Censoring the Holocaust: How Books Shape Our View of a Painful Past

By :  Edna Friedberg Historian, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; JTS Fellow Posted On Dec 5, 2022 / 5783 | Dangerous Ideas Monday Webinar

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Part of the series, “Dangerous Ideas: Censorship Through a Jewish Lens”

With Dr. Edna Friedberg, JTS fellow and historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Ever since the 1940s, books about the Holocaust have proven flashpoints. From early editions of The Diary of Anne Frank that omitted controversial passages to more recent attempts to ban the graphic memoir Maus from some classrooms, what we read about this difficult history often amplifies broader societal debates. In this session we look back at Holocaust literature (both fiction and non-fiction) and how its popularity shifts depending on time and place. 


Throughout Jewish history, certain texts and ideas have been deemed too dangerous to circulate—whether by outsiders who banned Jewish writings, or Jewish leaders who suppressed ideas considered heretical or beyond the pale. In this series, JTS scholars will examine efforts to control knowledge from ancient to contemporary times, exploring the ways in which censorship both reflects and shapes broader ideological struggles. They will discuss the varying motivations for controlling or revising narratives, and consider whether and under what circumstances it might make sense to suppress certain ideas. These discussions will illuminate past struggles and help us understand the battles over censorship and free expression playing out today. 


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