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Southern Communication Journal


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A Review of: Marouf A. Hasian, Jr., Rhetorical Vectors of Memory in National and International Holocaust Trials.
Caroline Joan (Kay) S. Picart & Marlowe Fox
a b a b

University of Florida Florida State University

Available online: 09 Jun 2011

To cite this article: Caroline Joan (Kay) S. Picart & Marlowe Fox (2011): A Review of: Marouf A. Hasian, Jr., Rhetorical Vectors of Memory in National and International Holocaust Trials., Southern Communication Journal, 76:3, 267-272 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1041794x.2011.574557

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make the world safe for democracy. However, the consequences of that belief resulted in actions taken during the war on terror [that] undermined the principles and practices of democracy (p. 142). In the case of MLB, this was manifested in a number of actions, including maintaining imperialistic control over the WBC, exhibiting favoritism towards the U.S. team, limiting political protests from fans at a number of stadiums, and devising oversimplified and jingoistic advertising campaigns that reduced national narratives to Epcot-like presentations. Furthermore, the inclusion of a Chinese team as well as an Italian team comprised of just five native Italians (and 25 American players with Italian heritage) revealed the primordial marketing intentions of MLB and derailed the tournaments authenticity, respectively. But despite these inconsistencies, as well as the failure of the U.S. team to make the semifinals, the WBC was termed a success not only because of sizable TV ratings and high attendance figures but because the sports media and MLB extolled the event as something that could only be done in America, by America, and in celebration of America. The WBC, therefore, helped to keep the identity of the United States as the worlds most important nation intact. Taken together, the many ways that baseball threatened democracy while responding to the American identity crisis during the War on Terror might encourage a pessimistic view towards the value of sport. And yet, Butterworth has hope for baseball as a democratic institution. He reminds readers of the games best qualities and its inherent benevolence when not relied upon as a symbol of national purity. The book, in his mind, can be a corrective that invites and encourages a democratic pluralism in both baseball and American life. This point is the enduring message of the books conclusion, since the war on terror was a prime example of how freedom of expression was suppressed during a time of crisis by uncritical calls for support and unity (p. 170). Thus, for any audience willing to investigate the rhetorical power of sport and contemplate the role it can play to uphold the ideals of a healthy democracy, this book is not just, as Butterworth claims, any ceremonial first pitch (p. 174). Consider it a strike right down the middle.

Stephen Andon Florida State University

Marouf A. Hasian, Jr., RHETORICAL VECTORS OF MEMORY IN NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST TRIALS. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2006; pp. x 236. ISBN: 9780870137846, $59.95. Marouf Hasians book is impressively comprehensive in its comparative rhetorical analyses of selected iconic Holocaust legal trials that have simultaneously preserved (and necessarily erased) particular memories and narratives of the Judeocide. The book ranges across the most important legal vectors of memory: the Nuremberg Trial (Chapter 2); the Auschwitz Trial (Chapter 3); the Israeli Judicial Proceedings

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(Chapter 4); Canadas and Englands Holocaust memories (Chapters 5 and 6). In many ways, Hasian arrives at a similar point regarding Holocaust show trials as Judge Richard Posner does, in Posners analysis of the relation of law to literature: That literature must not bear the weight of being a moral pep pill and be manacled to purely didactic purposes, notwithstanding their possible cathartic or uplifting value at a certain historical point in time. Besides, as Hasian himself points out, if we are to view the purpose of Holocaust trials to be to teach a moral lesson, then what absurdly emerges is that all such processes eventually arrive at the same endgame. To quote Hasian: I illustrated the repetitious nature of many of these arguments, as a way of critiquing the supposed pedagogical value of these trials. I purposely highlighted the partial and contingent nature of our nationalist memories (p. 156). Hasians project is to steer a third path in between positivistic and postmodern notions of legal interpretation. Being a rhetor and a historian, Hasian is all too aware of the dangers of rhetorical battles of comparative victimization (p. 4) taking the place of contextualizing historical fact (p. 4). Far from being a nave positivist, Hasian begins with acknowledging and commending some perceptive advocates of the postmodern legal position, such as Lawrence Douglas. Yet, in Hasians view, where Douglas, and those similar to him, go too far, is the proposal that Holocaust trials somehow can or should become a salve for traumatic memory (p. 5). Hasians point is practical: Once judiciaries become burdened with the role of being the preservers of contentious historical remembrances (p. 4), what is to prevent them from becoming Platonic guardians, creators of uncontested history (p. 5)? Yes, extrajudicial commentaries on the history of the Holocaust have a valuable function, but these should not be tasked to governmental institutions, which can then dangerously enshrine a select history or memory as the correct way of interpreting collective traumas. The greater danger, for Hasian, is ossification, and the resultant balkanization of nationalist memories. What happens when nationalist courts begin circulating lessons that we dont like, that critique rather than privilege the tales that are told by Holocaust victims? How will we feel when American soldiers fighting in places such as Afghanistan or Iraq are put on trial in faraway places for their alleged participation in new holocausts? Will we still argue that involving courts in the social construction of collective memory does not threaten judicial legitimacy? (p. 6). In Chapter 2, Hasian incorporates Nancy Woods Vectors of Memory: Legacies of Trauma in Postwar Europe1 to illustrate the dichotomy between coming to terms with the past and overcoming the past (a framework whose rhetorical origins are similar to Dominick LaCapras distinction between working throughcoming to terms with traumaand acting outa compulsive repetition or reliving of trauma). The rhetorical vectors of the Judeocide have created evasions, denials, moral equivalencies, and minimalizations, which have served as obstacles in coming to terms with the past (p. 49). Hasian is worried that the current drive, which began in the mid-1990s, to raise Holocaust awareness is a classic case of putting the cart

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before the ox. It is important to raise awareness because many of its survivors and witnesses are dying, but there exists no universal framework by which to calibrate the veracity of their narratives. In Chapter 3, Hasian recruits a former fellow of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, Alexander Victor Prusin, to provide insight into the vectors generated by Soviet War Crime Trials. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviet legal system accused German Civil Administration, the Order Police, and rear army units of participating in the Holocaust (p. 50). Also, the victims were characterized as the Soviet people (p. 50), a striking contrast to the Western conception of the Judeocide. For example, Gerd Wilckes 1963 New York Times article claims that one to three million people were killed at Auschwitz, most of them Jews. As a further illustration of the disparity of nationalist perspectives=memories, at the Tehran Conference, Stalin demanded that 50,000 members of the German military be summarily executed without a trial. In contrast, Aleksander Lasik speculates that only 12% to 15% of the Auschwitz perpetrators have been brought to justice. Hence, a significant disparity existed between the justice of Stalin and the judicial body that presided over the Auschwitz trialsagain, all tied up with nationalist collective memories of the event. Ultimately, what makes these disparities worth mentioning is Hasians worry that assigning truth solely to any disparate or extreme end of this spectrum of nationalist vectors of memory will result in interpretations of history that are completely dictated by moralistic ends. Though Hasian has dutifully taken up the memory project as a rhetor, some historians could take issue with one aspect of his methodology. A careful review of Hasians footnotes reveals a relative paucity of archival and primary legal sources, particularly with respect to his case studies. For example, the discussion of the Kastner and Eichmann Trial proceedings are completely void of any primary legal texts; instead, he turns to New York Times articles and scholarly law articles. One could argue, of course, that precisely because Hasians project deals with memory work, such secondary sources are de facto his primary texts. While we see the value of such an argument, which is largely one structured by a reception theory orientation, we think it worth mentioning that his choice of sources flows from his chosen theoretical framework, which is, ultimately, a justifiable position. Nevertheless, through his research, Hasian has uncovered another tier of the multilayered symbolic value of Auschwitz. For example, Hasian worries that Auschwitz, a key symbol of the Judeocide, may muddy the waters of our collective memory (p. 50). He argues that Auschwitz trials have now become a symbol for the obfuscation caused by what are popularly enshrined as objective findings, which often hide a nationalistic agenda. In addition, in Chapter 3, Hasian describes the difficulties of passing legal judgments in postwar Germany on Holocaust perpetrators. The legal system was then riddled with corruption on even the most fundamental level. As Hannah Arendt notes in Eichman in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,2 the German administration was rife with Nazis. Hasian need not extend himself too far on this prima facie case of corruption in some of the German War Trials.

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Still in Chapter 3, Hasian illustrates the difficulties of mastering the past by demonstrating the incongruous rhetorical vectors generated by legal paradigms. The legal system is assumed to be a paragon of objective truth. Thus, when it is plagued by equivocations, and worse duplicities, the detriment to our collective memory may be catastrophic. Historically, law has been based largely upon stare decisis, which evaluates modern cases by previous analogous cases, which have created a precedent. Therefore, if an authoritative case is based upon a specious understanding of the facts or duplicity, then the detriment may be exponential because it will serve as the rubric by which to measure all following cases. Additionally, if law is accepted as the paragon of objective truth, then it may cause an intellectual atrophy amongst a populace who will accept only what is spoon fed to them by the system. Hasian specifically worries that, as he pointed earlier in Chapter 1, closing a legal case mandates that we shut off historical, political, economic, social, or other scholarly inquiry in the search for that one answer (p. 10). Continuing his argument concerning the complex nature of the rhetorical vectors left by iconic Holocaust trials, in Chapter 4, Hasian discusses legal complications that attend the politics of nationalistic remembering and forgetting, through the analysis of the Kastner, Eichman and Demjanjuk cases (p. 77). Hasian believes that the Eichman trial has transformed the Holocaust into a more didactic tale and worries that the resultant condensation of a constellation of arguments generates a subjective truth that may be plagued by national sentiment and limitations inherent in any system of law (pp. 7778). Hasian continues to balance precariously between positivism and postmodernism in his analysis of the Israeli judicial proceedings. He mentions the ability of trial proceedings to help fill the gaps in the historical record, provide a safe forum where victims can tell their traumatizing tales and show how nation-states could hold legitimate war crime trials (p. 78). However, he seems to agree with MarieBenedicte Dembour and Emily Haslan that the privileging of law should not suppress or unnecessarily delay the development of other non-legal narratives (p. 78). Finally, Hasian makes a cohesive argument for the existence of a bias in the Israeli judicial proceedings. He alludes to the practical consequences of the mass Jewish legal immigration from Germany, which was as high as 62,000 in 1936. Around this same time, the Jewish population in Palestine doubled to approximately 470,000. The Mapai Party began gathering intelligence on atrocities dating before the war up until its tragic end. Thus, a mounting vengeance seemed to be coming to a head in British Palestine. However, due to what we may assume to be impotent military power, there was no military intervention in order to help end the catastrophe (p. 79). The result is a type of sublimation of the anger and hostility created by the Judeocide, which may have manifested itself in judicial proceedings. Hasian draws the apt analogy to the Vichy Syndrome as described by Henry Rousso in his work of the same title3 (p. 79). Hasian leaves no stone unturned as he employs a utilitarian approach in his evaluation of the costs and benefits of didactic tales at the end of Chapter 4. He

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makes a compelling argument that the disinterest required of a legal proceedings to derive objective information may have been absent in the Israeli Judicial Proceedings. He concludes that the costs of these didactic trials outweigh the benefits as many of these trials use selective histories in an attempt to hide ideological pressures that are brought to bear in debates over Holocaust remembrance (p. 107). In Chapter 5, which covers Canadas experience with Holocaust trials, Hasian continues his attempt to transcend the spatial constraints of nationalist rhetorical vectors. The competing vectors of the Canadian collective memory include the mythic Canadian haven for fleeing war criminals, protecting the nations multicultural heritage from the ravages of Holocaust revisionism, and the preservation of Judeocide memories (p. 109). Specifically, Hasian alludes to the large Ukrainian population that has suffered blanket castigation as Holocaust perpetrators. In 1984, John Paul Himka protested this generalization of Ukrainians of whom the vast majority had not participated in the Judeocide (p. 109). However, Hasian points out that Himkas words lacked resonance during a time when audiences wanted the prosecution of war criminals (p. 109). Hasian notes the general postwar legal amnesia that left Holocaust survivors, like Philip Wiess, feeling like strangers in a strange land and that took a minimum of twenty years to remedy (p. 110). Canadas legal amnesia has seemingly led to a knee-jerk reaction of assigning undeserved blame to its Ukrainian population, the overzealous prosecution of war crimes, and the burdening of free speech. Hasian documents the proscription of hate speech through the evolution of the Canadian Criminal Code, which some detractors argue now infringes upon freedom of speech (p. 111). Advocates, on the other hand, would go as far as to place Holocaust denial beyond the pale of free speech protection (p. 111). Hasian analyzes the Keegstra, Zundel, and Finta trials through a consequentialist lens, or better yet, spectacles. He asks, Did these didactic spectacles really serve the interests of either the victims of the Judeocide or future generations? (p. 131). As an elaboration of the epistemological crux of the problem posed, it is important to note that an ends-based approach values ephemeral benefits over modern conceptions of cost. However, it may not be as simple as a utilitarian benefit-cost analysis, as future benefits and costs are not so easy to calibrate. In contrast, Kantian retributivism describes a means-based approach whereby the means of law are to be valued over their ends. Kant believed that law specifically with regard to retributivism transcended existence similar to a system of mathematics. At this point, we come full circle. Early on, Hasian complains, Many lawyers and judges like to think their rules of law as a collection of logical rules and principles that transcend existence (p. 14). It is hardly groundbreaking to say that there exists no system of mathematics per se or rule of law that exists independent of human construct. However, it is a specific societys attempt to assign values to things in order to better gain social cohesion and to make sense of larger questions concerning justice and morality. One could argue that Hasian possibly fails to recognize the literary, philosophical, and socio-anthropological insight upon

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which the law is based. The law is not a mere positivist entrenchment against monotheistic intuitions about evil but has arguably universalizable aspects of humanity (normative aspects) from Pre-Socratic Greece to Ciceros Rome to Europes Enlightenment. Ultimately, Hasians third way between positivist and postmodern jurisprudences resembles a proposal made by Sandra Harding in Whose Science, Whose Knowledge?: Thinking From Womens Lives.4 Hardings eventual proposal for ensuring a more rigorous form of objectivity, given the onslaught of the postmodern critique of science, is to first acknowledge the historical, political nature of science and, second, to de-fang the postmodern onslaught, by advocating for equal democratic access to power and knowledge, across the first worldthird world differential. The more perspectives we can include, the more views of reality we have, and perhaps the closer to truth we can be, as we communally negotiate these plurally nuanced standpoints of what is real. In a similar manner, Hasian eventually argues that if national communities are going to keep asking for Holocaust trials, then at least these trials need to be transparent and conducted in front of international forums. If Holocaust consciousness-raising is going to be considered to be a part of legitimate judicial decision making, then we need to be able to see and hear many narrated histories and memories (p. 5). Hasians concluding proposal that Holocaust Truth and Reconciliation Commissions be created is appealing. Yet, the book is ultimately more effective as a polemic against Holocaust trials used as history-generating, didactic, cathartic mechanisms, than as a detailed examination of how this model could actually work within the rubric of international law, or how its creation could forge the beginnings of a historical consciousness that goes beyond self-congratulatory nationalist boundaries. Still, embedded in Hasians book is a dream to which we can aspire: that the twenty-first century can perhaps teach us that healing involves more than retributive justice. Perhaps there is a time for forgiving and selective forgetting (p. 167). Notes
[1] [2] [3] [4] Nancy Wood, Vectors of Memory: Legacies of Trauma in Postwar Europe (New York: Berg, 1999), p. 2. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: Viking Press, 1966), p. 288. Henry Rousso, The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France Since 1994 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), pp. 219221. Sandra Harding, Whose Science? Whose Knowledge?: Thinking From Womens Lives (New York: Cornell University Press, 1991), pp. 515.

Caroline Joan (Kay) S. Picart University of Florida Marlowe Fox Florida State University