On August 1, 1984, a group of Polish Carmelite nuns, with the approval of both church and government authorities, but apparently without any dialogue with members of the Polish or international Jewish community, moved into a building at the site of Auschwitz I. This establishment of a Roman Catholic convent in what was once a storehouse for the poisonous Zyklon B used in the gas chambers of the Nazi extermination center has sparked intense controversy between Jews and Christians. Memory Offended is as definitive a survey of the Auschwitz convent controversy as could be hoped for. But even more important than its thorough chronological record of events pertinent to the dispute, is the book's use of this particular controversy as a departure for reflection on fundamental issues for Jews and Christians and their relationships with each other. Essays by fourteen distinguished international scholars who represent diverse viewpoints within their Jewish and Christian traditions identify, analyze, and comment on the long-range issues, questions, and implications at the heart of the controversy. A recent interview with the internationally renowned Holocaust authority and survivor, Elie Wiesel, makes an important contribution to the ongoing discussion. The volume merits careful reading by all who seek to learn the lessons this controversy can teach both Christians and Jews.
In their introduction, editors Carol Rittner and John K. Roth define the meaning of the word covenant in both the Jewish and Christian religious traditions. They develop a compelling argument for the notion that the Christian concept of a new covenant between God and humanity, which supposedly superseded Judaism's old covenant, formed the basis for the centuries-old anti-Jewish contempt that led to Auschwitzthe Nazi death camp where 1.6 million human beings, mostly Jews, were exterminated. The editors contend that the existence of a convent at this site offended memory. The vital issue of what constitutes a fitting Auschwitz memorial is addressed throughout the volume's three major divisions in which important thinkers, including Robert McAfee Brown and Richard L. Rubenstein, among others, investigate The History and Politics of Memory, The Psychology of Memory, and The Theology of Memory. Important tools for researchers are a chronology of events pertinent to the Auschwitz convent controversy, 1933-1990 and an appendix that contains many key documents relating to the controversy. Memory Offended will be an important resource in university and public libraries as well as in Holocaust courses, classes on Jewish Studies, twentieth-century history, and those that focus on interreligious issues.
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About the Author
CAROL RITTNER, formerly Director of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity in New York, is a Roman Catholic Sister of Mercy who has written extensively. Her previous books include The Courage to Care (edited with Sondra Myers, 1986) and Elie Wiesel: Between Memory and Hope (1990).
JOHN K. ROTH is Pitzer Professor of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California. In addition to lecturing widely throughout the United States and the world, Roth has published more than 175 articles, reviews, and 17 books. His most recent books are Approaches to Auschwitz: The Holocaust and Its Legacy, The Questions of Philosophy, American Ground: Vistas, Visions, and Revisions and Holocaust: Religious and Philosophical Implications.