#60 / Editorial

 

In 2015, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the construction of a major Holocaust memorial and world-class learning center near Westminster to juxtapose “the worst example of the disintegration of democratic values in history with the greatest emblem of Britain’s aspirations for democracy.” Seven years later the ambitious project appears to have stalled. Liam Hoare’s original investigation for K. tells the story of this initiative, which – between the resistance of local authorities, academic shortcomings and fears of a political instrumentalization of the Holocaust – continues to face obstacles and controversies. Beyond the memorial, this article explores the particular nature of Great Britain’s relationship to the Holocaust. Particular in more than one respect: the country was indeed one of the few to be neither an executioner nor an accomplice to the genocide, but as the mandatory power in Palestine, its policy had a strong influence on the fate of the Jews of Europe.

It is worth recalling that Zionist as pour aspirations ran high in Europe in the interwar period. In France, the central figure of this movement was the poet André Spire. A convinced Zionist, Spire was an actor in the “Jewish revival” of the first half of the twentieth century and clashed more than once with the French Israélites and their excessive desire for assimilation. Spire was also the first to propose a Jewish reading of Proust. Starting with him and his young comrades of the Revue Juive, Antoine Compagnon traces in a new book (Proust du côté juif, Gallimard) the history of interpretations of In Search of Lost Time concerned with the Jewishness of the author and work. The book is fascinating and also contains a number of revelations. Milo Lévy-Bruhl has written an article for K. in which, rather than dissecting Proust’s hypothetical Judaism, he takes a step aside to insert the author in contemporary Jewish debates over emancipation and return.

We learn in Antoine Compagnon’s book that André Spire was introduced to Marcel Proust by a certain Léon Blum. The negotiations among France’s left-wing parties in view of a pact for the legislative elections of June should have been concluded on May 3: the anniversary of the victory of the Popular Front, on May 3, 1936. The commemorative date was just missed. In the end, it was the day after the anniversary that the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and the Greens all accepted the terms of the agreement proposed by La France Insoumise, with the aim of bringing a left-wing majority to the Assembly and Jean-Luc Mélenchon to the premiership. The centripetal impulse has – for those who cannot resolve themselves to the ever-renewed, and increasingly risky, duel between the right and the extreme right – something refreshing about it. But the enthusiasm quickly moderates as soon as one thinks of the attitude of ambivalence toward Europe that the alliance manifests. For K., the point is not minor. Just as there is nothing minor about the idea that such a union should be made behind a man who, for some years now, has been signaling at best an indifference to anti-Semitism, and at worst a revival of its rhetorical tropes, in step with his brand of populism. One can glean some of this by rereading Rudy Reichstadt’s article, which in its time earned us the only right of reply request (from Melenchon) ever received by K. And, on rereading it, one will say to oneself that, after all, there is no reason to regret that the anniversary of the Popular Front was missed. It would indeed have been indecent for the elections which, for the first time in France, brought a Jew to the helm of the state, to serve as a reference for a union whose success – its leader is now the proclaimed “spoils of war” of the indigenists – would be especially disquieting for the Jews of today.

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