Is Joseph Massad a “white,Christian-looking” man? I ask because in the latest edition of Massad-speak, he asserts that “Since the 1960s, Hollywood films about the Holocaust began to depict Jewish victims of Nazism as white Christian-looking, middle class, educated and talented people not unlike contemporary European and American Christians…”
Massad means to place the Holocaust within the context of post-colonial studies by asserting that Europeans were horrified by the Nazi genocide only because of their “horror at the murder of white Europeans.” For the record, pre-war Jews were both rich and poor, but mostly poor. And not merely because we’re talking about the Great Depression in Poland and the Soviet Union. In a part of the world where poverty was rampant, Jewish poverty was enhanced in the 1930′s by virulent Polish and Soviet anti-Semitism that deprived Jews even of the meager opportunities open to non-Jewish Soviet and Polish citizens.
But Massad implies that it was somehow somehow illegitimate for post-war movie directors to depict the typical Holocaust victim wearing ordinary clothes. “Presumably if the films were to depict the poor religious Jews of Eastern Europe (and most East European Jews who were killed by the Nazis were poor and many were religious)…” But although Massad implies otherwise, the great majority of Jews were secular; only a minority of pre-war Jews were religiously observant, and only some of those wore identifiably Jewish dress.
This is typical Massad-speak: a facile abuse of logic and evidence in the service of canard.
It gets worse. Massad criticizes movie directors for depicting, “Jewish victims of Nazism as white.” What is he talking about? Nazis did not care what color a Jew was. They murdered Jews: blue-eyed, blond-haired Jews, brown-skinned, dark-haired Jews, and little Jewish children with freckled faces and curly red hair.
Massad also misinforms us that the Hollywood depiction of Jews as secular, middle-class people in ordinary clothes, “Explains why in a country like the United States, which had nothing to do with the slaughter of European Jews, there exists upwards of 40 holocaust memorials and a major museum for the murdered Jews of Europe, but not one for the holocaust of Native Americans or African Americans for which the US is responsible.“
In America, anyone can built a museum or memorial. America has many, many more than 40 Holocaust memorials and museums. They were built and funded by American citizens. The United States has so many of them because America granted citizenship to so many survivors of the Nazi genocide.
America also has multiple memorials to the Armenian genocide, the Irish Famine, the Katyn Massacre, and to many other horrors and tragedies. These exist because groups of Americans have come together to build them.
Massad appears to be unaware that America has a long tradition of building memorials and museums with private donations but with such broad public support that it was deemed appropriate to make public land available for their construction. Grant’s Tomb, the magnificent tribute of a grateful nation to the man who won the war to end slavery, is such a memorial. It is a deeply moving commemoration of the willingness of white and black Americans, to fight and die in that war. Grant’s Tomb was entirely funded by private donations. It is located only a few blocks from Massad’s office on the Columbia campus. I hope that he will visit it before he writes another misleading paragraph on American National Memorials.
The “major museum” Massad refers to, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is, like Grant’s Tomb, built on public land but it was and is funded by private donations. It is only one of the National Memorials built in recent decades with private funds on public land, they include the National Japanese American Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Other recent official National Memorials, including the Flight 93 Memorial, and the World War II Memorial were built with a combination of public and private funds.
But back to today’s classic Massad-speak assertion that although there is a holocaust museum there is “not one for the holocaust of Native Americans or African Americans.” The idea that America is at fault for not dedicating museums to the “holocaust” of “Native Americans or African Americans” is a red herring.
There is in fact a Black Holocaust Museum and there have been efforts to build an American Indian Genocide Museum. They are minor efforts because American blacks and Indians have not chosen to support them; they do not agree with Professor Massad’s version of history.
Americans of every hue and cultural background continue to grapple with the quesiton of how to understand American racism and slavery, and we continue to grapple with the question of how to understand the interaction between Amerindians, and Americans whose ancestors arrived after 1607. The United States has scores of monuments, museums and major collections dedicated to American Indian history and culture, hundreds of museums and memorials of African American history.
More importantly, the Massad-speak implication that America honors the Holocaust more than it honors its black or native heritage is is a red herring because he omits an enormous fact. The fact is that there are two and only two official, government-operated national museums built on the National Mall in Washington D.C. and dedicated to single ethnic or cultural groups. They are the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Massad-speak, a intellectual shell-game to delude the gullible.