Thursday, December 11, 2008

I had a seriously depressing thought the other day:

I was watching an old Numb3rs episode (love streaming Netflix, BTW), and the plot revolved around a Holocaust survivor. The two brothers that the show revolves around happen to be Jewish, and they were wrestling a bit with the idea of the Holocaust. It clearly wasn't something that existed more as history to them than as a personal connection, until they ran up against this particular case, which led them to investigate their family history a bit as well.

I started thinking about the ways in which the Holocaust acts as a historical singularity for Jews all over the world, in that it triggered a huge diaspora from Europe, and those who didn't emigrate were almost entirely wiped out. For many Jewish families, their history basically stops at WWII because there is no one left to tell the stories, and all the records were destroyed or falsified. Almost anyone who has studied their own family history will have run across these dead ends, but in the Holocaust, we have a giant curtain drawn across the history of an entire people, and the further we get from it, the less likely it becomes that this curtain will ever be opened (we're facing the same problem as we research the history of Christie's grandfather's WWII service).

The poignancy of watching the younger generation (on the show) dealing with this loss of history got me to wondering if there are other examples of this. My mind immediately went to the Iraq war because of it's duration, and because I'm always wondering what effect it's going to have on our country in the long run. And there is an analogy to be made there, but I was looking at it from the wrong side. There has indeed been massive death and a huge diaspora from Iraq, and I have a feeling that future Iraqis researching the history of their families will run into a huge curtain, labeled, "And then the Americans came."

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