The liberal imagination has seldom clubbed Auschwitz and Hiroshima together. Auschwitz was both a labor and extermination camp, and more Jews, Roma, and others deemed “undesirables” were killed at Auschwitz than in any other camp in the Third Reich’s vast machinery of death. One of Auschwitz’s more remarkable survivors was the Italian Jewish chemist Primo Levi, whose 1947 memoir of his year in hell, If This is a Man, is a gut wrenching description of the arts of living in a place fashioned for death. Auschwitz’s gate bore those words which are seared into everyone’s memory, “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“work gives freedom”).
But the sense of the macabre scarcely stopped there. In one of the many priceless gems which adorn his inimitable book, Levi informs us that at one of the delousing stations appeared this distich: “After the latrine, before eating, wash your hands, do not forget.” It must be a certain kind of German fastidiousness which insists that one must go to one’s death after one has rendered oneself ‘clean’.
Auschwitz has become synonymous with unimaginable evil, and the German Jewish philosopher Theodor Adorno, in his equally if differently remarkable bookMinima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life(1951), sought to convey the unspeakable horrors of Nazi annihilationism with the aphorism that ‘there can be no poetry after Auschwitz’. Not so curiously, Adorno had nothing to say of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which took place a little more than six months after the Soviet Red Army liberated Auschwitz. The Western imagination, even at its best, has balked at the notion that Auschwitz and Hiroshima are inextricably linked. Auschwitz has no defenders—barring some Holocaust-deniers—and it provokes no “debate”, leave aside the questions that animate the amateurs who devour the smallest tidbits on Auschwitz. Though most commentators in the United States and elsewhere in the West like to pretend otherwise, there isn’t much of a “debate” on Hiroshima either. Those who live in the global South at least should not be fooled into thinking that a great many people in the West have been agonizing over the moral choices that faced the United States when it was galvanized into orchestrating the utter destruction of Hiroshima and later Nagasaki. Like much else that has characterized the conduct of colonial powers and liberal democracies, Hiroshima has been digested as what Margaret Thatcher used to call TINA, ‘There is No Alternative’. Keep reading >>>>> Source: *How To Speak of Hiroshima? ‹ Reader — WordPress.com