An academic study of the nascent discipline of “Holocaust tourism.”
To conduct his research, Reynolds (Modern Languages/Grinnell Coll.) visited the sites once devoted to the destruction of all European Jews and others who were offensive to the Nazi regime, traveling to the museums, monuments, and attractions dedicated to the millions murdered by the Third Reich. He joined the crowds that arrive at the archetypal death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which “saw records attendance in 2016, receiving more than two million visitors from all over the world”—and where visitors can purchase postcards that showcase evidence of the atrocities that occurred so many decades ago. “What remains to be seen,” writes the author, “is whether these visitors take any lessons with them after they leave.” Reynolds also journeyed to Majdanek, Sobibór, and Treblinka and toured the monuments in Warsaw, Poland, where law now forbids any hint of Polish culpability in Nazi crimes. In Berlin, the author went to the House of the Wannsee Conference and explores the latest “countermonuments.” His tour continued at the prodigious Yad Vashem complex in Jerusalem, and the last stop was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., where some observers have found cause for concern about the Americanization of the Holocaust. The author’s astute text does not invite a cursory reading; his penchant for academic prose and prolixity will appeal primarily to scholars. Throughout, the author depicts a graphic journey of discovery that reveals bits of kitsch and many troubling questions: Do Holocaust tourists come as casual sightseers or as pilgrims? Where is evidence, in those dedicated places, of redemption? Soon there will be no survivors of the Holocaust; what will the places, monuments, and museums tell future generations? Unlike Tim Cole in his 1999 book Selling the Holocaust, Reynolds remains sanguine about the efficacy of Holocaust tourism.
A diligent, sometimes-laborious study of the necessity and uses of Holocaust tourism.