Depicting the Holocaust: A Problem

It is a constant struggle for us to figure out ways to represent the Holocaust that are respectful to those who perished. Often representatives from different groups wish to remind the world what happened in those dark years while Hitler was in power and the Nazi party ruled and ruined the lives of all it enveloped, so that the world can remember and renew our vow again and again that we will do what we can to ensure that it never happens again. The question is always: how?

Today, January 31, 2008, a group in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was faced with this very issue. The Rio carnival has a reputation of being “a festival recognised worldwide for its joy, humour, entertainment and eroticism,” the lawyer of Fierj, the Jewish federation of Rio, explained in an article about the opposition toward a certain float depicting the Holocaust. He opposed the float because of the aforementioned characteristics, and represented Fierj in their fight against it, saying that “The monstrosity that is the Holocaust just cannot be combined with the excessively festive nature of the carnival.”

According to the same article, “The float is one of several that Viradouro was planning to use as the group parades down Rio’s sambadrome under its theme ‘It gives you goose bumps’. The other floats are set to portray cold, fear and birth.”

Does the memory of the Holocaust give you goose bumps? Does it sometimes infringe on your ability to sleep at night? Of course it does. How about the time of Pogroms? Or the Crusades? Or the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, in which the Church told many pagans, Jews, and others, that they were to convert, be expelled, or die. And yet, Mel Brooks can poke fun at both the Inquisition and the Crusades in his movie, “History of the World: Part I”. What is it about the Holocaust that makes us so opposed to those who want to depict it for an effect? What is it that makes it okay for people to create video games in which the player is a Crusader, reminding us of a time when thousands of Jews, and others, were killed in the name of Jesus Christ, but the idea of a video game in which players play the role of Nazi is abhorrent to us?

Don’t think I’m downplaying our pain still from the Holocaust. I am not. I am asking simply why we don’t share that pain when we think about the other events that were just as horrific? On Yom Kippur we read the martyrology, which tells of ten Rabbis who were brutally murdered in their respective time periods, just for being Jewish. This is perhaps less well-known, but this too doesn’t make you want to vomit?

The fact that people would want to dedicate a parade float to displaying anything resembling the atrocities of the Holocaust sickens me. A memorial is one thing. A display is another.

Try to have some respect for the Dead. They have been through enough.

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