In April 1951, the Israeli Knesset established Yom ha-Shoah U'Mered ha-Getaot, Holocaust and Ghetto Revolt Remembrance Day. Note that the fledgling State of Israel, which had to fight to win its existence, intended to commemorate not only the victims in the concentration camps but also those Jews who had died fighting their Nazi oppressors.

The new tradition was not universally welcomed in the Jewish community, nor is it universally accepted even today, more than 50 years later. Still, the Holocaust has become a prominent, even inescapable preoccupation of our time, to a degree that of those early members of the Knesset could hardly have imagined, and each year in the United States, Holocaust Remembrance Day makes its claims on a larger number of people—most of whom, of course, are not Jewish.

This year, Holocaust Remembrance Day falls on April 9, with bullets flying in Bethlehem and more suicide bombers in waiting. The demand to make a reckoning is not easily met in good faith. We are wallowing in Holocaust sentimentality and kitsch, weary of polemics, numbed by the never-ceasing flow of books and movies and memorials. How to cut through all that? What does it mean to "remember" the Holocaust?

One strategy is rage. "In the Beginning Was Auschwitz," the novelist and short story writer Melvin Jules Bukiet proposed last month in a lead essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Bukiet has edited a collection of writings by the children of Holocaust survivors, Nothing Makes You Free.

These "Second Generation" writers, Bukiet proudly affirms, "are viciously unredemptive, scoured of weakness as they look atrocity in the face with barely contained rage." Later in the essay, he writes that "no one—not a German and not a Jew—who isn't a child of survivors can begin to understand the bottomless depths of rage inside those born into the Khurbn" (a Yiddish word meaning "disaster," which Bukiet employs in preference to the more familiar "Holocaust" or "Shoah").

That rage is seductive, even vicariously. It is directed above all at God—or rather the pretense of God—and Christianity. Bukiet's 1999 novel, Signs and Wonders, is among the most savagely blasphemously works of contemporary literature. But it didn't seem to ruffle many feathers among evangelicals, who were presumably in the thick of the Left Behind series, and to the jaded literati it was probably ho-hum. It sank without much notice.

A much more noticed work, equally animated by rage but more effectively controlled and focused, was Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's 1996 book, Hitler's Willing Executioners. Goldhagen is at work on a sequel, A Moral Reckoning: The Catholic Church During the Holocaust and Today, to be published in the fall by Knopf, a long preview of which appeared in the January 21 issue of The New Republic under the title, "What Would Jesus Have Done?"

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Inverting the perverse obsession of the anti-Semites, who blame "the Jews" for all manner of evils and see "Jewish influence" everywhere, Goldhagen makes anti-Semitism central to "the politics, the economic development, and the social and cultural histories of Europe," while simultaneously claiming that anti-Semitism is "often accorded but a marginal place in Western history." That is, he both exaggerates the influence of anti-Semitism—which is quite awful enough in fact—and grossly understates the place of the subject in historiography. And he places the blame squarely on Christianity and the Catholic Church in particular.

But rage is not the only alternative to sentimentalism or bland denial when confronted by the demands of Holocaust Remembrance. This week we are posting two articles from the March/April issue of Books & Culture. In his essay-review, " 'Rescue Those Being Led Away to Death': The Church, the Nazis, and the Holocaust," David Gushee offers an unsparing but fair-minded reckoning. And in "How to Read the Torah," a review of a new commentary, the Jewish scholar Peter Ochs writes:

After the Shoah—and after modern secularism's fall from privilege—it is time for Jews to return to reading the Torah as God's guiding word to them. It is time for Christians, too, to reconnect to the roots and thus the Jewishness of their own scriptural heritage.

For the remainder of the month in this column, we will consider a variety of books—some newly published, others not—that provide an opportunity for meaningful reflection on the Shoah. Among them are a collection of Holocaust diaries by young people, Salvaged Pages, edited by Alexandra Zapruder and just published by Yale; Gershom Scholem: A Life in Letters, 1914-1982, from Harvard; Howard Sachar's Dreamland: Europeans and Jews in the Aftermath of the Great War, from Knopf, and The Chosen People in an Almost Chosen Nation: Jews and Judaism in America, a collection of essays edited by Richard John Neuhaus, from Eerdmans; two books about the strange case of Binjiman Wilkomirski, author of a prize-winning Holocaust memoir that turned out to be fictitious; Yaffa Eliach's 1982 book, Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust, and Yehuda Bauer's Rethinking the Holocaust, published last year by Yale; and Jews in the Japanese Mind: The History and Uses of a Cultural Stereotype, by David Goodman and Masanori Miyazawa, recently issued in a second edition by Lexington Books.

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As an epigraph to her book, Yaffa Eliach gives a brief story about the Rabbi of Bluzhov, Rabbi Israel Spira, concluding with these words attributed to him: "There are events of such overbearing magnitude that one ought not to remember them all the time, but one must not forget them either. Such an event is the Holocaust." Amen. May the Spirit guide our "not forgetting."

John Wilson is editor of Books & Culture and editor-at-large for Christianity Today.

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Books and Culture articles appearing online today include:

"Rescue Those Being Led Away to Death" | The Church, the Nazis, and the Holocaust
How to Read the Torah

The observance and date of Holocaust Remembrance Day is explained in an essay on

Books & Culture Corner appears Mondays at Earlier Books & Culture Corners include:

The Gospel According to Biff | A conversation with novelist Christopher Moore. (April 1, 2002)
Baseball 2002 Preview | Part 2: Saving the game? (March 25, 2002)
The State of the Game | After one of the best World Series ever, baseball faces a crisis. (March 18, 2002)
America's Homegrown Islam—and Its Prophet | The strange story of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam and onetime mentor of Malcolm X. (Mar. 11, 2002)
'Must Be Superstition' | Rediscovering spiritual reality. (Mar. 4, 2002)
Science Holds a Meeting | A report from the annual convention of the AAAS. (Feb. 25, 2002)
Saint Frodo and the Potter Demon | The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series spring from the same source. (Feb. 18, 2002)
Dictionary of the Future | Trendspotter Faith Popcorn on the words that will define our tomorrow. (Feb. 11, 2002)
Does Creationism Equal Holocaust Denial? | Yes, says Michael Shermer in Scientific American. (Feb. 4, 2002)
Theodore Rex | Is "popular history" getting a bad rap? (Jan. 28, 2002)
Letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. | A progress report. (Jan. 21, 2002)
Keeping the Dust on Your Boots | Remembering the Afghan refugees—and the church in Iran. (Jan. 14, 2002)
Coming Attractions | Books to watch for this year. (Jan. 7, 2002)
Books of the Year, Part 2 | After the top ten, here's the best of the rest. (Jan. 4, 2002)
Books of the Year | Part 1: The Top Ten (Dec. 17, 2001)
"Daddy, What Is the Soul?" | Does the church have an answer? (Dec. 10, 2001)