Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Shoah; Just Google It!

@cayswann asks: Will you be blogging your thoughts re: Google project with Yad Vashem?

I was going to, then I didn't want to, mainly because I wasn't sure I had anything new to say about it.

My feelings on the Holocaust are, as for many Jews, complex. But the eventual path that complexity led me to is somewhat different than the standard narrative of Modern American Judaism And The Holocaust.

In short: I'm quite sick of it.

As a rabbi I used to work with said, "I can tell you in 30 seconds how Jews die; let's talk about how they live." Holocaust education and message is squeezing out everything else, it sometimes seems. I remember last year's Yom HaShoah celebration where the head of the local Holocaust Museum Eternal Remembrance Center led the crowd in booing the JCC for reducing their funding. Because they wanted to spend their limited budget on other, silly, less important things. Like educating children or feeding and caring for those still alive, instead of memorializing the dead.

And that seems to be the reoccurring answer. But you can't protest it, because it was such a big and horrible thing, and speaking against it is disrespectful to the pain of my parents, or grandparents, or great-grandparents, as the case may be. Never Forget has become Never Move On.

So I tend to start with a somewhat negative response to any story about Holocaust research.

Now, with that out of the way, this is not a unique move by Google. In their continuing efforts to index the entire world, they've already digitized the Dead Sea Scrolls. From that perspective, this is just another addition of human history to the internet, and in that I support it.

The question remains, though, of how this will be used. I can see potential, in the next year or so, for rabbinic sermons and writings to have a renewed Holocaust focus, as the improved access makes their research easier. I pity the high school teachers who will have to deal with a sudden influx of disturbingly detailed papers on concentration camps and oppressive laws. And I'm sure the number of new "Remember the Holocaust" websites will be dwarfed by the number of new "Holocaust Was A Hoax" sites.

Of course it's also possible that this will be just another bucket of information tossed into the digital sea. It will be absorbed with barely a splash, and cause no change in temperature. If that is the case, I am glad there is a new, globally accessible, and backed-up source of education on the Holocaust. And now that it's been thouroughly indexed, crawled, cross-linked, and wiki'ed, maybe we can put the Holocaust with the other tragedies of our past, use it as a source of future inspiration and strength, and focus on life.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing, because I suspect that our generation has more and more people with similar opinions. Likely as generations continue to come and go, the opinion will grow.

    But I might be just glad to hear someone say what I was thinking.