Journeys through the Holocaust

Paul Antick

itourist? Notes on the Affective Economies of Holocaust Tourism

Electing to visit sites of mass extermination — Auschwitz, for example - represents, in part, not only the desire to suspend the present by immersing oneself in the physical residues of the past, but also a perverse wish to be moved or affected by the specific events to which these strange, animistic environments refer. To experience, in other words, what Ulrich Baer calls a 'traumatic flashback'; something that may well 'hark back to its temporal frame in the past' but which also, I think, resonates with meanings that derive their potency from events that are firmly situated in the present.1

Baer's use of the term 'trauma' is interesting. If the 'flashback' he refers to is the articulation of a symptom of some prior event (the Holocaust), the memory of which has long since been repressed, then it follows, for Freud at least, that one can only manifest such a symptom if one has in fact actually experienced the event that gave rise to it. Clearly, for most visitors this is unlikely to be the case. (I should add here that in this paper I will not be referring to those with first hand experience of the camps — a quite different category of visitor about whose experiences I neither have the wish nor the knowledge to remark upon.) So perhaps what Baer is actually referring to is a metaphorical or pseudo-symptom — a postmodern symptom of sorts. Something that realizes itself through a sudden, yet meticulously planned and much anticipated, jolt. An emotional and physical manifestation of a pseudo-trauma, triggered not by a repressed incident in ones own personal life history, but the position one consciously assumes in relation to the various forms, rites and rituals of Holocaust 'remembrance'.

The masochistic desire for 'traumatic flashback' which must, to varying degrees, be the motor that propels many visitors toward such places is both cultivated and precipitated, although probably never satisfied, by the various techniques used to represent the savage events that occurred sixty years ago at places like Aushwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka and Madjanek.2 One can, for example, wander unaccompanied round the formal and informal spaces and architectures of mass extermination that remain. One can run one's fingers along the rough stone walls of the women's barracks at Birkenau, stand alone in what was once a gas chamber at Madjanek, traipse around an empty field that is all that remains of the death camp at Chelmno. As if, in short, one really is there, which of course, in one sense, one is, but in another... Where one is, in fact, is at the representational epicenter and of what is now, literally, no longer present; incarceration, humiliation, slaughter, genocide. And what one is party to, as james young puts it, is an act of administration. Which is to say the administration of memory. But what, we might ask, is, in this context, the relationship between memory and affect and how might we begin to conceptualize it ?

Unlike the genocide itself, which was relatively exclusive, 'Holocaust tourism' is an experience that potentially remains as freely available to Germans as it is Poles, as affecting for non-Jews as it is Jews. The 'democratization of the Holocaust', if one can call it that, of which 'Holocaust tourism' is an index, has, however, given rise to a number of anxieties that are as pertinent to the representation of the Holocaust's affective economies; who now feels, and how, as they have been perhaps to the representation of the Holocaust itself; who then suffered, how, to what extent and why.

In particular then, I want to focus on the 'affective economies' of 'Holocaust tourism' and the extent to which constructing an understanding of such economies, specifically in art historian, Griselda Pollock's essay, Holocaust Tourism: being there, looking back and the ethics of spatial memory, can often serve to foreclose the possibility of not only acknowledging the experiential and ontological complexities of the subject of mass tourism but also the contemporary Jewish subject, something which to my mind does an injustice to the actually existing, often highly nuanced nature of jewish subjectivity in general.3

Specifically, the figure of the 'Jew' in pollock's essay, which significantly I think may be understood as symptomatic of a somewhat romantic longing for an unassimilated, almost pre-modern — or pre-postmodern - form of Jewish identity, is contrasted with the profane figure of the non-Jewish tourist, for whom the Holocaust site is merely another port of call, another exotic destination on a long list of must-see destinations. In this respect, not only does the Jewish pilgrim's encounter with the Holocaust remain, according to Pollock, remarkably untainted by the values, or mindset, of mass culture, of which the tourist's journey is one manifestation, but what is presented to the reader here is an account of an ideal-type Jewish response to places like Auschwitz that fails to take into account a raft of issues — notably, patterns of Jewish social and cultural assimilation, for instance - which, if properly acknowledged, can only serve to render any homogenizing account of Jewish consumption and identity uncomfortably problematic. In fact, it is precisely this absence — this failiure to acknowledge the heterogenous nature of jewish identity - that effectively renders Pollock's text deeply ideological. In other words, although Pollock is, in part, concerned with deconstructing 'Holocaust tourism', alerting the reader to its ideological or alienating capacity, what Pollock does, above all, is provide the reader with an exteremly simplistic, and therefore potentially misleading account of the relationship between Jewish identity and the consumption of Jewish history. The fact that it might amount to a philosemitic account, in as much as the 'purity' of the Jewish encounter is contrasted with the tourist's 'corrupted' experience of Auschwitz, in my opinion makes it even more insidious and, as I hope to demonstrate, even more constraining. In addition, and perhaps more telling, I want to consider the extent to which Pollock's analysis — which is by no means unusual - also represent a deep seated fear of the consequences of jewish assimilation and its corollary, cultural impurity, and the way in which this particular anxiety is effectively disavowed and projected in pollock's essay onto the hapless figure of the tourist. 4

The extent to which the visitor's experience of the Holocaust is over determined by the museumification of the sites themselves is something that — as james young discusses - the German installation artist Jochen Gertz addresses in EXIT / Materialien zum Dachau-Project (1974).5 Here Gertz is specifically concerned with disclosing what young refers to as 'the uncanny resemblance between the language of 'administering memory' at the Dachau museum' - through an exhibition at Dachau itself of a set of linguistically rendered prohibitions, designed to mimic those displayed throughout the museum 'proper'; 'no smoking, no dogs, no baby strollers, no litter, no touching, no straying from the path' etc. - and the language that once administered the concentration camp itself'. For Young, Gertz's installation — with its implicit poststructuralist preoccupation with the constitutive nature of language and representation - succeeds in alerting us to the ways in which 'our experience in the museum shapes the history we've come to remember, so that we may never mistake one for the other, even as we cannot know one outside of the other.'6 What Gertz work fails to do, however, is alert the viewer to the different registers in which such administrative procedures might actually be consumed or negotiated. That is, by what Griselda Pollock considers to be the two main protagonists in the field of Holocaust tourism, 'tourists' and 'pilgrims'.7

Although Gertz is implicitly critical of the idea that there may be an unmediated way in which one can experience such places, Pollock suggests that there is, but only if one comes to the 'Holocaust experience' as a pilgrim rather than a tourist. As we shall see it is precisely in assuming the position or role of the pilgrim, with all that entails, that one is - apparently — able to transcend those discursive constraints, played out in the field of 'pre-packaged' representations, that specifically determine the ways in which such places will generally be experienced and understood.

Following Tim Cole's lead Pollock suggests that pilgrims to Auschwitz should be understood as, people ' who return to a place that they once knew, or come to visit the 'cemetery' of murdered relatives and friends.' 8 In contrast, tourists are those for whom Auschwitz is a 'sight' (to be seen) 'rather than a memorial site' (to be experienced). 9 Pollock goes on to delineate what she takes to be the distinct qualitative nature of their experiences.

Pilgrims, she remarks, 'do not come to be informed'. Indeed, for the pilgrim — Pollock's authentic visitor — Auschwitz 'is already over known, often unbearably so.' For the tourist, on the other hand, this place can never be 'known' enough, which is precisely why they arrive demanding instant gratification in the form of a 'packaged, planned, itinerized, experience, pre-shaped by the new canons of the museum educators and the heritage industry.'10 Moreover, it is because Pollock's tourists allow themselves to be 'manipulated' by the mechanisms of mass tourism that she is able to designate the tourists' experience 'inauthentic'. In other words, by entering into the cultural economy of tourism, by allowing themselves to be constituted as 'tourists', it seems that the only subject position available to them is one entirely derived from the spectacle of sightseeing, where 'the encounter is stage managed as a memorable visit, rather than a visit of memory'.11 As such, Pollock's description of the tourist evokes the image of an intellectually and emotionally impoverished cut-out figure as pre-packaged, homogenous and predictably standardized as 'Aushwitzland' itself.12

Thus for the tourist, the rendering of the remnants of an extermination camp, in a deceptively coherent and manageable form, characteristically invokes in them a 'pre-packaged' set of responses; pity, anger, moral indignation, and, what Baer calls, 'its corollary, narcissistic self satisfaction'. In short, this is an experience designed primarily to stimulate in the tourist an emotional response that apparently amounts to no more than a highly stylised or contrived and derivative kind of pathos that ultimately, as baer argues, 'trivializes the event it is intended to commemorate by evoking clichés of prefabricated sentimentality'. As such, this ceases to be an authentic act of commemoration at all. This is commemoration by numbers, 'rote commemoration.'13

The way in which the subject of mass tourism is described — or constructed - here simultaneously serves to differentiate it from and, in so doing, confirm the autonomous and transcendent nature of the pilgrim's experience at places like Auschwitz. In this way the pilgrim comes to stand for a model of subjectivity that is not entirely constituted by the experience of 'Auschwitzland', but instead exists on a more subtle, variegated plane. In contrast to the tourist what Pollock presents the reader with here is a version of self that includes a past life, one that colours or informs the subject's current preoccupations and experiences. In short, the 'pilgrim' has a history of which he or she appears to be conscious, a history — insofar as that history relates to the events of the Holocaust — that manifests itself in the form of what Pollock calls, 'recuperable memory'. And not only does this 'memory essence' serve to distance the pilgrim from the illusory machinations of the spectacle of mass — or dark - tourism but, in the case of the Jewish pilgrim, it is authenticated precisely through bonds of kinship. Blood, in other words.

This is a crucial point because it means that, for Pollock, whilst the pilgrim is by no means always Jewish, the Jewish visitor is, by definition, always a pilgrim. As such, the pilgrim is subject to the vicissitudes of a 'genuine' unconscious history, made manifest through expressions of 'authentic' trauma that represent what she calls the 'etched lining of memory'.14 In contrast, if the tourist is party to some form of 'traumatic flashback' then, according to Pollock's definition, this can only ever approximate a poor simulation of the 'real thing'. The tourist, in other words, brings nothing of value to the 'event' because the tourist, by definition, has nothing of value to bring. In short, the tourist is a mere tabular rasa upon which the ideology of instant emotional gratification — such as it is precipitated by the spectacle and spaces of mass Holocaust tourism - is effectively writ large. The underlying assumption here being that the mind-set of the Jewish pilgrim — guaranteed, as it is, by their race or ethnicity - remains 'pure' in comparison; untainted by a profane sensibility which, in this instance, is synonomous with the consumption of mass culture. And underlying this, of course, is the rather more troubling assumption that race or ethnicity, in and of itself, is enough to guarantee a particular mode of engagement that, in this instance, all Jews will necessarily share. That is, simply by virtue of the fact that they are all Jews.

In many ways the anxieties that Griselda Pollock articulates with regards the occupation of the subject of mass tourism by an alien and alienating ideology, one that alienates the subject from its 'true' or 'authentic' sense of self is mirrored by the articulation, in a variety of contexts and moments, of anxieties related to the question of Jewish assimilation. Certainly from a conservative Jewish perspective it is precisely that yearning for a kind of golden age of unmediated subjectivity that transcends the vicissitudes of history that appears to characterise such utterances. In other words, the figure of the 'impure' or assimilated Jew has come to resemble, for commentators like Bertram Gold for instance, former head of the American Jewish Committee, whom peter novick quotes, as great a threat to Jewish identity as the tourist — Pollock's own assimilation metaphor — is to the sanctity of places like Auschwitz.15 (jewish tourist presents a greater threat)

The relationship between assimilation and subjectivity can perhaps be conceived of in two ways: the assimilated subject as totally occupied by the culture of the other, something that leads to a loss of one's 'authentic' sense of self. Thus precipitating a defensive response on the part of the assimilated which tends to assume the form of a highly stylised mimetic gesture intended — it would seem - to reassure the host that the more intolerable aspects of racial and culture difference have been erased or, at least, in part, suspended.

Or, more productively perhaps, we might conceive of cultural assimilation as a process where, for example, the Jewish self adapts itself to the host in such a way that innovative, hybrid, albeit often problematic, forms of identity arise which are neither purely 'Jewish' nor entirely assimilated.16 Either way, the kinds of anxieties that cultural assimilation can give rise to are invariably premised on a perceived sense of loss, or lack of, cultural authenticity. Arguably, and ironically, this often characterises the sensibility and attitudes of the host culture towards the assimilated as much as it does the assimilated's attitudes - both negative and positive - toward the act of assimilation itself. Either way, the notion of ethnic 'purity' often remains, for both camps, synonymous with the idea of 'authenticity'.17 And it is precisely the spectre of the 'impure', assimilated Jew - whose absence haunts Pollock's text - that is effectively displaced onto the figure of the tourist. Moreover, it is the figure of the modern, assimilated Jew — which from a conservative point of view, remains an incoherent, irrational and deeply fragmented figure; one that threatens to extinguish the basis of an 'authentic' Jewish identity, that to some extent motivates the ways in which some conservative Jewish institutions have framed the contemporary significance of the Holocaust and in so doing, implicitly specified precisely what does and what does not constitute an appropriate form of engagement with it.

It may be true that many Jewish visitors do not come to Auschwitz 'to be informed', as Griselda Pollock points out. It may be true that for many Jewish visitors, the Holocaust (which is to say the 'facts', what actually happened) is 'overknown'. But this is not to say that such visits undertaken by pollock's ideal-type jewish pilgrim take place in a social, cultural and ideological vacuum and, moreover, that contemporary 'needs', political and ideological, do not serve to partially determine the ways in which the Holocaust, as both spectacle and memorial, might be engaged with. In The Holocaust in American Life Peter Novick examines the ways in which, 'present concerns determine what of the past we remember and how we remember it."18 In doing so, Novick points to the fact that collective American memory of the Holocaust — both Jewish and non-Jewish — is to a large extent an effect of the various politically and ideologically motivated ways in which the Holocaust has been deployed in American life. It is by adopting this approach that Novick refuses the kind of essentialist preoccupations with notions of race and subjectivity that implicitly motivate the approaches of conservative writers like Pollock, in favour, that is, of an approach that foregrounds instead the reciprocal nature of the relationship between ideology, history and experience.

For Novick, a raft of issues including Jewish assimilation, something marked by a rapid increase in inter-marriages and an accompanying 'dilution' of Jewish culture; and, most pertinent perhaps, the ideological uses (and abuses) of the Holocaust itself, specifically to shore up support for the State of Israel, particularly after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, have all contributed to the various ways in which some representatives of the Jewish community in the US have deployed the Holocaust and Israel — ' the twin pillars of American 'civil religion' - to precipitate a series of shifts in the ways in which it has sought to represent itself both to itself and the culture at large. 19 As Novick asserts, since the mid-1970s the 'American Jewish leadership, in response to a perception that needs had changed, has chosen to center the Holocaust — to combat what they saw as a 'new anti-semitism'; in support of an embattled Israel; as the basis of revived ethnic consciousness.'20 In this way Novick persuades us that responses to the Holocaust by the Jewish establishment — and, therefore, many jewish visitors, are both historically contingent and, in the late twentieth century, largely motivated by concerns over the degenerative effects of assimilation,what Sheldon Engelmayer provocatively refers to as a 'bloodless' or 'spiritual' Holocaust'. In this context then, the figure of the 'authentic' Jew is cast as a redemptive figure. Fuelled by the memory of the Holocaust, his mission is to propel the latterday Children of Israel back to Zion, the mythic and spatial cradle of an 'authentic' Jewish civilisation (a space that invariably includes the contested areas of so-called 'Samaria' and 'Judea' — the West Bank).

In a similar vein Jack Kugelmass argues that far from entering into an unmediated encounter with the Holocaust itself, the Holocaust pilgrim is, amongst other things, endeavouring to 'make past time present.' And, 'in so doing they are symbolically reversing reality: they are transposing themselves from what they are currently perceived as — in America as highly privileged, and in Israel as oppressive — and presenting themselves as the diametric opposite — as what they in fact were.'

If Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer's critique of mass culture was in part intended to explain how mass culture impacted upon the German masses' ability to resist the onset of Nazism during the 1930s — through a 'withering away of their critical faculties' (something that Pollock implicitly references in relation to the tourist) — what it surely also implies is a need, on the part of the masses, to turn away from something immensely confusing and complex. Specifically, the social, economic and cultural upheavals in Weimar Germany immediately following the 1st world war.21 That is, to turn away from such mayhem in favour of what, for Adorno, represented the neatly packaged world of mass culture, with its easily digested narratives, its unambiguous cast of 'goodies' and 'baddies' and its predictably happy endings. This was a world that did not represent a threat to the political and cultural status quo — something that characterized the nature of social life during the Weimar period — but instead represented a sublimated longing for stability and predictability on the part of the German consumer. The kind of longing which, in light of the socially and economically destabilizing impact of a globalised and highly deregulated market economy , might well characterize the nature of many people's relationship to the culture industries today. To paraphrase Kugelmass then, mass culture, for many Germans then, perhaps represented 'a journey to a much simpler present' in the same way that the Holocaust pilgrimage, for many Jews today, represents 'a journey to a much simpler past22 .'

If commentators like Novick are correct in arguing that 'the Holocaust's attraction is its very lack of ambiguity' then in order to assess precisely how such ideologically driven 'clarities' might specifically manifest themselves perhaps we need to return to Auschwitz and consider the relationship between ideology, affect and what Carol Zemel calls 'the Holocaust sublime'23 . That is, 'acts of witness intended to transport us 'to the brink of human existence, to a space between life and death...edging us into barely imaginable terrors'211 24 For it is the experience of the 'Holocaust sublime', a cumulative effect of the visitor's encounter with various objects (suitcases, shoes, photographs, barracks, cells, gas chambers, memorials), words (tour guides, informational materials) and suitably sinister 'pregnant' spaces (particularly at Birkenau), that denote, for both pilgrim and tourist, a point of entry into the very 'essence' of the holocaust. An 'essence' that is, paradoxically (as Novick argues) historically contingent.25 Thus, it is the moment of affect — when both tourist and pilgrim are 'moved' by such an experience - that represents the definitive moment of realisation or knowing. However, although this moment might become the 'bearer of affect', (words) what is important to note is that although the affective form that such a moment might assume for the pilgrim may actually be rather similar to the form it assumes for the tourist, its value is, it would seem, potentially quite different. Although for Pollock, it remains an integral part of the pilgrim's 'visit of memory' but from Novick and Kugelmass' perspective it is the definitive affective feature of the instrumentalisation of the Holocaust.

In other words, for many Jewish visitors the 'Holocaust sublime' is anticipated, prior to his or her actual arrival at Auschwitz, in such a way that the actual experience of it ultimately comes to legitimate or authorise a host of, what are effectively ideological motivations. In other words, it is not Auschwitz that necessarily makes the impact of the sublime meaningful, but the reciprocal relation that exists between Auschwitz the site, those stories about Auschwitz that are disseminated at Auschwitz, and that body of discourse within which the pilgrim is already enmeshed prior to his or her actual visit,****Together, the site, those stories and that discourse render the sublime intelligible, which is to say, they lend it some measure of cultural value. Which, for many pilgrims, remains inextricably tied to an essentialist, uni-dimensional and often masochistic notion of Jewish identity that, in turn, is compelled by the redemptive 'primacy' of the State of Israel.

For the tourist, the 'Holocaust sublime' - whilst no doubt equally affecting - is imagined, by critics like Pollock, to be on a par with any other popular cultural experience whose primary aim is a purely sensual form of sado-masochistic gratification. Sadistic because one effectively finds oneself at Auschwitz in a position of mastery — the Holocaust is, apparently, ethically and morally speaking, a perfectly unambiguous event - and masochistic because one is always invited to identify with its victims, never its perpetrators. Thus, in the same way that the sado-masochistic pleasures available in viewing a Hollywood suspense movie, for example, represent the kernel or locus of the viewers' desire so, it is implicitly suggested, the Holocaust becomes subsumed by a quest for the 'base', 'quasi-pornographic' characteristics of mass culture. Of course, the actual tourist, for whom, perhaps, the Holocaust is no more or less ideological than it is for the Jewish visitor, the 'Holocaust sublime' might serve to simultaneously locate them on the cusp of several affective economies; economies of guilt, pleasure, contemplation, awe and perhaps even, alienation. Conceivably, however, the same might be said of many Jewish visitors. Which , if this is the case, would suggest a very different kind of sensibility than either Novick or Pollock describes.

I watched the twin towers collapse on tv. They kept repeating it on the rolling news channels — sky, cnn, news 24. But I got sick of it...all the repeats. I wanted something new. I wanted a new tower to collapse. A different one. That possibility was the only thing that kept me watching.

According to Goran Therborn, 'Interpellation can never really be effective, as ideologies have an inherently dialectical character, while complex social processes mean that ideologies overlap, compete and clash, drown or reinforce each other.'26 Therborn's remarks are especially pertinent to the subject of assimilation. For it is he or she who - more than most perhaps —find themselves subject to a deafening chorus of invitations, or demands, from one 'Subject' or another.27 A series of pleas enjoining him or her to identify with one or many, often contradictory, subject positions; 'Jew as pilgrim', 'Jew as Zionist', 'Jew as anti-Zionist', 'Jew as American' or simply as the undifferentiated subject of mass consumption; and thus, in this respect, more or less indistinguishable from any other Western subject.

The fact that one's assumed position as a member of one or other ethnic, cultural or religious grouping may inflect the mode in which one consumes with some feature peculiar to that group — meaning that the 'Jew as consumer of mass culture' is guiltily receptive to the sado-masochistic 'pleasures' of the Holocaust experience whilst also remaining sensitive to its more 'profound' aspects such as they are bound up with an identification with a host of specifically 'Jewish discourses' and experiences — means that in order to understand the nuanced, messy nature of subjectivity we perhaps cannot afford to think of these different registers of identification as mutually exclusive but, rather, as overlapping and often contradictory. Which is to say that out of the chaos of subjectivity emerges, more often than not, the spectre of the dialectic. A raft of internal contradictions, which, for both the reflexive and non-reflexive subject alike, often produces a kind of crisis of subjectivity. A symptom of which are those feelings of shame and guilt that are often attendant on ones effectively being designated a 'non-person'. Which is arguably the case for the Jewish visitor — like myself - who, for whatever reason, is unable to seamlessly identify with the dominant or available 'versions' of 'Jewishness' implicitly mapped out in, for instance, Griselda pollock's essay.

In taking issue with Louis Althusser's 'monistic' theory of interpellation, Peter Dews argues that, 'the cry with which the Subject greets us must always be interpreted; and there is no guarantee that we will do this in the proper fashion.'28 This is not to say, however, that being presented with a perfectly unified image of, in the case of Pollock's essay, the ideal-type Jewish response at Auschwitz and finding oneself not only unable to identify with it entirely, but, moreover, identifying instead with certain 'impure' features of the tourist experience - will not in any way be experienced as troubling. Indeed, in the absence of any alternative, 'alter-ideological' images of Jewishness, images that, in the first instance, serve to confirm the basis of one's own uncertainties and thus enable one to transform uncertainty into certainty through a reciprocal process of identification and self-legitimation, this is bound to be the case. For it is precisely in limiting the possibilities available to the subject — providing the subject with images that he or she is unable to empathise with - that the subject, according to Lacan, is cast beyond the symbolic order altogether and into the realm of psychosis or 'non-identity'. 29 In other words, in order to constitute oneself as a subject (however ideological this might be) it seems that one needs to find a likely position, or image, with which to identify.

In this way the 'messiness' — the inconsistencies and contradictions - of both a heterogeneous identity that is potentially as pertinent to tourists as it is Jews, is simply written out of Pollock's and other similar stories. Instead, what we are presented with is an homogenous, deeply romantic notion of Jewishness (not to mention an epistemologically crude image of the tourist) that refuses to engage with the myriad possibilities, difficulties and often uncomfortable consequences of assimilation.

Ironically it is precisely the refusal to acknowledge the existence of profoundly complex internal cultural differences — for example, Jews as working class, poorly educated consumers of mass culture, as opposed to the archetypically quirky, learned modern bourgois — that marks a point of similarity between the kinds of philosemitic images of Jewishness disseminated by writers and artists like Griselda Pollock and Rachel Whiteread and the rabidly anti-semitic images promulgated by the Nazis.30 When Adolf Hitler wrote, in Mein Kampf that 'the Jew has no culture', he was referring to all Jews.31 There was no attempt to distinguish Jewish society or culture in terms of its various social, spatial or political orientations. There was no need. Identifying a causal link between a negative set of specifically Jewish characteristics — materialistic, uncultured, etc. - and the notion of race effectively guaranteed the production of a perfectly unified, homogenous idea of 'Jewishness'. Establishing a crude, causal link between the idea of race or ethnicity, 'collective memory' and the specificities of consumption does, in its own rather more benign way, precisely the same thing.

Today there appears to be an acute, sometimes painful, split between the spaces within which Jewish experience is visually and linguistically represented and thus legitimated — and, for want of a better expression, the 'real world'. That complicated space where actual Jewish identities find themselves being played out, reproduced, contested and altered in often fraught and complex ways. The manner in which identity is negotiated, the way in which we 'come to terms' with it is, as many others have observed, contingent - to varying degrees - on the relationship that exists between the real and the symbolic. Perhaps one of the problems at present, specifically where Jewish identity is concerned, is the fact that the possibilities for re-imagining it at the level of representation simply do not square with the increasingly fluid ways in which contemporary Jewish identity might potentially realise itself in concrete environments like, for instance, Auschwitz. Thus, if identity, or at least the authentication by some external agency of one's sense of self, is constituted through an engagement with the field of representation then it would seem that too many images - those in Griselda Pollock's essay for example - are simply not up to the task. Indeed, although doubtless legitimating certain specific points of view vis a vis the Holocaust experience, Pollock's image of the ideal-type Holocaust encounter equally serves to exclude or de-legitimate many others. As I have argued, following Peter Novick, there are good ideological reasons for this. In certain quarters, as we have seen, it is clearly important to designate certain experiences 'non-experiences' and certain identities, 'non-identities'. However, from the point of view of one who effectively finds himself trapped, once again, in this 'non-place' I find myself attempting to absent myself from Pollock's panoptic gaze in order to do a little gazing of my own. Whether or not it is an 'authentically Jewish' gaze, I have no idea.


  1. Ulrich Baer, Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma (MIT Press, Cambridge Mass:London, 2002) pp54.

  2. There are numerous texts that deal with the holocaust and the role of the Polish death camps therein. For a definitive account see, Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, (Holmes & Meier, New York: London, 1985).

  3. Griselda Pollock, 'Holocaust Tourism: being there, looking back and the ethics of spatial memory' in (eds.) David Crouch & Nina Lubbren, Visual Culture and Tourism (Berg, Oxford: New York, 2003).

  4. Thus, although one can take issue with the accuracy of Pollock's account of the experience of holocaust tourism, what seems beyond reproach is the extent to which the tourist functions here as a metaphor for the assimilated subject. This is not to say that the actual experiences of both tourists and Jewish pilgrims are wholly incommensurate with Pollock's description of them. However, I suggest that were Pollock to jettison the binary model she adheres to here -- the pilgrim is everything that the tourist is not and vice versa -- in favour of a dialectical approach that would produce a more suggestively nuanced account then two productive shifts in the analysis might emerge. First, without the tourist-pilgrim binary, it may become clear that, for all their differences, both sets of experiences might appear to have more in common with each other than Pollock would care to admit. Second, while many Jews would be presented with an albeit 'impure' image of Jewishness, it may well be an image with which many might have far less difficulty identifying with, which is not to say that it would always be especially welcome.

  5. See James E. Young, 'Memory Against Itself in Germany Today: Jochen Gertz's Countermonuments' in his At Memory's Edge: After Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture (Yale University Press, New Haven: London, 2000).

  6. Ibid., 124

  7. Op. Cit., Pollock, 2003, 176

  8. Ibid., 176. It is significant to note that Pollock is writing from a Jewish perspective. In accounting for the reasons why she personally feels unable to go on an organized 'Day Trip to Aushwitz', 'an educational initiative within and for the Jewish community' she remarks that, 'At a personal level, the terror of being that close to that danger threatens me too unbearably'Indeed, it is by making her Jewishness explicit -- as I myself have done -- a rhetorical device that lends her text some added measure of authenticity, that effectively masks the extent to which her text remains not an account of ideology as such -- the ideological nature of mass tourism -- but an ideological account of Jewish identity.

  9. Ibid.,177 (my italics)

  10. Ibid., 177

  11. Ibid., 177

  12. Ibid., 178. Pollock borrows the expression 'Auschwitzland' from Tim Cole, Images of the Holocaust: The Myth of Shoa Business, (Gerald Duckworth & Co., London, 1999)

  13. Op. Cit., Baer, 2002, 69

  14. Op. Cit., Pollock, 2003, 177

  15. Speaking in 1970, for Gold the most effective way to overcome the 'assimilation crisis' was by 'searing into the memory of a generation born after WW2 a sense of being Jewish'. This could best be brought about, according to Gold, by 'instilling in youth a deep-rooted awareness of what the Holocaust means to contemporary Jewry.' Quoted in Linda Charlton, 'Jews Fear Anti-Zionism of New Left', New York Times, 14 August, 1970.

  16. There are many excellent examples of this in the American media in particular. Larry David's curmudgeonly Jewish sit-com writer in the HBO show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, declares that, 'I hate myself, but not because I'm Jewish'. He subsequently arranges for an orchestra to perform a medley of Wagner tunes on his Wagner-hating, Jewish neighbour's front lawn.

  17. fgishman

  18. Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life, (Mariner Books, Boston: New York, 2000) pp3

  19. Novick also refers to anxieties over the Jewish communities identification with a set of 'universalist' American values, the Cold War and its impact on the representation of the Nazi genocide; a sense of disillusionment with the idea of American universalism in the mid-1960s, the supplementary emergence of the 'politics of difference' and concomitant 'celebration' of victimhood. Here Novick quotes Charles Silberman's remark that 'without anti-semitism jews will lose their group solidarity'. Op. Cit., Novick, 2000, 185.

  20. 280 As Novick comments, with the rate of intermarriage, according to the National Jewish Population Survey, reaching 50% by 1990 the President of the Yeshiva University, Norman Lamm's remarks that 'the monster has assumed a different and more benign form...but its evil goal remains unchanged: a Judenrein world' fell on receptive ears. Indeed, as Rabbi Joachim Prinz argued, young Jews' unwillingness to consider Jewish identification and solidarity', their 'indifference in matters Jewish' was largely attributable to the European catastrophe'. And, perhaps, as a result of the decline in anti-semitism in the US and a commensurate decline in a sense of 'having a distinct identity', premised as it was for secular Jews in particular on their otherness, something that began to increasingly fade with assimilation it did indeed appear to be the case that young Jews in particular 'seemed indifferent to or turned off by synagogue attendance, learning Hebrew or Yiddish, immersing themselves in jewish culture'. Indeed in such an environment it seemed that the holocaust was, as Novick puts it, the one item in stock with consumer appeal. See Novick, Op. Cit., 2000, pp157-161

  21. For an incisive account of the Weimar period see, Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History (Pan Books, Basingstoke: Oxford, 2000) pp27-149.

  22. Jack Kugelmass, 'Why We Go to Poland: Holocaust Tourism as Secular Ritual' in (ed.) James E. Young The Art of Memory: Holocaust Memorials in History (The Jewish Museum, New York, 1994), pp178.

  23. Op. Cit., Zemel, 2000, 165

  24. Ibid., 211

  25. For an account of the critical approaches that characterize 'essentialist' and 'constructionist' positions on the representation of the Holocaust see, Alan Mintz, Popular Culture and the Shaping of Holocaust Memory in America (Univ. of Washington Press, Seattle: London, 2001)

  26. Quoted in Nicholas Abercrombie, Stephen Hill and Bryan S. Turner, 'Determinacy and 'Indeterminacy in the Theory of Ideology' in (ed.) Slavoj Zizek, Mapping Ideology, (Verso, London: New York, 1994) pp154

  27. According to Althusser, 'the interpellation of individuals as subjects presupposes the 'existence' of a Unique and central Other Subject, in whose name the religious ideology interpellates all individuals as subjects.' The individual subject is thus 'subjected to him by his very interpellation...a subject through the Subject and subjected to the Subject.' See Op. Cit., Althusser, 1999, 322.

  28. Quoted in Terry Eagleton, 'Ideology and its Vicissitudes in Western Marxism' in (ed.) Slavoj Zizek, Mapping Ideology, (Verso, London: New York, 1994), pp217. For a detailed critique of the Althusserian theory of interpellation see David Morley, Television Audiences and Cultural Studies, (Routledge, London, 1992) pp71. According to Morley, 'The text may offer the subject specific positions of intelligibility, it may operate to prefer certain readings above others; what it cannot do is to guarantee them -- that must always be an empirical question.'

  29. Op. Cit., Eagleton, 1994, 217

  30. Not only does Pollock present the reader with an homogenous account of the tourist but, by implication, she does precisely the same thing with regards the Jew identity in general. In other words, by virtue of the kinship tie alone the Jew/pilgrim in Pollock's text appears in much the same way that the Jew appears in other notable philosemitic texts. Rachel Whiteread's Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial, Vienna, 1997, for example, where the idea of Jewishness becomes exclusively synonomous with the well worn myth of a 'learned, bookish people'. A myth which specifically precludes any reference to aspects of Jewish culture that might serve to undermine the universality of such a myth.

  31. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Helmut Ripperger, (Reynal & Hitchcock, New York, 1939) pp416-417