Current Issue

Photovision Magazine

Book Reviews
The Holocaust Encyclopedia
edited by Walter Laqueur and Judith Tydor Baumel
Yale University, Press $60.00
(ISBN 0-300-08432-3)

By Robert Hirsch
From Vol. 2 No. 2

The Holocaust Encyclopedia edited by Walter Laqueur and Judith Tydor Baumel (Yale University, Press $60 ISBN 0-300-08432-3) presents short essays by over 100 authors that place the Holocaust in social, political, religious, moral, and intellectual context, which are ably assisted by 276 photographs (many previously unpublished). In the pre-digital age people expected the photographer and the photograph to act as their stand-in witness to events they could not see for themselves. How the veracity of the images is received is critical. Digital imaging has cast doubt on the reliability of all photographic images.

Holocaust deniers are taking advantage of the fact that there will soon be no living witnesses of the horrors so that the photographs that ìrememberî these events will play a tremendous role in how future generations will determine its meaning. Flat-footed photographs, many made by the perpetrators, provide visual evidence of Nazi Germany and its collaborators' indescribable crimes against civilians. The circulation of these images cancels the executioners desire to erase these people from human memory. They also oppose imagemakers like Leni Riefenstahl who glorified Third Reich policies that humiliated and then exterminated millions of people demonized as unalterably dangerous, evil, and unredeemable.

Looking at the recent genocide in Bosnia, Cambodia and Nigeria it is evident that the lessons contained in these photographs still must be taught and learned to insure our humanity. RH