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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 703

The main characters of The Holocaust in American Life are ideas and interest groups that have made the Holocaust such a prominent feature of American life.

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Holocaust survivor immigrants to America after WWII held off telling their Holocaust stories, according to Novick, in part because of the integrationist ethic in the post-war United States that emphasized American values held in common rather than separatism and victimhood. The perceived threat to Israel in 1967, he reasons, and the identification by Americans with Israel as an ally, made Americans more receptive to the message of the Holocaust in the 1970s and later. This helps to explain, according to Novick, why the evidence is lacking that the Jewish experience of WWII in Europe was not considered to be much different from other groups until the 1970s.

The state of Israel, according to Novick, has been replaced at the center of non-orthodox Jewish American life by the Holocaust. He cites polls by the American Jewish Committee to support his point that the Holocaust outranks Israel and any other aspect of Jewish religious or cultural inheritance in providing them with a "consensual symbol."

Middle-class Americans are the target. Novick acknowledges that very few of the Jews that died in the Holocaust resembled middle-class Americans, even though that is how they've been presented to American audiences. Novick does not side-step the fact that Jews in Hollywood, television, and the newspaper, magazine, and book publishing industries have much to do with the attention the Holocaust has received in recent years.

Jewish political power backs the Holocaust movement. Holocaust initiatives by the government were promoted by Jewish aides to help politicians score points with the Jewish power structure. For example, President Carter's US Holocaust Memorial Museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C. was a concession to American Jews that thought the president was too even-handed on handling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Novick notes the irony that it was Jewish wealth and influence that allowed them to build this "monument to their weakness and vulnerability."

Victimization Olympics culture supported the Holocaust movement. Novick recognizes the importance of the shift from an American culture that valued assimilation, hard work, Stoicism in the face of hardship and success to a culture that valorized victimhood. This cultural shift supported the Holocaust industry's quest to win the gold, silver, and bronze medals in the new "victimization Olympics" for American Jews, despite the fact they had not suffered victimhood in America.

Novick argues that despite the Jewish leadership's promotion of the "sameness" of American Jews, "perhaps most" American Communists in the 1940s were Jews. The American Jewish Committee found that 75% of the "hostile witnesses" called to testify before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities and other investigative bodies were Jews....

(The entire section contains 703 words.)

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