"The new paradigms that originated from the Shoah must be sensitive and directed toward the creation of a better human and better humanity, toward people and cultures that will never again produce slaughterers like the Nazis and will not allow victimization. One law will be in the land for the persecuted of the entire world, whatever group: Armenian, Gypsy, Jew, homosexual, migrant, or a refugee from Rwanda, Cambodia, or Palestine. The new theology, especially the Jewish one, must break out of the boundaries of the old faith and make the faith in the human, God's creation, a tenet of its legacy and traditions, as a mandatory basis for a dialogue between the believers of all faiths..."So basically what Burg is saying is that the Holocaust is over (which is also the name of his book) and that the Jews should start focusing not only on their suffering but on the suffering of everyone. This is not a particularly controversial view. I don't think there is any shortage of Jewish thinkers who think that the Jews should be focusing on the future instead of the past. But most critical is that Burg seems to be pushing a point of view in thinking about the Holocaust (and history in general) that the Jewish part of it should be ignored or downplayed. It doesn't appear in the article, but check out this comment by him in the talkback thread:
The critical line is: "the holocaust was done by human beings to human beings. Not just, simplistically by Germans to Jews," and later, "every human suffering is mine. Not just the Jewish one."
I understand what Burg is trying to say here: That more people died in the Holocaust than just the Jews. We all know this. It's been discussed before. But there is more to the events of the 1930s and 40s than just human beings mistreating other human beings. If that is all the Jews (and the rest of the world) learn from the Holocaust we are in trouble.
Burg is trying, even unintentionally, to take the Jews and anti-Semitism out of the Holocaust, and make it just like any other conflict, when the reality is that Jews and anti-Semitism are the principle reason why all the events of the Holocaust happened. To understand this, we're going to need to take a quick jump into history with the help of Prager and Telushkin. Click the link below to continue.
Many people believe that the Nazis simply were racists and wanted to kill everyone who isn't "Aryan," which would include the Jews, though they were willing to make exceptions for their allies in Imperial Japan and the Arab states. The truth is that the racist "Aryan" theory actually came out of anti-Semitism, not the reverse. The Nazis were the first ones to label the Jews as an inferior race, in other words, that a Jew who converted to Christianity was still a Jew. This was done so that they could kill Jews who had converted to ensure there were none left. In other words, they needed to come up with an excuse to take out everyone who had "Jewish blood," and so the race theory of "Aryans" and "non-Aryans" was created to justify that goal. Seriously.
Hitler proved this in Mein Kampf: "In his new language [the Jew] will express the old ideas; his inner nature has not changed...the Jew...can speak a thousand languages and nevertheless remains a Jew. His traits of character have remained the same...It is always the same Jew." The Nazis were the first anti-Semites in history to believe that Jews had immutable traits that were with them forever, no matter how much they tried to deny it. This is characteristic of a race, not a religion or nation.
Burg is right that the other people besides the Jews were killed during the Holocaust. However, the Jews were the only group who were targeted for utter annihilation. The Nazis may have hated other groups like black people, but they were willing to let them live as long as they were subjugated. Anti-Semitism formed the basis of Nazism, not anti-non-Aryanism. And yes, the distinction is important. Hitler himself admitted he was an anti-Semite before he was a racist, and solving "the Jewish Question" was one of his major goals. But in order to convince many of his people that the Jews needed to be "removed" from Germany, he couldn't single them out. The Nazis needed to make up a pseudo-scientific theory of "Aryan" race in order to justify their removal of the Jews.
If you don't believe me, ask Lucy Dawidowicz, a Holocaust historian:
"Serious people, responsible people, though that Hitler's notions about the Jews were, at best, merely political bait for disgruntled masses, no more than ideological window dressing to clock a naked drive for power. Yet precisely the reverse was true. Racial imperialism and the fanatic plan to destroy the Jews were the dominant passions behind the drive for power." [The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945, p. 191]And that is why taking the Jews out of the Holocaust, and labeling them as just one group among many who have suffered, is a big mistake. The Nazis didn't take power because they wanted to cleanse Africa of all black people, and they didn't invade Eastern Europe because they wanted to rid the Earth of the Roma. They didn't believe that the Slavs were a threat to humanity world wide, and they didn't distribute anti-Polish propaganda either. By ignoring the anti-Jewish motivation for the Holocaust, one ignores key aspects of history, and one's entire understanding of those dark days is changed.
The Holocaust is a singular event in history not because a lot of human beings mistreated a lot of other human beings. To say such a thing is oversimplification at its finest. And it's dangerous to do so, because that renders the Holocaust just another tragedy in the bloody trail that is human history, which in turn renders all lessons learned from it moot. What Avraham Burg is forgetting is that there was a time when one group of people made it their life's work to rid the world of another group of people. This has never happened before in history, and some might say it could only happen to Jews. There are people in the modern day who would be all too happy to finish what Hitler started. And that is why the Jews can't forget what happened to them. Because there aren't many people who threaten to exterminate an entire group, and even fewer who were actually follow through with that threat. It has happened to the Jews, they can't simply ignore the fact that it could happen again.
If all we take away from studying the Holocaust is that "people killed people," then we will have learned nothing. All of those victims really would have died in vain. Jew and non-Jew alike. I hope that is not Avraham Burgs' intention in writing this.