Was the Holocaust Sui Generis?

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survived the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She and her husband appear in the documentary film about the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, “Hidden Face.” She is available to lecture in Israel and in the US and can be contacted via www.cross-currents.com.

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3 Responses

  1. kar says:

    Rabbi Hirschprung zt”l used to say that people compare the Holocaust to the churban beis hamikdosh, but they are mistaken, and there has been nothing to compare to the Holocaust in all Jewish history.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding function vs. intention in this Churban:

    The evil Nazi intentions existed from the start but their implementation could only come about as the necessary conditions arose (e.g., craven reaction of Western Europe in the mid-to-late 1930’s, development of new military and death camp organizations and technologies, military victories).

    If the West had pursued the proper policies from the start, in its own interest, implementation would have been impossible. As late as 1938 before Munich, the West, even without cooperation from Russia, still had the military and economic power (sadly, not the will) to stop German expansion in its tracks.

    The Jews’ options for flight from danger before and during the war were greatly limited by the West’s immigration policies. A large part of the problem was the anti-semitism infecting the nations facing Germany. Some nations were much too civilized to murder Jews themselves but not too unhappy when others did it. The Germans realized this very quickly, which encouraged them to push ahead with their extermination program.

  3. lev midaber says:

    While “Churban” does place the Destruction of European Jewry in the broader context of our experience in Galus, it appears that Hashem has made the use of Shoah and Holocaust more prevalent, and perhaps they are not entirely inappropriate.

    According to Malbim, “Shoah” refers to a sudden darkness for which one cannot prepare, i.e. we never saw it coming.

    As for “Holocaust” (wholly burnt sacrifice), I don’t know if the Warsaw Ghetto exhibit at Yad V’Shem has changed much since I visited many years ago, but, for me, it had one powerful message at the end. Unfortunately, many places (Holocaust themed and otherwise) have seen fit to place Torah scrolls on display in recent years, perhaps not realizing the lack of Kavod this really entails (dan l’kaf z’chus).

    This exhibit had an open Sefer Torah with a section burnt out during the Churban, just a hole in its place. I was drawn to this sight, and reconstructed the missing section in my mind. I do not believe the curators were aware of what I saw – they certainly would have put a blurb underneath if they did.

    If memory serves, the section was at the beginning of Vayikra, second paragraph – the “sheep to the slaughter” of the Korban Olah, the wholly burnt offering.

    May Hashem require no further Korbanos…

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