Modernity and the Holocaust

TitleModernity and the Holocaust
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1989
AuthorsBaumann, Zygmunt
Number of Pages224
PublisherCornell University Press
CityIthaca, NY

In this volume, the author explores the silences found in debates about the Holocaust, and asks what the historical facts of the Holocaust tell us about the hidden capacities of present-day life. He finds great danger in such phenomena as the seductiveness of martyrdom; going to extremes in the name of safety; the insidious effects of tragic memory; and efficient, "scientific" implementation of the death penalty. Among the conditions that made the mass extermination of the Holocaust possible, according to the author, the most decisive factor was modernity itself. This interpretation counters the tendency to reduce the Holocaust to an episode in Jewish history, or to one that cannot be repeated in the West precisely because of the progressive triumph of modern civilization. He argues, rather, that we must understand the events of the Holocaust as deeply rooted in the very nature of modern society and in the central categories of modern social thought.

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