Will Self, Sebald, the holocaust
… It seems to me that the moral significance of the holocaust is not so much that Jews were the victims, as that Germans (mostly) were the perpetrators. In many ways, the German-speaking world in 1913 was at the summit of Western culture. If all that civilisation could not withstand a world war, a plague, inflation and then a slump, what civilisation can?
This is not in any way to diminish the horror of what happened under the Nazis. But to make it the synecdoche of every evil is to dehumanise and distance it. If the holocaust is taken to be the most evil thing that humans ave ever done, and we didn’t do it, then we feel when we consider the horror as if we have passed some important exam in being human. We haven’t. We were spared the question, and that’s a very different thing. …