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The White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the Golden State Killer, and Remembering the Holocaust

Past Present Episode 129

In this episode, Niki, Neil, and Natalia debate the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the Golden State Killer, and the news that Americans are forgetting the Holocaust.

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EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in Question

Call For A Yell-Ceasefire Around The Polish Pogroms

A few weeks ago at 7/9 Planty Street in Kielce, Poland, we of the Jan Karski Society launched a permanent exhibition devoted to the Kielce pogrom, a tragedy suffered by a local community of Holocaust survivors for whom that city became a place, not of peace and security, but of death, pain, suffering, and deep wounds. The Polish neighbors of these victims, instead of providing help, had been their tormentors.

The location of the exhibit was an obvious choice: …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Arendt, Eichmann, and Thoughtlessness

According to Arendt’s emphatic and paradoxical thesis, [Eichmann] was an enemy of humanity from “thoughtlessness.” “It was a sheer thoughtlessness — something by no means identical with stupidity — that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of that period” (285; G: 57).* This (and only this) is what the phrase regarding the “banality of evil” was meant to capture. 

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EssaysMedia/PublicsSex & Gender

Memories of Identities, Identities of Memory

How do memorials shape who we think we are? And how do we “do” identities when we interact with memorials? As Salon.com and others noted, gay men have been using the signature concrete slabs of the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe as backdrops to their profile pictures on grindr, a geo-social app that lets those have have logged on find each other that is popular with gay men. In Salon’s account, the combination of the memorial and the anticipation of erotic pleasure is “odd” and “peculiar.” The Memorial appears as a “prop” for self-presentation. The trend is portrayed as equivalent to the EasyJet airline’s 2009 fashion shoot for an in-flight magazine at the memorial. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionTheory & Practice

Heidegger’s Black Notebooks: Extreme Silencing

The Black Notebooks (Die Schwarzen Hefte), containing Martin Heidegger’s assorted thoughts from the 1930s and 40s, throw new light on the self-aggrandizement into totalitarianism of the most German of all philosophers.

The Freiburg professor of philosophy was not yet 50 years old when, in 1937 and 1938, he retraced his way of thought (Denkweg): He conjoined manuscripts of his various books, talks and lectures in a factual (sachlich) and discerning manner, with a view to ascertaining how all of it should be continued, including a publication strategy. Buoyed by the feeling that he had already achieved the “authentic” breakthrough by 1936, as he wrote to his brother Fritz in 1948, he was henceforward convinced of his ability to lead Western philosophy into a form of “thinking” purified by a history of being and event (or enowning) (seins-und ereignisgeschichtlich geläutert) and thus freed …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Sleepwalking into the Future? II

Is there a European memory creating a sense of belonging and encouraging civic participation?

This is the prepared text of a contribution to a conference of the Europe for Citizens Forum in Brussels on January 28th, 2014.

The title of this discussion employs the metaphors that describe walking into the calamity of WWI, as framing both the ways Europeans remember the 20th century, and even more alarming, as reflecting a mode of uncritical observation which may lead to other calamities, wittingly or unwittingly, in the 21st.

Before we mark the “will to memory” by disasters past and present, informed by a version of a quote from Primo Levi, which one encounters upon entering the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin: “it happened, and therefore it can happen again. This is the core of what we have to say”; before this, I say, we ought to take a step back, to the division between remembrance as a form of thinking, and remembrance as warning (In German: gedenken, mahnen). …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Have Europeans Learned from the 20th Century for the 21st?

This is a lightly abridged version of the keynote address to the conference of the Europe for Citizens Forum in Brussels on January 28th, 2014. Goldfarb was asked to address the question of the title. Siobhan Kattago, Irit Dekel, and Anna Lisa Tota also contributed to the Forum. The latter two are forthcoming.

Open up the newspaper, even in the U.S., and almost every day there is evidence that many Europeans have not learned from the horrors of the 20th century. Although there are powerful forces working against this, the politics of racial and religious hatred is still very much with Europe.

There are alarming manifestations of both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia on a regular basis in Europe, east and west, north and south. The latest include the antics of the anti-Semitic “humor” of Dieudonne M’bala M’bala and his popularization of the “quenelle,” and the attempts of the French authorities to control this latest fad. Thus, as I composed this lecture, I read in my morning New York Times that a French appeals court ruled to uphold bans on Dieudonne’s performances. …

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