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American Responses to the Holocaust

Transatlantic Perspectives

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Edited By Hans Krabbendam and Derek Rubin

This collection puts the topic of Jewish Studies and Holocaust Studies in a new American Studies perspective. This perspective compares the similarities and differences in responses and their transatlantic interaction. As the Holocaust grew into an important factor in American culture, it also became a subject of American Studies, both as a window on American trends and as a topic to which outsiders responded. When Americans responded to information on the early signs of the Holocaust, they were dependent on European official and informal sources. Some were confirmed, others were contradicted; some were ignored, others provoked a response. This book follows the chronology of this transatlantic exchange, including the alleged abandonment of the Jews in Europe and the post-war attention to the Holocaust victims.

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Between Memory and Post-memory: Once More on the Awkward Marriage of the Holocaust and the American Mass Media (Małgorzata Pakier)

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Małgorzata Pakier

Between Memory and Post-memory: Once More on the Awkward Marriage of the Holocaust and the American Mass Media

Abstract: This essay explores the transition from individual experience to collective memory mediated by the mass media. It uses the example of the 1953 broadcast of Hanna Kohner’s story which was the first instance of televising the Holocaust experience.

The problem of the mediation of meanings and the character of the media’s influence on the shape of our collective remembering, including Holocaust memory, is broader than just the mass-medialization, i.e., popularization and trivialization, of memory. The relation between historical or biographical experience and its cultural representation and memory is both dynamic and interactive. These relations transcend the simple questions of whether a particular cultural text on the Holocaust is an accurate representation of authentic historical events, or whether there are greater aims that could justify possible misuses. In order to rightfully assess the role of mass media in shaping memory culture, one needs to move away from seeing the media in a static and passive way and take note of their active role in the creation of meanings of the past. This means that media are not merely containers for memories, nor are they merely vehicles ready to carry historical content. Media aren’t just tools in the hands of those who remember, negotiate, revive, and annihilate pasts. Media can become active agents in memory processes.1 Media establish discursive frames,...

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