Sunday, July 1, 2012

Miss Holocaust Survivor?

The LA Times runs a piece on this event, staged only a few days ago in Israel.  It raises important questions as to whether the pageant honors the memory of those who suffered, or trivilializes it.  It raises the same question about recent movies, and about the increasingly frequent recourse to the terms "Holocaust" and "Nazi" - even "Hitler" - in colloquial usage.  Mr. Netanyahu has, of course, led that parade lately with his obsessive references to Iran's president Ahmadinejad as the new Hitler and Iran's alleged quest for nuclear weapons as presaging a new Holocaust.  But the American movie industry has played its own part, with flicks such as "Inglorious Basterds."  (Of course, that history goes way back; remember "Hogan's Heroes"?)

As a university professor who teaches courses in modern Middle Eastern history to often woefully ignorant undergrads, I am constantly appalled (even if no longer surprised) when my students show only minimal awareness of the Holocaust, or even World War II in general.  They may have heard of Hitler, but the mention of names like Herman Goering, Josef Goebbels, and Adolf Eichmann elicits blank stares.  

I suppose the, that for such reasons I ought to be grateful for events like this pageant, if only because they may serve to prick students' self-absorption bubbles of Facebook/Twitter/texting.  But these kids are also of a generation whose attention is fixed on the glamor and celebrity of non-entities like the Kardashians and Jersey Wives.  One could easily make a case for including beauty-pageant queens and contestants in that crowd.

And now they can ponder "Miss Holocaust Survivor"?  Hmmm . . . .

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