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UNIQUENESS AND NORMALITY OF THE HOLOCAUST'
Tygmunt Bauman

fficult to grasp in all its But are they? It is not the .West ccurrence of the Holo' monstrosity. It is our time when we thought caust has made all but inco we had come to terms with it and seen through its innermost drives and even through its prospects, and at a time of its world-wide, unprecedented cultural expansion. If Hilberg is right, and our most crucial social institutions elude our m.ntal and practical grasp, then it is not just the professional academics who ought to be worried. True, the Holocaust occurred almost half a century ago. True, its immediate results are fast receding into the past. The generâtion that experienced it at first hand has almost died out. But - and this is an awesome' sinister 'but' - these once-familiar features of our civilization, which the Holocaust had made mysterious again, are still very much part of our life. They have nor gone away. Neither has, therefore, the þossibility of the
Holocaust.

t...1
First, ideational processes that by their own inner logic may lead to genocidal projects, and the technical resources that permit implementation of such projects, not only have been proved fully compatible with modern civilization, trrt haue been conditioned, created and supplied by it. The Holocaust did not
''SØouldn't you be happier if I had been able to show you that all the perpetrators were crazy?' asks the great historian of the Holocaust, Raul Hilberg. Yet this is precisely what he is unable to show. The truth he does show brings no comfort.

It is unlikely to make anybody huppy. 'They were educated men of their time. That is the crux of the question whenever we ponder the meaning of Western Civilization after Auschwitz. Our evolution has outpaced our understanding; we can no longer assume that we have a full grasp of the workings of our social institutions, bureaucratic structures, or technology.' I This is certainly bad news for philosophers, sociologists, theologians and all the other learned men and women who are professionally concerned with understanding and explaining. Hilberg's conclusions mean that they have not done their job well; they cannot explain what has happened and why, and they
cannot help us to understand it. This charge is bad enough as far as the scientists go (it is bound to make the scholars restless, and may even send them, as they say, back to the drawing board), but in itself it is not a cause for public alarm. There have been, after all, many other important events in the past that we feel we do not fully understand. Sometimes this makes us angry; most of the time, however, we do not feel particularly perturbed. After all - so we console ourselves - these past events are matters of academic interest.
From Zygmunt Bauman (1989) 'The Uniqueness and Normality of the Holocaust', ín Modernity and the Holocaust. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

just, mysteriously, avoid clash with the social norms and institutions of modernity. It was these norms and institutions that made the Holocaust feasible. \Øithout modern civilization and its most central essential achievements, there would be no Holocaust. Second, all those intricate networks of checks and balances, barriers and
hurdles which the civilizing process has erected and which, as we hope and trust, would defend us from violence and constrain all overambitious and unscrupulous powers, have been proven ineffective. \When it came to mass murder, the victims found themselves alone. Not only had they been fooled by an apparently peaceful and humane, legalistic and orderly society - their sense of security
became a mosl powerful factor of their downfall. To put it bluntly, there are reasons to be worried because we know now that we liue in a type of society that made the Holocaust possible, and that contained

nothing which could stoþ tbe Holocaust from happening. t...1 No doubt the Holocaust was another episode in the long series of attempted mass murders and the not much shorter series of accomplished ones. It also bore features that it did not share with any of the past cases of genocide. It is these features which deserve special attention. They had a distinct modern flavour. Their presence suggests that modernity contributed to the Holocaust more

directly than through its own weakness and ineptitude. It suggests that the role of modern civilization in the incidence and the perpetration of the Holocaust was active, not passive. It suggests that the Holocaust was as much a product, as

uiott"ce rests on the wrong violent emotion. and independence from group emotions and personal motives. one could neither conceive of. Getting rid of the adversary is not an end in itself. the Holocaust l. scientific methods of management and co-ordination. Modern genocide is an element of social engineering.whatever that will might be'2 Rage and fury are pitiably primitive and inefficient as tools of mass annihilation.pìrod.rrt. carefully calculated design on the other. Stalin or Hitler did.effective whether ence to the "qui'iit ".lr" or 100 per day this psychological basis' on 200 years' Vtot. The adversary is expected to follow mirror-image principles only if allowed to.ü À"t pr. towåis above the peasant farmstead with tractors.rrán. thorough and systematic genocide like Stalin and Hitler for whom the modern. Most communal strifes and genocidal campaigns against aborigines lie comfortably within this range. and radically different.'.sponsibility . but still la Rumania.n. put paid to. the breakdown of an old order. arguably. even emotions are notoriouslY fickle.. . cold-blooded calculation of Considerthenumbers. Most genocidal ideologies rest on a devious symmetry of assumed intentions and actions. say. and a precept'There is no room for both of us'. in ir'" same way aso' the modern industrial farm' with its lttft'úop' above the modern civilization' Like everything gfse done in the expert' efficiently. or 'The only good injun is a dead injun'. it wourd hardly add volume chronicle of emotions running ting and raping their way through the be."'iiit"ffy informed' pre- pool of potential recruits. Contemporary mass murder is distinguished by a virtual absence of all spontaneity on the one hand.ã.rri.its alleged ordinated . a step that one has to take if one wants ever to reach the end of the road. in.. it stands out by its purpose. however. combines ""ã horse.*r. One cannot build grand designs on them. a child's suffering' To it can sometimes be moved by sympathy . it"tut"'"ty' the replacement of shared rage with obedib"'àt'cracy would be.hy of .o-f.u. the modern cases of genocide stand out for their sheer scale..u""fffitti'upt'io'' alized' It towers high above the past . On no other occasion but during Hitler's and Stalin's rule were so many people murdered in such a short time. to equally pure. Murderous motives in general. The end itself is a grand uision of a better.disguising or decorative . more seminal features.h. . and modern. the only novelty. Certainly not such designs as reach beyond momentary effects like a wave of terror.say by eradicate a'race'it is essential to kill the children' required the replacement Thorough.i. society.. Ghengis Khan and Peter the Hermit did not need modern technology its ptt'itlJes.. If accompanied by an ideology. and motives for mass murder in particular.odern society' the standards that this if measured by accomplishm. scholar and thief.n.TheGermanstateannihilatedapproximatelysix would have required nearly million l..d á"ã-i""1'uiiott the modern industrial plant towers i. It is marked by an almost complete elimination of contingency and chance. it would be responsive to the will of the ultimate auth ority through a hierar. exhaustive murder of the mob *irh. have been many and varied.role of ideological mobilization. hoe and hand-weeding' which went down in on g November 1g3á ä". But first and foremost. considerably broadening competitive gain.. disinterested hatred or heterophobia.ity'-iht anti-Semites. perhaps not even a primary one . It followed the establish. It is the adventurers and dilletantes like Ghengis Khan and Peter the Hermit that our modern. of modern - and fut to shame all. innocent and guilty. iñ. planned.merely a by-product of other. not those its members might be moved to make. .managed' corational. Like everything ãl'e in our m. exposing them as primitive' the Holocaust was an *p"riron. Truly modern genocide is different. lost their lives. It *n. They normally peter out before the job is done. It is the practitioners of cool.htt'ive. between children and adults. It is set apartby the merely sham or marginal . This is not. Were the Nazis' treatment anything but an extra parai¿¡rhr. of German towns throughout the scale pogrom that occurred on the streets one episode of the Holocaust that duration of the Horoca.ft behind wasteful and ineffective by modern equivalents. clearing the ground for a new rule. PeoPle can be ma be maintained for 200 Years' Em natural time course. the latter does not go much further than a simple 'us or them' vision of the world. and suchrike evenrs. and the prominence of rational.wây. it would only make distinctions it was designed to make. . Most conspicuously.rtno. t. rational society has discredited and.r". It is a means to an end: a necessity that stems from the ultimate objective.i¿"r . also the of anti-Jewish mob violence. mass murder on the Holocaust scale Kristallnàlchte. crowd violence stretching from ancient t the almost contemporary. rational society paved the way. it would govern the actions of its members not by arousing passions but by organizing routines. they wer Kristallnacht was the only largeAbout one hundred p. They range from pure. n. took place in Germany craftsman's. lust. of no matter how many nor make.r-old tradition did not differ much from past pogroms."*gt "n seats of worship' history under the name of Kristall 'y encouraged and and homes were attacked by an on fire' vandalized' surreptitiously controlled' -ot. Modern genocide is genocide with a purpose. meant to bring about a social order conforming to the design of the perfect society.'Tue UNleu¡NEss AND ZYGMUNT BAUMAN NoRMALITY oF THE HoLocAUsl it was a failure.

prevented from spreading. orclerly.. to those who set it. The Holocaust is a by-product of the modern drive to a fully designed. this does not mean that we all live daily according to Auschwitz principles. Often they were killed in a dull. They attempted to reach the most ambitious aims of the civilizing process most other processes stop short of.of a natural mechanism. Stalin's and Hitler's victims were not killed in order to capture and colonize the territory they occupied. to supreme will..res its weeds. curbed or counteracted.Onecanandshouldsetoneselfgoalsmoreto society' force it and radical: one can and should remake the "-Ulriorx an overall. Invariably. mechanical fashion with no human emotions . . They were eliminated. so that an objectively better human world . They define most actions as means. once the drive is destructiveactivity.f ur. They could not be improved or re-educated.rign defi. like a diminishing or altering world which. first conceived of to institutions which what is a raw material.Itdoesnotdifferinkindfromotheractivitieswhich combineintheconstructionandsustenanceoftheperfectgarden. and means as subordination .hatred included .J rir. with or without ideological dedication or moral approval on the part of the pursuers. They legitimize the rulers' monopoly on ends and the confinement of the ruled to the role of means. Its ambitions clash with the pluralism of the human world. modernity is prevented from doing so. an "t""y other weeds. controlling dreams and efforts of modern civilization are able to accomplish if not mitigated. no adding. and thus countervailing and mitigating. what is usele what is a weed or a pest' It classifie relation to itself.likemoderncultureingeneral'isagardener'siob'Itisjustto society as a garden need one of the many . while all the hindrances. not necessarily for the lack of good will.r civilizing process. uninhibited expressions of that spirit. healthy and shining world. ã.*tt¿'. a harmonious world.ZvcNuNr BnuYltt genocide. People tainted with ineradicable blight of their past or origin could not be fitted into such an unblemished.iords...r. and defines own identity out of ¿irtr.ho.to the ultimate end.*to b. b. but creation. they must be segregated.m to be solved. forces.to enliven it. They gave birth u.. of what ought to be. removed and kept outside the society boundaries.more efficient. it the distinctio.n. docile in the hands of their rulers.. to supra-individual knowledge. in Alberti's i--ortál. orderly garden much becaus.against disorder. Like weeds. l¿.u..r. They did not deviously depart from the main track of the it ^ makesadifferencero. more moral. weeds must die not so given a chance to pause and ponder' bãth would the beautiful. designing. From the fact that the Holocaust is modern. there is an to the standards of superior beauty' the ideal world about to be built conforms perfect work of art.ig"' õttt t"" and should details' improve it here or there' cure than change one or several äf i" 'THE UNIeUENESS AND NonNRurv oF THE HoLocAUsl someofitstroublesomeailments.bothgardenersexterminatethem'Ifaskedor agree. resilient and immune to cultural processing. ".. Aryan world. serve the sole purpose of instrumentalizing human behaviour to such an extent that any aim may be pursued with efficiency and vigour. The two most notorious and extreme cases of modern genocide did not betray the spirit of modernity. Their killing was not the work of destruction.could be established. A Communist world. if all these means prove insufficient. Moderncultureisagardenculture..l. Or a racially pure. controlled. Emphatically. . These dreams and efforts have been with us for a long time. society is a subject of To the initiators and the managers of modern do more about the society planning and consciou" ã.rã w.i.. dreams and every gardener wort Some gardeners hate of beauty. scientifically conceived plan' One can create a society conform to that is' existing without that is obiectively better than the o"e 'mettly exiiting'aesthetic dimension to the design: conscious intervention. it will be .. In fact. not follow that modernity is a Holocaust. This relation is t tolerates . A. litter in the midst of serene ord extra iob to be done' Not that about them: ¡rrrt probl.r. through its endemic distrust of spontaneity and overall plan' the attificial orde It also needs defence . the scheme of a perfect society. they must be killed. that people who lreat there are weeds wherever there is undertake. In both cases. They had to be eliminated for reasons of genetic or ideational heredity .*. or overwhelm all autonomous. contained.Itdefinesitselfasthedesignforan It constructs lts and a perfect arrangement of human conditions.rgenocide.. The orcler. conflict-free. They showed what the rationalizing. This is a gardener's vision.and the only justification tiated as the relations themselves' Fr actions are instrumental.rr. fully controlled world. exterminated. it does Mod.. They were the most consistent.rt ofi". \weeding our is a creative' not a . they stop short of their fulfilment for the lack of an absolute power absolute enough and a monopolistic agency monopolistic enough to be able to disregard. shrug off. . their nature could not be changed. They were killed because they did not fit. it will be a Once built.eds "r. proiected u feelings. Most of the time. itself and nature. could improve. and them. They spawned the vast and powerful arsenal of technology and managerial skills.Allvisionsall Like define parts of the social habital as human weeds' getting out of control and running wild. or *nu."n its longing for a better.nty '"ti'fying. tf g"rd. more beautiful . for one reason or another.

nable reality if the ultimate wa e product of wholly new an ed it. . Ñw york.ZYGMUNT BAUMAN Nor¡s 1. ed. Oxfoid Universitv press.THE EUROPEAN IMAGINATION IN THE AGE OF TOTAL WAR' Omer Bartov one of the most striking aspecs of battlefield descriptions in Grear \ùlar literature is the extent to which they resemble accounts of the Holocaust. and Holocaust. and Grroiidr. mera- ust like the f19p o¡lrer la¡tov (1996) 'The European Imagination in the Age of Toral sfar. NY: Kraus I Publications. Victims. 101-2. Joel E. 329-30. Dinsdale ('Washington: He Corporation. 'significance of the Holocaust'. ed. 1980). in Murder in our Midst: The Holocaust. Henry Friedlander & Sybil Milton (Millwood. and F. Pp. Raul Hilberg. pp. . in Suruiuors. 'Destroying the Innocent with a 2. 1980). ni & Mary Silver.epresenta¿ioø. logy of the Holocaust'. lndustriat Kilting. Bureaucracy. in The Holocaust: Ideology..

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