Top of This issue Current issue
December 7, 2010 marks the day in which I was finally able to wrap my mind around the Holocaust. Before that day, my eyes would only well-up at the very mention of the term. I could only shunt aside all information about it. I visited the Ann Frank's Museum in Amsterdam and peaked into some of her diary, of course. But I could not make myself read anything or see anything related to it.
I could only refuse to see anything else by Woody Allen after he cracked a joke about the Holocaust. How despicable. That was my opinion then, and it still is now.
You might have noticed that I am calling it it.
On that December day I began to see the light. Claude Lanzmann, I read in his interview with the New York Times, calls it the abyss. That word fully empowered me to value my own reactions. They were telling me that I can only lose myself, if I attempt to look into this unspeakable mark on humans.
Looking at things back now, I feel fully justified in having shunted Schindler's List aside as well as Life Is Beautiful.
But now I plan on getting fully absorbed in Lanzmann's Shoah. And I might even be able to set foot on the concentration camps and perhaps thereafter read some descriptions of the indescribable woe.
I fully agree with Mr. Lanzmann that the word Holocaust, much used in the United States, is inappropriate: There is no offering to God there.
Shoah is the right word: this was a catastrophe, a disaster.
The light shin ed upon me at Mr. Lanzmann's reference to Primo Levi's memory of the concentration camp guard who brusquely told him, `Hier ist kein warum,' or `Here there is no why.'
That was a lie, I yelled; and things fell into place.
The Nazis knew precisely what they were doing. And why. To tell us that there was no warum there is another way of trying to cover themselves in front of the naked truth.
They were atheists battling with God.
They were atheists battling with the God who was in each and every Jew.
They were atheists trying to kill each and every Jew, because they believed they could in this way extirpate the very conception of God from the human soul.
Who would ever want to profess the existence of God after a thousand years of eradication of the Jews from the face of the earth?
Can we ever imagine what they imagined?
How foolish a dream.
Did they not realize that two Jews alone escaping their hold would keep the faith alive?
Did they not realize that the making of martyrs is a sure fire to inflame the ardors of faith?
Goya, the painter, knew: Dreams of reason produce monsters. And a monster is the Shoah.
The Nazis were trying to kill each and every Jew, because the Jewish people, above all other people, have believed and proclaimed the presence of God in each and every one of their acts. They discovered the One God, rather than the gods. They have been witnesses to the Living God ever since.
Even when the Jews profess themselves to be atheists, by negating the existence of God they affirm it.
Sartre said it better: God does not exist-the bastard.
Hence the rage against our own constitution.
And it is the degree of rage possessed by the atheist that we need to confront. It can simply be an act of vain intellectual snobbery. This is relative atheism: I am better than you because I believe only in things that are proven by science.
But then there is the real dangerous type of atheism, this is absolute atheism.
The abyss of the Holocaust, the abyss of the Shoah is not like a black hole from which no light escapes. The abyss of the Holocaust, the abyss of the Shoah is an abyss filled with monsters. We had better look at each one of those monsters in their face. Only then can we exorcise them.
I am not an expert in these terrible fields. Far from it. And I hope that deep experts will peak into the opening in which I have fallen.
Here is the monster of Absolute Atheism I see.
The Nazis were not killing Jews because they were Jews-and they were Aryans. What's the difference there?
No, that would merely have been an unspeakable act of racism.
The Nazis killed Gypsies and gays and lesbians with equal glee, not because these people were different from them; but because they could not make them in their own image and likeness. The Nazi, throughout, were playing God.
Constantly defeated in their aspirations, they hoped that eventually-if only given enough time, resources, and leeway-they could improve on God's work.
The Nazis were trying to kill each and every Jew, because the Jewish people are a unique personification of God.
What the Nazis were committing was a Godcide.
To succeed in this endeavor is, by definition, the ultimate aspiration of atheists.
The Nazis were absolute atheists, in their mind, killing God in each and every Jew.
The Nazis were atheists who justified themselves by saying, I am killing God because I am God and there cannot be any other God but me.