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Gail Asper and Deborah Lipstadt
Photo by Joan Ste- Marie


by Rhonda Spivak and Simone Cohen Scott , April 30, 2013


At the Shindleman Family Lecture, hosted by the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism on April 22 2013, Gail Asper asked Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt to comment on the view put forth by some, that the Holocaust ought not to be set apart in the Canadian Human Rights Museum. It was the last question of the night and in fact one of the most important.


Asper, who spearheaded the campaign to build a Canadian Human Rights Museum with a separate and permanent Holocaust gallery said to Lipstadt: "Some have put forth the view that study of the Holocaust is wrong, that it promotes a hierarchy of suffering, and ought not to be set apart in museums" (i.e. War Museum and issues with the CMHR Holocaust Gallery).


Professor Lipstadt answered: “This is something one only hears from those who don’t want the Holocaust in galleries or in schools. Such comparisons don’t get you anywhere. If I had an impacted root canal and someone walked into the room who had two of them, I wouldn’t feel any better. My suffering wouldn’t be any less because someone else was suffering.”


“Comparison of pain is useless,” she said. “Families who suffered in Cambodia (which some say wasn’t a genocide because it was perpetrated on Cambodians by Cambodians) under the Pol Pot regime, are not made to feel any better.”


“The suffering in the Holocaust was not unique, but there are certain unprecedented elements. It was built on a 2000 year old hatred. There is no Protocols of the Elders of Tazmania, or Protocols of the Elders of the Ukraine, as there is Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Holocaust genocide was a state-sponsored, continent-wide attempt, based on the myths of the crucifixion, etc.


“The notion that study of the Holocaust or presentation in galleries promotes hierarchy of suffering is held only by people who don’t want it there. You don’t hear from scholars about any hierarchy of suffering,” she said, “or that anyone’s suffering is worse than anyone else’s.”


Deborah Lipstadt (born March 18, 1947 in New York City) is the author of the books Denying the Holocaust and The Eichmann Trial. She is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. She received her BA from City College of New York and her MA and PhD from Brandeis University.

Lipstadt was a consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In 1994, she was appointed by Bill Clinton to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, on which she served two terms.



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.