The Holocaust Is Over?

Alon Confino has issued a desideratum to other historians that they should bring questions and insights from cultural history to bear on the study of the Holocaust. Taking the work of Saul Friedländer as his point of departure, Confino nonetheless sets out on a path different from Friedländer's. He turns away from the goal of “integrated history” and instead seeks to investigate the realm of German culture, understood as encompassing much more than just Nazi ideology. By analyzing how the Holocaust has come to be perceived as unprecedented, as a rupture in human history, and furthermore by treating Jewish victims' sense of disbelief as an artifact of the past, one that has continued to inform unduly the historical understanding of the Holocaust up to the present day, historians will be able to account anew for what made the persecution and extermination of Jews imaginable and thus possible. With Confino's approach, a major historiographical question resurfaces, however: namely, what place an analysis of non-Germans should occupy in the history of the Holocaust, and in particular what place should be accorded to Jewish voices? This essay argues that we cannot make sense of why Germans supported and carried out the Holocaust without also considering Jewish contemporaneous perspectives and imaginings.