Moral Meaning and the Holocaust (James Loeffler)

This piece here by James Loeffler on the one and the many and the Holocaust and comparative analysis is superbly nuanced. Of particular interst is Raphael Lemkin and the formulation of intenrational protocols defining genocide. While I do not necessarily disagree with Loeffler on the imperative to compare, this one line caught my attention as the nub of a critical problem. In a this discussion of law, “moral” is a keyword. There is the danger of moral equivalence, on the one hand, and the challgenge of moral action and moral reasoning, on the other hand. According to Loeffler, “Not all Holocaust scholarship must be comparative, but we cannot dismiss wholesale the comparative study of genocide if we wish the Holocaust to bear moral meaning.” I’m not sure, though, if instances of catastrophic suffering, each one unique in its own uniqueness, should be burdened by the burden of having to carry “moral meaning.” That demand seems unduly harsh, but maybe Loeffler meant legal meaning, legal action, legal reasoning, which would make more sense. Morally, maybe do not compare x and y, assuming that there is nothing more cruelly parochial, nothing more “morally meaningless” than what is perhaps the dumb experience of collective human suffering.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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1 Response to Moral Meaning and the Holocaust (James Loeffler)

  1. dmf says:
    “Adam Y. Stern is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison working in German and Jewish studies. His first book, Survival: A Theological-Political Genealogy (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021), casts Jewish thought and politics in a new light by tracing their recurrent tropes of survival and redemption back to the representation of Jews and Judaism in a long tradition of Christian political theology. Tracking the discourse of survival in writers such as Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, Franz Rosenzweig, Sigmund Freud, and Jacques Derrida, Stern argues that survival serves as a powerful index for the secularized traces of Christianity that define Western modernity.”

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