Thursday, March 20, 2008

Professor Lipstadt and the Irony of "Living With Wolves"

Professor Lipstadt has unflinchingly denounced the Misha Dfonseca book “Living With Wolves,” wherein the Belgian lady claims that “after the Nazis took her parents away, she - at age 7 - wandered across Europe, crossed rivers, was befriended by wolves and managed to survive,” referencing reports that the lady made the whole thing up.

Lipstadt writes that [Dfonseca] “is not even Jewish."

That “People like this are beneath contempt.”

That she is “this phony survivor.”

That “Holocaust survivors deserve far far better.”

And that she is " ... filled with loathing at this person's action.”

But here is the irony. Professor Lipstadt has assigned Dfonseca”s “Living With Wolves” in her own Emory University class on Holocaust Memoirs. When she was confronted with the fact that the book is a fraud, she replied that while such revelations “might complicate matters somewhat, [Living With Wolves] is still powerful.”


Wait a minute. I got my wires crossed.

Lipstadt did not assign the lying Holocaust memoir Living With Wolves to her Emory University class on Holocaust Memoirs. The lying Holocaust memoir she assigned to students in her class was Binjamin Wilkomirski’s memoir “Fragments.” It was that lying Holocaust memoir, Fragments, that when Professor Lipstadt was confronted with the fact that it was a fraud could be overlooked because, while “ … it may complicate matters somewhat, but [Fragments] is still powerful.”

Oh!. Well. The truth of the document then is secondary to the literary accomplishments of the lying author. It’s author may be contemptible, phony, loathsome and not even Jewish, but it if is a good read and forwards the concept of the “unique monstrosity” of the Germans, it has a good shot at being assigned to Professor Lipstadt’s class on Holocaust Memoirs. On the university campus, with regard to the Holocaust story, Holocaust literature will beat out Holocaust history as often as not.

How can we fix this – get Holocaust literature and Holocaust history into right relationship with one another? I would urge professors serving out their time in history, journalism, German, and Jewish studies to find a few individuals among them, a mere handful, who are willing to address the problem of providing us with “the name of one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.” That would be a start. I doubt very much that our Professor Deborah Lipstadt will be the one who will risk it. Why should she risk it? The truth? What’s truth go to do with it?

1 comment:

Chip said...

Thanks for linking to the Butz article, which I found fascinating. I have long perceived that the dialectic between revisionists and orthodox Holocaust scholars is complicated by conflicting epistemological assumptions, and Butz's analysis provides an intriguing way of understanding the resulting impasse. Had to read it twice.