Postcards from Auschwitz
Holocaust Tourism and the Meaning of Remembrance
Each year, millions of people visit Holocaust memorials and museums, with the number of tourists steadily on the rise. What lies behind the phenomenon of "Holocaust tourism" and what role do its participants play in shaping how we remember and think about the Holocaust?
In Postcards from Auschwitz, Daniel P. Reynolds argues that tourism to former concentration camps, ghettos, and other places associated with the Nazi genocide of European Jewry has become an increasingly vital component in the evolving collective remembrance of the Holocaust. Responding to the tendency to dismiss tourism as commercial, superficial, or voyeuristic, Reynolds insists that we take a closer look at a phenomenon that has global reach, takes many forms, and serves many interests.
The book focuses on some of the most prominent sites of mass murder in Europe, and then expands outward to more recent memorial museums. Reynolds provides a historically-informed account of the different forces that have shaped Holocaust tourism since 1945, including Cold War politics, the sudden emergence of the "memory boom" beginning in the 1980s, and the awareness that eyewitnesses to the Holocaust are passing away. Based on his on-site explorations, the contributions from researchers in Holocaust studies and tourism studies, and the observations of tourists themselves, this book reveals how tourism is an important part of efforts to understand and remember the Holocaust, an event that continues to challenge ideals about humanity and our capacity to learn from the past.
"Postcards from Auschwitz is an important intervention into the vexed topic of Holocaust 'tourism.' Reynolds deftly challenges the various criticisms of the 'Shoah business'—its presumed commercialization of suffering, conversion of horror into kitsch, and its putative role in evacuating Holocaust memory of substance. He addresses such received wisdom not by denying its power, but by way of a compelling exploration of the experience of Holocaust memorialization in Warsaw, Berlin, Jerusalem, and Washington, D.C that does not only analyze various national narratives of the event, but also defines the tourist's experience in surprisingly textured and nuanced terms. The book is a real eye-opener and should be read by anyone with an interest in contemporary Holocaust memory."
—Carolyn J. Dean, Charles J. Stille Professor of History and French, Yale University
"Postcards stand for the superficiality of tourism, but also have a flip side in which the viewer can express agency, sometimes undercutting the message of the glossy picture. Reynolds is one of the few scholars to take both Holocaust memory and tourism seriously. Among the questions the book explores are: How does one portray the victims’ suffering without turning it into a spectacle? How do memorial sites negotiate between historical verities and traumatic experience? What agency do tourist publics have in reading and interpreting Holocaust sites and what are the responsibilities of site managers in responding to them? Where does one draw the line between knowledge-seeking and voyeurism? The result is a thought-provoking, multi-disciplinary account of the ethics of memory and responsibility in an age of snapshots and selfie shares."
—Jackie Feldman, author of Above the Death-Pits, beneath the Flag
"Reynolds lays bare the faulty assumptions about tourism and tourists that undergird the criticisms leveled at sites of Holocaust commemoration. His own scholarship, by contrast, takes seriously the abilities of tourists to reflect just as critically as any of the scholars who write about the topic, and shows how their presence (including their own discomfort with the idea of tourism) helps Holocaust tourism remain an open-ended process of meaning-making. This is tourism studies at its finest. Reynolds'authorial voice is pitch perfect - sophisticated without being pedantic, readable without being simplistic."
—Shaul Kelner, author of Tours That Bind: Diaspora, Pilgrimage and Israeli Birthright Tourism
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