Revisited

Peter Hayes seeks to answer the lingering questions about why the horrors happened

By MATT NESVISKY
November 29, 2017 17:08
Peter Hayes

Peter Hayes. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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WITH SOME 16,000 books on the Holocaust held in the US Library of Congress, Prof. Peter Hayes asks in the introduction to “Why? Explaining the Holocaust” what sounds like a reasonable question: Why yet another book on this subject? Hayes’s answer is twofold: because the Holocaust to a considerable degree “continues to resist comprehension,” and because over the years numerous myths and misconceptions about the Holocaust have developed. I’ll add a third: because these days a staggering ignorance of even recent history is epidemic.

As evidence for my view, I submit the occasion when I chatted up some American soldiers who on a cold and windy day were among the sparse number of visitors to Dachau. When I inquired about how they liked being stationed in Germany, they revealed that among other things it had been “very educational.” I asked how so. With embarrassed grins and with combat boots shuffling the gravel, they admitted that before being shipped overseas they hadn’t known that America’s opponent in the Second World War had been Germany. When I pressed them, they confessed they’d thought the Yanks had fought, um, the Russians.

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