WILL THE HOLOCAUST HAPPEN AGAIN?
“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
– Frank Zappa
We can’t dance about architecture.
We can talk about it.
We can sing about it.
We can paint about it.
But the medium of dance is just not capable of architectural analysis.
Zappa encountered the same dilemma in writing about music.
The medium of writing can evaluate and investigate many different topics (if you haven’t noticed, the realm of politics seems rather ripe for it). But music is deeper than politics (I personally cringe when musicians wax political). Music is deeper than cerebral speculation. Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. It’s the wrong medium. And yet, it’s what we got. So we reduce music by writing about it.
If you’re wondering what Frank Zappa is doing in a Holocaust piece, that’s a good sign. For two reasons.
It means you’re paying attention.
It means you’re cool.
Because you know who Frank Zappa is.
If you don’t know who Frank Zappa is, don’t Google it. Yet.
If I lose you now, I’ll never get you back. I know you.
Writing about the Holocaust is like dancing about architecture.
The Holocaust is just too intense, too heavy, too dark to write about.
Yes, there is certainly no shortage of Holocaust memorabilia in the strange forms of scholarly articles, elementary school curriculums, and Jewish twists on the horror novel, but I’ll hold my horses before dropping the overused “Sho-a Business” line. To each his own. Trust me, I’m not undermining the Holocaust. All of my grandparents are scarred, damaged, and traumatized survivors. And my parents are survivors of those survivors. So I’ve basically been grandfathered in to the gas-chamber flashbacks. I just don’t think the academic stuff really has the power to do it justice. And I’m not entirely convinced that we prevent it by proliferating it. But I’d be thrilled to be in the wrong here.
Ironically, Instagram proved to be a better medium for the Holocaust than any textbook or journal article.
Eva’s Stories did more for my Holocaust awareness than anything I’ve read or heard or even seen on the arms of actual survivors. Instagram. Who would’ve guessed?
But, still, there is the medium and there is the message.
Perhaps the most appropriate medium for the Holocaust is no medium at all.
The Israelis do it right.
So, if writing is too reductive a medium for the Holocaust, why, exactly, are you reading about it?
I can’t write about the Holocaust, but I can write about me. And you. And us.
Will we ever experience a mass genocide of such gut-wrenching proportions?
If you think I have the answer to this question, you are overestimating the reach of my powers.
Happens all the time.
But let me broaden the question.
Jews have it pretty, pretty, pretty good.
(What’s a Holocaust conversation without a Larry David reference?)
We are – for the most part – on top of our game.
I’m not talking spiritually (that is not my purview, but from what I can tell, every era considers itself way more spiritually depraved than its predecessors) but materially, politically, academically, creatively – we are firing on all cylinders.
But how long do we have before this wave crashes?
It’s a question that haunts practically every thinking Jew.
And Jews are notorious for thinking.
Because, as Jews, we are also notoriously sensitive.
Like, insanely sensitive.
Again, a slew of Larry David references can’t help but emerge in your mental memes.
You can call it pathological.
You can call it paranoia.
Or you can sympathize with the post-traumatic ’schpilkas’ with which we’ve been endowed.
Because these are all equally valid reactions.
Jewish history has carved some heady traumas into the collective memory of our tribal gene pool, and Hitler was just a more recent villain in a long, long chain of really gory bad guys. So we are genetically predisposed to panic and paranoia, and the research even underscores this seemingly stereotypical generalization. The pattern feeds on itself as a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy. It’s like that Nirvana song, “just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you…”
Which begs the question: if history repeats itself, is it only a matter of time until the next chapter in the ever-evolving Jewish History Book turns bloody? Granted, there is terror and shootings and suicide bombings, but I’m talking grand scale. Genocide. Wholesale massacre. We repeat those horrors like an alcoholic repeats his self-destruction. Like a gambler repeats her betting. Long stretches of recovery and health can never guarantee an elimination of those ever-present demons. But the moment an addict believes he is cured is the moment his disease reminds him of his doom. Forever vulnerable is the only path of recovery.
Stock markets are the same.
An illusion of invincibility is usually a precursor to the next major crash.
Like Warren Buffet likes to say, be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.
The stock market is like Jewish history. Long stretches of gradual recovery, turns to invincibility, turns to irrational exuberance, turns to — crash. Devastation. How could we be so blind? It’s a recurring story with an equal and opposite recurring denial of its very recurrence.
Which brings us to a new, more subtle genre of Holocaust denial.
There are Holocaust deniers who deny that it ever happened.
They say we made it up. Ignore them. They’re like Internet trolls.
But then there is the denial of a future Holocaust.
They say it can’t happen again. Or it won’t happen again.
Or if we put up an expensive plaque in the synagogue lobby, we can rest assured that all is well.
Or if we put a hashtag before the phrase NeverAgain, we can rest assured that all is well.
Or if we put a Jew in the White House and a parade on 5th Avenue, we can rest assured that all is well.
Jews have arrived.
But that’s the funny thing about history.
The assumption that this time history will not repeat itself, is, in itself, part of history repeating itself.
This time is always different.
Until it isn’t.
How could we be so blind?