What Good Can Come of the Holocaust?

Being a hopeful Holocaust scholar, writing a Young Adult book on the
Holocaust and being a Jew, the Holocaust is constantly in the corners of
my mind these days. Naturally, someone driven to be a Holocaust scholar
or write a book about it would think about it more than most people,
but lately it’s pervaded all of my work.

The other night, I sat
around with a group of friends as we talked about different things going
on in our lives. Someone spouted the age old wisdom that “It all works
out in the end”, which someone else challenged saying that “It does all
work out, unless it doesn’t.” Being me, I brought the subject of
genocide to the table asking whether or not the Holocaust, indeed,
“worked out” for the victims. To say everything works out in the end
when regarding the mass murder of innocents doesn’t quite make sense. On
a more micro level, it can be hard to say that everything works out in
the end for children who die of serious illnesses, etc. Sometimes I find
myself wondering if everything works out in the end only for those of
us fortunate to have everything work out.

My friend argued that
good things have come of the Holocaust. I’m not sure where I stand on
this statement, as I’m not someone who buys into the idea that the
Holocaust happened for an actual reason. At least, to this point in my
life, all of the reasons people have proposed to me haven’t seemed
rational. I guess when discussing the Holocaust, there fails to be a

This friend cited that one good thing that came out
of the Holocaust was Lisa Kudrow reuniting with her long lost relatives
on “Who Do You Think You Are?”. While that episode was certainly
touching, and probably available on NBC’s website, it is hard to justify
that the Holocaust is equal to that.

However, if you read Imre
Kertesz’s work, Fatelessness in particular, he speaks without
reservation of the joy and humanity found in the Holocaust. The message
of the movie, which he was heavily involved in, is no doubt a message of
humanity and the “good times” spent in the camps.

Recently, I
discovered Ruth Kugler’s memoir Still Alive, in which she says
“Absolutely nothing good came out of the concentration camps,” she
writes, recalling an argument with a naive German graduate student, “and
he expects catharsis, purgation, the sort of thing you go to the
theatre for?”

This is perhaps an argument that could go on
cyclically forever. We cannot take the Holocaust back, so looking forward, what we can do is control our own future and look for the good in the cinders and ashes of it.

Maybe not everything works out for the best, but maybe looking forward, we can move toward healing the wounds.