Is forgetting reprehensible? Holocaust remembrance and the task of oblivion

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Abstract

"Forgetting" plays an important role in the lives of individuals and communities. Although a few Holocaust scholars have begun to take forgetting more seriously in relation to the task of remembering - in popular parlance as well as in academic discourse on the Holocaust -forgetting is usually perceived as a negative force. In the decades following 1945, the terms remembering and forgetting have often been used antithetically, with the communities of victims insisting on the duty to remember and a society of perpetrators desiring to forget. Thus, the discourse on Holocaust memory has become entrenched on this issue. This essay counters the swift rejection of forgetting and its labeling as a reprehensible act. It calls attention to two issues: first, it offers a critical argument for different forms of forgetting; second, it concludes with suggestions of how deliberate performative practices of forgetting might benefit communities affected by a genocidal past. Is it possible to conceive of forgetting not as the ugly twin of remembering but as its necessary companion?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-267
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Religious Ethics
Volume36
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

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Keywords

  • Forgetting
  • Holocaust
  • Memory
  • Perpetrators
  • Ritual
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies

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