Features Holocaust Fatigue, and the Question About the Nazis and Homosexuality

  • The Fragility of Empathy After the Holocaust 
    by Carolyn J. DeanPublished October 1st 2004 by Cornell University Press (first published 2004)


The title of this book is misleading. It makes the reader suppose that this book is about how the moral capital of Jews, caused by gentile sympathy because of the Shoah, is slipping away. Instead, this book is not about that at all. Instead, it rehashes the standard fare of books of this type.


Author Carolyn J. Dean suggests that the constant exposure of people to the Holocaust, far from creating and sustaining a “Never Again!” atmosphere, actually dulls them to violence and to the suffering of others. However, isn’t desensitization a characteristic of modern mass media in general?

The author goes further. She suggests that, in a sense, the media portrayals of the Holocaust have become a sort of pornography (p. 22)—in that they both titillate the viewer (to see the violence), and then end up dulling the viewer (to violence)—in much the same way that pornography causes both short-term titillation and long-term desensitization in sexual matters. As an example, she cites Jerzy Kosinski’s THE PAINTED BIRD, which had been widely criticized as a “pornography of violence”. (p. 24).

There are other, unsaid implications of Holocaust fatigue. For instance, we often hear that other peoples who had experienced genocide–such as the Poles–merely need to „work harder” and „get the word out”. This is unrealistic. Even if Poles somehow acquired the level of influence, in American society, that Jews enjoy, the American public, already desensitized by Holocaust fatigue, would scarcely be receptive to information about the Nazi German genocide of the Poles (the Polokaust).


Author Carolyn J. Dean features the ideas of Daniel Goldhagen, who suggested that Germans as a whole share complicity in the Holocaust (pp. 45-on), even though only a small fraction of them were actively involved in it. However, exactly the same could be said about collective Jewish complicity in the crimes of Communism, even though only a small fraction of Jews were actively involved in it.

The author (p. 80) repeats the canned complaint that the people of Poland, Ukraine, Japan, etc., see themselves as victims and not victimizers while, just as predictably, exempting the Jews from this same standard.


The title of this book does not convey, to the reader, the extensive attention that the author pays to the relationship of Nazism and homosexuality. (pp. 107-on). Dean also puts it in historical context. For instance, during a series of famous 1906-1909 trials against some of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s advisors, leading Jewish sexologists such as Magnus Hirschfeld accused these advisors of homosexuality. (p. 116).

Interestingly, author Carolyn J. Dean (p. 188) cites Dagmar Herzog and his SEX AFTER FASCISM. Herzog showed that the notion of the Nazis being sexually repressed did not emerge until after 1966, and was a retrospective fantasy about Nazism. She also contended that Nazism challenged strict bourgeois morality while paying lip service to middle-class sexual conventions.


Jan Peczkis


Published with the author’s permission.


– More reviews by Jan Peczkis on PCO  ….. .


  • Title image: „The Fragility of Empathy After the Holocaust”
    by Carolyn J. Dean – Part of cover. / selected by wg.pco

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