JERUSALEM — Controversies about Holocaust remembrance are alive abroad as well as in Israel. Most involve Jewish sensitivities that the Holocaust might be forgotten or de-emphasized.
In Washington, the construction of a Holocaust museum on the Mall, among some of most revered American public icons, has sparked debate. Why is the suffering of one group at the hands of the Nazis receiving special attention when there are plenty of other groups that have suffered--even at American hands, critics ask?
Yehuda Bauer, a leading Holocaust scholar who has served as a consultant to the organizers of the museum, defends the memorial as a place of study.
"It will not be a hall of horrors. It will deal with the Jewish tragedy but specify that it can happen to anyone else," he said.
What happens to the remains of concentration camps in Europe also strikes tender nerves. In Germany, European Jews recently objected to construction of a supermarket in Ravensbruck near a memorial to the victims of the Nazi concentration camp for women. Survivors from Belgium and France protested that the store diminishes the solemn nature of the memorial. Developers have agreed not to complete construction and instead to seek another site.
For two years, a conflict has been bubbling in Poland over the presence of a Roman Catholic convent on the grounds of the death camp at Auschwitz. Jewish protesters accused Christians of trying to "steal" the Holocaust and diminish collective guilt for the sufferings. The order of Carmelite nuns has pledged to leave the site and move to a building outside the campgrounds. The new convent will be finished next year.
When Polish President Lech Walesa visited Israel last May, he apologized for Polish anti-Semitism. Whether that message will be carried home effectively is unclear. Some visitors to Auschwitz have complained that its official title of "Museum of Martyrology" obscures the fact that the main victims were Jews. There are no signs in Hebrew or Yiddish at the site.