The Holocaust that decimated European Jewry in the 20th century highlighted the need to provide security for the Jewish people, couched as a ‘moral obligation’ for the rest of the world. (Zertal, xiv) At the establishment of the state to 1952, almost 720,000 people immigrated to Israel with almost half being Holocaust survivors. (Brog 70) With such an influx of immigration and the need to establish a state that can protect and secure the needs and lives of the Jewish Diaspora was charged with trying to understand the Holocaust among religious and political tensions. The three main periods of holocaust memory as understood in Israel: divided memory, nationalised memory and privatised memory, were all influenced by social and political issues facing the Israeli government at the time. (Gutwein, 36) As explains, such transformation in collective memory had to respond to different phases of nation building that can be reflected in the remodelling of Israeli collective Identity. (FINISH)As Gutwein argues, divided memory within Israel can be traced back from the inception of the state to the Eichmann trial, which ended a period of dichotomous perception of the Holocaust. Such divisive ideas of memory were exacerbated by the need to cement the zionist ethos within the struggle for statehood and how it remembers.
(Gutwein, 37) In both Durkheim’s Suicide (1951) and Education Moral (1961), the allusion to the shared dynamics of group life that produces something of a societal mind was argued and likened to the collective memorial process within Israel regarding the Holocaust. Bellah’s term “communities of memory” propagates such an idea whilst Halbwach (1941) and Schwarz (1996) would contest the idea of collective memory as a socially induced phenomena that is passed on through a community rather than something that is socially instinctual. (Mary Gallant & Harry M. Rhea) However, as Pierre Nora indicates, “Memory is blind to all but the group it binds” suggests that because there are as many memories as there are factions, the memory is by nature “multiple yet specific, collective yet individual”, as to allude to the divisiveness of the memory itself and the difficulty henceforth in codifying the memory within the eyes of the collective at the inception of the nation. (Nora, p. 9) As a consequence, as Zertal propogates, from the outset of the Jewish state was designed to be ‘everything that the Jews in the diaspora were not’; the image of the weak and servile Jews of the Ghetto ‘were abhorrent to the Zionist mind’. (Zertal p, xiv) Ben-Gurion himself regarded the Holocaust as the ‘ultimate fruit of the Jew in exile’ in which it represented a diaspora that should not only be shattered but forgotten.
On the other hand however, Zionists owed a huge debt to the Holocaust as the catalyst that brought about the immediately obvious need for a Jewish state. As a result, the Zionist leaders found no reason to recall the Holocaust beyond its direct link to the creation of the state. (Zertal, 59)The historical proximity of the Holocaust and the Creation of the State and the role in the former in shaping the latter created a national sense of a ‘victim community’, imbedded with trauma and servility that would not be shaken off lightly. (Zertal, p. 167) In extension of the divided memory that plagued the first twenty years of the State of Israel, Hanna Yablonka highlights the role of the 1948 War of Independence in consolidating Israeli power and Holocaust memorial. She argues that at the time of the creation of the state in 1948, Holocaust survivors were remote from the dominant political centre, and had arrived generally vulnerable and wounded. Nevertheless, the power in the creation of the state and participation in the War of Independence swept most of the survivors along with a general passion of a ‘national revival act of revenge’. (Yablonka p.
481) The States’ need for identification and loyalty was illustrated by the IDF which defined national security objectives and promoted a sense of social cohesion, only bolstering the newly found identification with the Jewish state. Involvement in the 1948 war gave the survivors a sense of belonging and the IDF served as a unifying body. As Yablonka indicates, this fact is highly significant of Holocaust understanding in Israel as it aligned many of the survivors with the new state and instilled the idea of the Holocaust as a component of Israeli society and national identity. (Yablonka p. 481) Moreover, as Zertal argues, before the period of nationalisation, acts of commemoration were few and sporadic. In a 220 page textbook of Jewish history published in 1948, only one page was devoted to the Holocaust, where as ten pages were on the Napoleonic Wars.
To further, the state repeatedly postponed the establishment of an official, government sponsored institution to cultivate the memory of the holocaust and its victims; with a Knesset member in 1950 declaring that “Not just the world forgets, we do too”.(Zertal 94-95) Hence from the inception of the State, the image of the weak and helpless Jew was trying to be reversed through institutions and the societal impact of the victory of the 1948 war. Such an image of the diasporic Jew had been consolidated in the minds of the many and social Holocaust memorial was basic and largely neglected.
The want to forget trumped the need to remember with the image of the the lamb being led to slaughterer still the dominant image in the minds of the Israeli. Nevertheless, understanding of the Holocaust within Israel took a sudden shift with the Eichmann Trial in 1961, when empathy with the Jewish diaspora and victims was universally adopted by the Zionist ideology with the lesson of “never again” permeating ever corner of Israeli society. (Gutwein, 37) Furthermore, before such times universal memory of the Holocaust was divergent, fractured and would have rather have been forgotten than remembered as it served as a reminder of the nature of the Jew in the diaspora.In an article by Henry Wasserman titled, ‘The Nationalisation of the Memory of the Six Million’ he remarks that the memory of the Holocaust was changed in order to ‘serve Israel’s changing interests’ whilst also staying that the nationalisation of Holocaust memory transformed Israeli nationalism into the ‘antithesis of Jewish fate’.
(Wasserman – Locate article and Pg number) The nationalisation of Holocaust memory comes under four sub-categories beginning with the Eichmann trial in 1961, followed by the influence of the Six Day War, the influence of education and the emerging need to preserve the threat to ontological security.As Zertal indicates, the Eichmann trial acted as the most adequate occasion for the ‘renewed national unity through memory’, as it was ‘psychologically binding’ on Israeli youth who began to confront their recent history which ‘revolutionised their self perception’ as Israeli’s. (Zertal p.
92) Mary Gallant and Harry Rhea extends such an argument in suggesting that the Eichmann trial was the watershed moment in which Holocaust memory would not only be properly and formerly confronted, but would assimilate into the public sphere and be part of the process of rebuilding collective memory and community. (Gallant and Rhea p. 271) This is why, Brog suggests, Ben-Gurion’s unexpected announcement to the Knesset in May 1960 about the capture of Eichmann, his imprisonment and his future trial under the Nazis and Nazi collaborators Law, ‘fell like a bombshell on Israel and the world’. The Holocaust could finally be faced and and examined but now from a position of power and control rather than from the perfective of a ‘victim community’.
(Brog, p. 95)As Yablonka explains, during the Eichmann trial, a new category of crime was created, ‘crimes against the Jews’ and the legal narrative shifted from the “guilt of the victim” in the 1950s to the “guilt of the murderer” through the Eichmann trial. (The Development of Holocaust Consciousness in Israel: The Nuremberg, Kapos, Kastner, and Eichmann Trials: Hanna Yablonka 22) Additionally, the more that latter became entrenched in public discourse and the more empathetic and emotional the motifs in the Holocaust were, the more deeply rooted the survivors central position came in Israeli society and the Holocaust narrative. (The Development of Holocaust Consciousness in Israel: The Nuremberg, Kapos, Kastner, and Eichmann Trials: Hanna Yablonka, pp. 22) Hence, as a direct result of the confrontation with the Holocaust through the Eichmann trial, Holocaust commemoration moved further towards an identification with victimhood rather than the focus on partisan and rebel fighter resistance against the Nazi’s in WWII, as was afore partitioned. Daniel Navon exacerbates such perspectives in his anecdote of President Katsav at the 2006 Yom HaShoah opening ceremony at Yad Vashem in which he said, “We must ensure that each generation sees itself as the one that emerged from the inferno of the Holocaust”.
Additionally this was confirmed by Shimon Peres in the conclusion of his speech in the 2001 ceremony by stating that “Israel is the historical commemoration to the victims of the Holocaust”. (Navon 357) The Knesset’s decision to ratify the law which made the Eichmann Trial possible in addition to setting a memorial day for the Holocaust, the establishment of the Holocaust Martyr’s and the building in Yad Vashem all collaborated to aid the paradigm shift in the way the Holocaust was understood nationally and was only intensified by the 1967 War. Zertal argues that as a result of the trial, Israeli military strength and oncological security concerns were boosted by the narrative it produced. By organising the trial in such a way that had huge historic implications, Ben-Gurion created a link between the “Israeli youth and their murdered grandparents” and thus created an indispensable connection between the “agony and death of the Jewish diaspora, and the establishment and the right to exist of the State”. (Zertal, p. 111) Hence, such threats to the right of the state to exist gave the fight against Israel’s Arab neighbours new meaning whilst the defence of Israel became a sacred mission endowed with the weight of the ultimate catastrophe.
(Zertal, p. 111) Israel’s reiteration of their position post-1956 heightened tensions with its Arab neighbours in the Middle East and the outbreak of the 1967 War was, as Zertal explains, the first test and application of this new narrative made possible by the Eichmann Trial and the consolidation of Holocaust memory into the public sphere. (Zertal p. 92). As Zertal argues, due to the fact that Auschwitz was a past reality that was, as a metaphor, so indescribable and unimaginable, became in a subtle way a figure of speech.
If Auschwitz, as a now exchangeable term was the price paid for Israel’s recollection, ‘it could also be exploited to define the pre-1967 borders of Israel’. This belated victory over Auschwitz combined with victories in the battles of the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights and the West Bank ‘made possible the fateful transformation of the land of Israel’. (Zertal, p. 126) Furthermore the new ‘Holocaust-centric’ narrative identity of ‘axiomatic victimhood’, argues Navon, had enabled the policy of defence against Israel’s neighbours and the conflict with Palestine as justified, (Navon 363) whilst Wasserman contented that the nationalisation of Holocaust memory was used instrumentally to justify the ‘iniquities’ Israel had displayed in regards to the Palestinian question.
(Gutwein, 40) The new narrative of Jews as the victim was only reinforced by the 1967 war and the Yom Kippur War and their outcomes respectively, which aided the Zionist calls for the state and reaffirmed the importance of the Holocaust embedded with the Israeli identity. Daniel Navon suggests that the 1967 war was perhaps the greatest expansion of the Zionist nation in the framework of Anderson’s ‘Imagined Community’ by its members sharing a commonality embedded within a past and united for the future. (Navon, p.
359) Henceforth, the difference between the Jew and the Israeli gradually began to fade whilst Holocaust memory suppressed the idea of “negation of the Diaspora”, one of Zionism’s basic assumptions, and drew a parallel between Jewish and Israeli fate. (Gutwein, YEAR) With an ontological threat to the existence of the state, and the image of the ‘new Jew’ model which stressed courage and self-defence, preparing the younger generations for defence of the state became the educators main priority. As Chaim Schatzker suggests, educators and students were not prepared to confront the problems with the Holocaust with educators struggling to “present the truth without traumatising”.
(Schatzker, P. 218) To bring students to an honest confrontation of the horrors of the Holocaust and the European phenomena of anti-semitism was precipitated by the Eichmann Trial and the nationalisation of Holocaust memory through consisted borders and Arab hostility. Hence, as Resnik suggests, the role of the education system cannot be underestimated in its responsibility for the formation of the second generation’s national subjectivity and engagement with Holocaust remembrance.
(Resnik p. 300) Schumann, Vinitzky-Seroussi, and Vinokur’s 2003 study highlighted the role of formal education and its curriculum dedicated to teaching historically accurate facts about the holocaust played a huge role in the emergence of Holocaust understanding in the national sphere. (Gallant and Rhea , p. 271) On 26 March 1980, the Knesset amended the State Education Law of 1953 by adding to the list of the basic foundations of education in Israel the ‘consciousness of the memory of the Holocaust and Heroism’.
The curriculum called ‘From Holocaust to Resurgence’ reflected the central message of the time and corroborated the new national image which was a ‘state for a persecuted nation’. The course concentrated on two historically significant events, the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel and linked them causally. (Resnik , p. 307-308) It followed that only a Jewish state, wherein Jews are in the majority, can meet the personal security needs required to prevent a reoccurrence of the Holocaust. Before the 1970’s Israeli education on the Holocaust was primarily dedicated to the partisans and Ghetto rebels, however the Yom Kippur incited instability within the national subjectivity, with students questioning the Israeli position asking questions such as “Was Israel’s establishment a mistake?” or, “What is the point of the Jewish people’s existence?”.
Hence, on the back of the crisis of national subjectivity the educational system was mould and anchored in a new national subjectivity. Instead of national memory embedded within Israeliness and self-reliance it was now couched with, a memory of “grief, suffering and powerlessness”. (Resnik 310) This was reflected post-1973 with text books including more information about the suffering of the Jews, whilst such activities were mirrored in academic research. Whereby at first the Holocaust was dealt with minimally, it followed to “apologetically deliberate on the “Jewish Resistance””. (Brog 84) In 1979, the Minister of Education announced that the Holocaust would be a compulsory subject in high schools and have its own special examination unit.
(Ofer, p. 9)Thus, this national image reinforced attachment to the state by strengthening attachment to the entire Jewish nation, based on common pain and suffering. Its purpose was for pupils to confront the atrocities of the Holocaust and and to ‘arouse direct identification with the traumatic experience’.
(Resnik, 309). As Resnik continues, he argues that instrumental to the educational development of Holocaust understanding solidarity grew from this idea of collective memory based on the fate of the Jewish nation, rather than a solidarity based upon religion or a common history, as propagated by the Yom Kippur War. (Resnik 310) The third and final stage of Holocaust understanding in Israel took a shift from the nationalisation of memory during the late 1960s and 1970s to the period of ‘privatised memory’; which was influenced by the political and moral dilemmas involved in the First Lebanon War and the first Intifada. This period was concerned with the personal fate of the Jew as an individual, and the ‘second generation’. (Gutwein, 36) This stage however, was one of the cornerstones