I’ve been meaning for some time to praise Giulio Meotti’s very moving and in many ways unique book on Jewish and Israeli victims of the post-9/11 killing spree, which he calls A New Shoah.
He was driven to write this book because of his belief that this generation’s victims must be remembered, and he thought it was appropriate for a non-Jewish European to undertake that sad but significant task. And so there it is, in more detail than he or we really wanted to know, but the details are what matter to serious historians, and so they are welcome, although very painful.
You can imagine these stories, but I think it’s important to suffer through them, just as we cannot understand the Holocaust without as much detail and as much pain as possible. I know what it is like, having spent most of 15 years in the archives of the Italian fascist state, and it may surprise you to learn that it is only in the last five years that Italian historians have begun to chronicle the full horror of anti-Semitism and the Shoah in that country. Most of that work exists only in Italian, and it will be a while before American readers get a fuller picture.
That said, I have two objections to Meotti’s elegant and important work. The first is his contention that we are suffering through a second Shoah. To be sure, today’s murderous anti-Semites – almost all of whom are radical Islamists – are bound and determined to kill as many Jews, and as many of their friends and supporters, as possible. But, unlike most of the Holocaust, the slaughter of contemporary Jews is not carried out in antiseptic gas chambers, but in the streets, markets, restaurants, airports, and skyscrapers of the modern world. These killers do not have the comforting distance that Nazi technology placed between killers and martyrs. The jihadis think of themselves as individual assassins, not deranged industrial managers, as did so many of Hitler’s men.
Yes, the jihadis would love to create death camps – as the example of the “Mufti of Jerusalem” shows so well – but that does not change the fact that we are dealing with a different phenomenon.
The second problem is that the surviving friends and family interviewed by Meotti are invariably portrayed as gentle souls, grieving over the loss of their dear ones, and grappling with the same problem that tormented and perplexed so many Holocaust survivors: how does one account for such evil, and how does one live the rest of one’s life with the knowledge that evil still flourishes around us? Some of Meotti’s people survived the Holocaust, only to die or have loved ones die, in today’s world.
Like Meotti, I have spent a lot of time interviewing Holocaust survivors, and while many of them are of the sort he describes, I met others, embittered and angry people, enraged at the indifference of their fellow citizens, and sometimes even at God himself. I understand these people, indeed it is easier for me to understand them than those who have somehow found peace and understanding. They deserve more space in a work such as A New Shoah.
But you’ve got to read it.