The Use and Abuse of Holocaust Memory

Bradley Lecture
By Walter Reich
Posted: Monday, November 28, 2005

Publication Date: November 14, 2005

I’m very grateful to Chris DeMuth and to the AEI for inviting me to give this Bradley Lecture. It’s a privilege to speak about a subject that means a lot to me before an audience that means a lot to me. This is a case in which the seriousness of the topic is matched and deepened by the seriousness of those who’ve come here to engage it. For this opportunity I thank you, Chris, I thank the AEI and I thank the Bradley Foundation.

The Irony of Holocaust Memory: Even as It Grows Stronger, It Grows More Vulnerable to Distortion and Misuse

This talk is about Holocaust memory, and I want to be clear, at the outset, about what I mean by that term.

By “Holocaust memoryâ€? I mean the public’s consciousness of the Holocaust in the years since the event–that is, what the public has known, or at least what it has thought it has known, about the Holocaust. And that consciousness, in turn, has depended on a number of factors that have changed radically over time. Those factors have included the readiness of Holocaust survivors to talk about the Holocaust; the readiness of Jewish communities around the world to talk about it or to have it be talked about; the readiness of governments, the media and the general public to focus on it; and, once the Holocaust did become the focus of general interest some thirty years after the event, the ways in which it has been presented to the public, both accurately and, too often, inaccurately, and what the public has absorbed from those presentations. For full text.