In his recent article in the Journal of Genocide Research, Professor Shmuel Lederman – a professor a the Weiss Livnat International MA Studies Program in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa – examines the distinctive harm of genocide. He makes specific reference to Hannah Arendt’s conceptualization of the harm of genocide, positing that despite its flaws it brings a valuable perspective to the issue.
Lederman opens by citing the views of historians who distinguish the harm of genocide as stemming from the loss to the world of a unique culture. As he notes, culture is difficult to quantify. If one understands culture as referring primarily to high culture, one would have to argue that the genocide of the Jews is ‘worse’ than the genocide of the Roma, who have not made the same level of cultural contribution. On the other hand, Lederman writes, one could approach cultural loss as the destruction of a distinct way of life. This viewpoint is also difficult to defend, since for example the majority of German Jewry killed in the Holocaust were assimilated into German society and did not live in any way that differentiated them from their non-Jewish compatriots.