By now, we’ve become sadly accustomed to hearing that Jews are taking undue advantage of the history of their persecution, that they’re basically wallowing in their status as eternal victims. This week’s interview with Dara Horn, based on her book People Love Dead Jews, offers an interesting twist on this accusation. For the journalist and professor of Yiddish and Hebrew literature, the question is why Westerners, and Americans in particular, seem to find dead Jews so much more interesting than living ones. Why, in the contemporary imagination, are Jews always relegated to the figure of the victim, or rendered invisible as Jews? For Dara Horn, the sanitization of the memory of the Holocaust, and the teaching of it as a moral fable from which everyone can draw their good conscience, erase the particularity of Jewish life and culture, and reduce Jews to the status of symbols of Nazi horror, and of the lessons we are supposed to have learned from it forever. What therefore seems unthinkable, and gives rise to unease, is the idea that Jews can be actors in their own destiny: the figure of the all-powerful Jew is countered by that of the radically powerless victim. To this interview conducted before October 7, Dara Horn adds a

Read More >>>

Dara Horn is a journalist, essayist and professor of Yiddish and Hebrew literature. In this interview, she talks about what prompted her to write People Love Dead Jews in 2021, and the question this book explores: why do dead Jews arouse so much more interest than living Jews? Between the ritualization of a sterilized memory of the Holocaust, fascination with the figure of the Jew reduced to helpless victimhood and denial of the actuality of antisemitism, Dara Horn questions the deeply ambiguous way in which the West, and America in particular, relates to Jews, and to the ghosts they evoke.

This first part of the DILCRAH report about antisemitism in Greece, part of the European Survey on the state of public policies to combat antisemitism, reveals the worrying spread of prejudice against Jews in Greek society. Whether through the testimonies of Greek Jews, politicians or opinion polls, it is clear that antisemitism is an integral part of the Greek political landscape, although it is expressed less violently than elsewhere. The second part of this report looks at how the Greek authorities intend to tackle this problem, which seems to be deeply rooted in the country's history and political culture. 

Carlo Ginzburg’s historical work has shed new light on the Jewish condition, making it possible to consider them in their minority, marginal dimension, alongside the witches and lepers persecuted by the Inquisition. In this interview with Avishag Zafrani, the renowned scholar discusses the subjective determinations that led him to approach the history of persecution from the point of view of the victims, and how this approach challenges the practice and position of the historian.

What is the nature of the proceedings initiated by South Africa’s request? What is the significance of the interim measures ordered? What is the difference between genocide and war crimes or crimes against humanity? Yann Jurovics, a specialist in these fields and a former jurist at the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, shares his expertise on the issues at stake in the decision of the International Court of Justice, allowing us to appreciate the restraint of a legal approach untainted by political conflicts.

Israel faces an existential threat on multiple fronts. Externally, the country’s militarily challenging enemies are piling up. But we cannot overlook what threatens Israel from within. For Eva Illouz, Israel needs a vast centrist and social-democratic movement to renew the contract between state and citizen. Only such a movement can give Israelis back the strength that has been taken away from them, and save them from a real existential risk.

On 10 February 1944, Anni and Fritz Finaly, Austrian refugees who had arrived in France six years earlier, entrusted their sons to the Sisters. Four days later, they were arrested by the Gestapo. Deported to Auschwitz, they never returned. Aged 2 and 3, Robert and Gérard were entrusted to the care of a devout Catholic, Antoinette Brun, who became their guardian. When the children’s family wanted them back, Miss Brun refused – on the grounds that they had been baptised. Philosopher Jean-Michel Rey looks back at this “Finaly affair”, which hit the headlines in the early 1950s, and at the violence of a gesture of erasure that people thought could be legitimised by recourse to Catholic theology alone.

What is the significance of this massive return to the history and memory of the Holocaust as a point of reference since the October 7 massacres, and what is the significance of the proliferation of the word “genocide” to condemn Israel’s war on Gaza? How should we understand speeches that claim that Israel is instrumentalizing the memory of the Holocaust to justify a war that is considered genocidal, echoing the trope that the victims have become the executioners? We asked Tal Bruttmann to shed some light on these questions.

On Friday 26 January, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on South Africa’s request to order Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza, arguing that there was a “serious risk of genocide”. The answer is clear: the ICJ does not consider that genocide is taking place. It even explicitly stated that there was nothing in the measures pronounced that would lead to any conclusion in this respect. What remains to be analysed is the political significance of the proceedings as a whole. This raises the question of why South Africa hailed a “decisive victory for the international rule of law…”.

Ber Kotlerman was born in Irkutsk, Soviet Union, in 1971. He grew up in Birobidjan—the “autonomous Jewish region” founded in May 1934 at the edge of the USSR on the Chinese border, with Yiddish as its official language. Ber Kotlerman has lived in Israel for thirty years, where he teaches Yiddish literature and culture at Bar-Ilan University. His novel “Koydervelsh,” which takes the reader from Birobidjan to Tel Aviv, has just been published. This is his fourth book of prose in Yiddish—the first, a collection of short stories, was published in Tel Aviv; the second, a thriller based on rabbinic responsa, in New York; and the third, a family epic, in Buenos Aires. However, he says that everything he writes is in one way or another linked to the region of his childhood, Birobidjan, which is the subject of this interview by Macha Fogel, conducted in Yiddish.

Since the 7th of October we are appalled by the continuous flow of reactions denouncing Israel and only Israel. We are especially appalled by those that come out of academic institutions, articulated by scholars and intellectuals. But should we be surprised and shocked? Was this response to the atrocities committed by Hamas, aided by their civilian Palestinian collaborators, not entirely predictable? Have not these same people, departments, student bodies, activists, etc. been saying the same thing for at least the last two decades? Of course, they have, and a number of them didn’t even hide their glee as the full story of the massacre, the sexual violence and the kidnapping emerged.  

Should a Jew who transgresses the Shabbat without being aware of his existence atone for it? Starting from the problem of a self-conscious Jewishness, Ivan Segré examines the bipolarity of Jewish identity, between the facticity of genealogical inscription and the radicality of subjective affirmation. In so doing, he sheds light on the Jewish articulation between individual and collective emancipation: it was not because he knew he was Jewish that Moses decided to leave Pharaoh’s house, but in doing so, he already was…

With the support of:

Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.