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Holocaust in American life by Peter Novick 1999

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Analysis and explanation of the theories of Novick's book.
    1. The purposes and the method.
    2. Summary of the reasons of this evolution.
    3. Conclusion of the book : Back to the theory of collective memory.
  3. Commentaries.
    1. Few weaknesses of the argumentation.
    2. A book still supported amongst historians.
  4. Sources.

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. [...]


[...] Witnesses were shown as essential for this memory, and for lack of courses especially about the Holocaust like in the USA, survivors come in the schools to meet the students and tell them about their terrible experience I have personnaly had the opportnity as a French student to meet at school some resistants and survivors of the Holocaust, which was compensating a lack of deepening in History courses The gloomy conclusion of Peter Novick participated to the debate that triggered this book. [...]

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