Overview

Maurice and Norman Messer, father-and-son business partners, know a good product when they see it. That product is the Holocaust, and Maurice, a Holocaust survivor with an inflated personal history, and Norman, enjoying vicarious victimhood as a participant in the second-generation movement, proceed to market it enthusiastically. Not even the disappearance of Nechama, Norman's daughter and Maurice's granddaughter, into the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz, where she is transformed into a nun, Sister Consolatia of ...

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My Holocaust

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Overview

Maurice and Norman Messer, father-and-son business partners, know a good product when they see it. That product is the Holocaust, and Maurice, a Holocaust survivor with an inflated personal history, and Norman, enjoying vicarious victimhood as a participant in the second-generation movement, proceed to market it enthusiastically. Not even the disappearance of Nechama, Norman's daughter and Maurice's granddaughter, into the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz, where she is transformed into a nun, Sister Consolatia of the Cross, deters them from pushing their agenda.

Father and son embark on a tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, which Maurice—now the driving force behind the most powerful Holocaust memorialization institution in America—organizes to soften up a potential major donor, and which Norman takes advantage of to embark on a surrealistic search for his daughter. At the death camp they run into assorted groups and individuals all clamoring for a piece of the Holocaust, including Buddhist New Agers on a retreat, Israeli schoolchildren on a required heritage pilgrimage, a Holocaust artifact hustler, filmmakers, and an astonishing collection of others. All hell breaks loose when Maurice's museum is taken over by a coalition of self-styled victims seeking Holocaust status, bringing together a vivid cast of all-too-human characters, from Holocaust professionals to Holocaust wannabees of every persuasion, in the fevered competition to win the grand prize of owning the Holocaust.

An inspiringly courageous and shockingly original tour-de-force, My Holocaust dares to penetrate territory until now considered sacrosanct in its brilliantly provocative and darkly comic exploration of the uses and abuses of memory and the meaning of human suffering.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
A worthy addition to this wickedly satirical chorus… subversive, painful, brilliant, and, yes, both laugh-out-loud funny and illuminating…The brilliance of Reich's satire is its grounding in reasonable yet opposing perspectives…Reich makes us ache with both laughter and pain…I found myself appreciating…Reich's dexterous provocation to question myself, and our world, anew.
Philadelphia Inquirer
Tova Reich is fearless, in the best possible way, and her take on the culture of victimization spares no captives in the gulag of self-anointed martyrdom…. Reich's gift for satire is impeccable, her ear for absurdity pitch perfect…. Reich is fearless in taking on such an essential subject with such insight and unerring humor. I take no offense in being offended, if the truths revealed enlighten. Sometimes it's good to be slapped silly by words.
Melvin Jules Bukiet
Serious and hilarious and utterly scathing -- no, lacerating; no, disemboweling -- My Holocaust takes no prisoners in its two short, bookended chapters and its two lengthy set pieces, one inside the museum's hallowed walls and another on a special donors' tour of Auschwitz. Reich knows this territory intimately; her husband, Walter, used to be the head of the D.C. institution she now pillories … Beneath the humor lies the pure fury that once animated thoughts about the original atrocity. Tova Reich is the master of fury's return.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In this savage satire of Holocaust commemoration's misuses, Reich paints and pillories a culture of victimhood that, with its accompanying commemorative kitsch, all but eclipses the actual victims. Novelist Reich (The Jewish War) sketches a gallery of "Holocaust hangers-on," grotesques eager to hijack the Shoah for tawdry commercial and ideological purposes. Presiding over the strategic exploitation is Maurice Messer, a retired ladies' undergarment maker who has parlayed inflated claims of being an anti-Nazi partisan into the chairmanship of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; his feckless son, Norman, president of Holocaust Connections Inc., a brand consultancy with the motto "Make Your Cause a Holocaust" (of which Maurice is board chairman); Norman's daughter, Nechama, who has embarrassingly run off to join the convent across the street from Auschwitz; and Maurice's right-hand man, Monty Pincus, who expertly deploys melancholy over the six million to seduce women. Once the idea of the "Chinese Holocaust" (the "rape" of Nanking) or the "Native American Holocaust" gain traction, however, Maurice and Norman may not be able to control the results. Whether Maurice and Norman are rebranding "mountains of shorn hair" from Auschwitz for "an anti-fur organization eager to firm up its Holocaust status" or schmoozing ecumenically with a Holocaust-denying Arab terrorist, Reich's satire is broad, scabrous, cynical, over-the-top, often hilarious—and likely to cause a scandal. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Maurice Messer has made much of his Holocaust connection, exaggerating his participation with partisans in the Polish woods. Now he and son Norman head up Holocaust Connections, Inc., a global consulting firm that aims to spread the message of not forgetting the six million Jews killed by the Nazis. This father-son duo knows how to milk fellow survivors, their families, and other like types for sizable contributions to the cause, which is the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Satire? Most certainly. Reich, who has written three books of riotous satire (Mara, Master of the Return, and The Jewish War), here takes on pretentiousness, personal greed, and manipulation of suffering, among other issues. The Messers get their com/an American Holocaust, the Tibetan Holocaust) vying for equal representation, all claiming victimization. This brouhaha rises to extremes sometime later at the museum in Washington. Ultimately, many readers might find this book a desecration of Holocaust memory and the serious work that the U.S. Holocaust Museum does. If nothing else, it surely will be the subject of much discussion.
—Molly Abramowitz

Washington Post Book World
“Serious and hilarious and utterly scathing... Tova Reich is the master of fury’s return”
Los Angeles Times
“subversive, painful, brilliant, and, yes, both laugh-out-loud funny and illuminating…”
Booklist
“Reich has assembled an outlandish cast...[My Holocaust] is piercing and perceptive and cuts a wide swath.”
The Forward
“A deliciously wicked satirical novel”
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
“viciously funny, head-spinning...this novel is clearly in its own class”
Entertainment Weekly
“a creation that surpasses mere chutzpah on its way to the profound”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061842993
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,122,697
  • File size: 449 KB

Meet the Author

Tova Reich is the author of the novels Mara, Master of the Return, and The Jewish War. Her stories have appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, AGNI, Conjunctions, and elsewhere. In 1996, she won the National Magazine Award for her story "The Lost Girl." She lives outside Washington, D.C.

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Read an Excerpt

My Holocaust
A Novel

Chapter One

In room four, block four of the Auschwitz death camp museum, as they were brought to a halt in front of the display case of a canister of Zyklon B poison gas with an arrangement of white pellets spilling out like a bridal train, Monty Pincus suddenly slapped his forehead audibly, remembering that he had better telephone his wife Honey in Arlington, Virginia. Moving a perfunctory step or two away from the group, he pulled his mobile phone from the inside pocket of his disheveled iridescent fly-blue suit jacket, stretched by a single button across his prospering paunch, and with his eyes absentmindedly tracing the outline of the inspiring architectural hoist of a Slavic brassiere through the snug fuzzy pink sweater of the guide, Krystyna Jesudowicz, as she went on with her spiel about how between 1942 and 1943 alone almost twenty thousand tons of this pesticide were shipped by the Degesch division of the German monster company I. G. Farben to this site alone in order to efficiently carry out what was classified as a sanitary operation to exterminate Jews and other vermin et cetera et cetera, and casually ignoring the venomous rays of annoyance she focused so personally on him as he raised his voice to the Jewish decibel level required for long distance, he yelled into the phone, "Honey? Honey, I know you're there! Pick up the phone, Honey! Is something wrong with your brain? Goddamn it, pick up the phone!" He didn't care how long he'd have to wait on the line before she got up off her fat behind to answer the telephone, or how many times she would force him to redial. This was crucial business touching on the well-being andsurvival of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He would charge it to the federal government.

With his left hand, the one that wasn't flattening the phone like a muff against his ear, Monty scratched his smudge of a beard and then, through his trouser pocket, he discreetly, as he liked to believe, adjusted the lay of his manhood, shouting the whole time, "Honey, for Christ's sake, pick up the goddamn phone!"—practically drowning out Krystyna and her decadent Eastern European accent as she carried on with how in the so-called shower rooms, which were actually gas chambers in disguise, this Zyklon B was released from special outlets to asphyxiate the naked prisoners packed inside, children, women, and men, fifteen hundred to two thousand human beings at a time, for which about five to seven kilograms of the chemical were needed, and so forth, piling on the full authority of the numbers. "Is he always so rude?" demanded Bunny Bacon in a voice meant to be heard specifically by the miscreant, glaring at Monty through her oversize eyeglasses with their red frames, enunciating precisely in her strict kindergarten-teacher's syllables. Norman Messer, at his post beside her, having been stationed there by his father to help ease her through all of this traumatic material to which she was being exposed for the first time, and also, as Maurice said, to "massage her nice so she'll get mama to give out good," cleared his throat twice and explained laboriously, "Well, with such a prima donna like our Monty here, it's a matter of personal policy for him to talk only when someone else is also talking—to maintain his image that he already knows it all."

Monty listened cheerfully to all of this with his one available ear, calmly unperturbed and unchastened, taking it all in with a complacent sense of how natural and right it was for him to be the topic of conversation. By way of a token excuse, though, because he knew that Maurice would eat him alive if he alienated this money Bunny, he shrugged the shoulder that was unencumbered by the telephone and held out his arms palms upward in a "What can I do? This is an emergency" gesture, presenting her, at the same time, with his lopsided, crinkly-eyed, guaranteed irresistible grin. He could sense from her exaggerated signs of aversion and her confrontational hostility toward him that he was beginning to win her over, that he would soon have her panting at his feet with her tongue hanging out, ripe and ready to do whatever he wanted, exactly as he had been ordered by Maurice—or, as he was now known, the Honorable Maurice Messer, who in his new position as the presidentially appointed chairman of the board of the Holocaust Museum was hoping to extract a major donation from Bunny's mother, Mrs. Gloria Bacon Lieb. Monty would have much preferred to have been assigned to the mother. The daughter, with her limp brown bangs and her boyish haircut peaking in a kind of cowlick at the top of her disproportionately small, pointed head, was thick-ankled, pear-shaped, "a little broad from the beam," as Maurice phrased it rather tactfully, he thought, while the elegantly groomed and sumptuously costumed mother was a babe, the sleek poster girl for money and maintenance, spa and salon, accommodatingly blond, with a willing and attentive look meant for men. But Maurice had decreed, "Gloria, she's mine. First I squeeze a big one out from her in the name from Husband Number One, the late Mel Bacon, from discount wholesale manufacturing in Third World countries fame, may he rest in peace. Next I work on her for the goods from Husband Number Two, mine fellow partisan and resistance fighter, Leon Lieb, originally from nursing homes until he got investigated by a bunch of anti-Semitten no-goodniks, and after that, like the rest from us wandering Jews since time immemorial, starting all over again from scratch—this time in slum and tenement real estate. Your job is to schmear the daughter, the old maid. Hit the jackpot, Pinky, and God willing, pretty soon I twist the arm from the council from the museum and I make you director." Only from Maurice who could . . .

My Holocaust
A Novel
. Copyright © by Tova Reich. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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