "objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession" in 1988, in which he criticizes the idea of an ideal objective and neutral historical work, he published "The Holocaust in the American life" in 1999, in which he explains and analysis of how the American discourse focused more and more on the Holocaust, after a paradoxical period of silence about it. This book was a kind of illustration of his theory supported in his former book of how implied an historian can be in his work and point of view on the historical events. Peter Novick's willing of writing this book is born from "curiosity" as an historian and "skepticism" as a American and a Jew. But his opinion, different from the mainstream opinion about the sacred necessity of commemorating the Holocaust, shows that it is above all the opinion of the historian Peter Novick that we get, and not the opinion of just any Jew or any American. The questions he asks in this book are why now, why here, or in other words, why so late, why so far?
[...] During the 1940's and 50's, the shift in the American policy made the government consider the Holocaust as the result of totalitarianism in general, and not the child of the only guilty Germany. This policy finds ground not only in the cold war and the process of diabolizing the Soviets, but also on the fact that Germany became an important target of American policy, against the opinion of the American Jewish organizations which started at that time to boycott German products. [...]
[...] All of his very documented and analyzed research leads to a strong argumentation supporting the theory that the place of the Holocaust in the American collective memory is not only large, but even too large especially in the Jewish community. Obviously this theory was much controversial, as it points out the "choices" of strategy of the Jewish organizations leaders throughout years, and their important consequences on the vision and awareness of the Holocaust. This book was that much discussed because it doesn't raise about the Holocaust in itself, or even about the content of these discussions in the USA, but about how it came as he says, in the American society and discourse. [...]
[...] According to the author, and as he already explains in the introduction, the Holocaust was too extreme an event to be able to give lessons for the present time Conclusion of the book : back to the theory of collective memory In the last part of the book, which can be considered as a conclusion, and which is entitled “Future years”, the author comes back to the theory of the collective memory and points out the fact that the American society does not transmiss its collective memory, and so the centering of the Holocaust in American life can be considered as a phenomenon due to some political and sociological circumstances, something relating events, influencing them, and influenced by them at the same time. [...]
[...] Also we can say that the author fails in explaining how the Holocaust memory spread and became so important from the Jewish community to the whole American society. There is a last point that the author does not clarify: his role of historian, and his identity of Jew. Although he mentions it in the introduction, he does not develop this point which however can be important. During the book, Peter Novick uses words of historians like the word “Holocaust”. He never says as he could say for his Jewishness. [...]
[...] Another critical remark that we can make about Holocaust in American life” is about the sources that Peter Novick used. Apart from the fact that his work is more than documented, with heavy footnotes, the sources he put forward are a bit one-sided. He quotes mainly people and Jewish organizations with whom he does not agree, but he hardly quotes historians or organizations with whom positions he agrees. Besides he does not emphasize the role of the scholarship in discourses about the Holocaust. [...]
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