Recalling Saul Friedländer’s early life under the shadow of National Socialism and his initial encounter with the horrors of the Holocaust, this article reviews first his early efforts at analyzing both, and then his experiments with applying psychoanalysis to history in general and to antisemitism in particular during these early years. It then revisits his now classic chapter on ‘redemptive antisemitism’ in volume 1 of Nazi Germany and the Jews (1997). Having recaptured the main ingredients of this new brand of Jew-hating, which was concocted by the circle of Wagnerians in Bayreuth of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it turns to indicate two of this chapter’s other characteristics: the repeated stress on the importance of traditional Christian antisemitism, and the constant intermingling of German Jewish history with the history of antisemitism throughout this text. The article concludes by underlining that Friedländer’s main accomplishment is not in explaining the Shoah, but rather in finding the right tone for chronicling it; and by upholding the awe and disbelief one senses in confronting it, the article comes to an end.
- Holocaust historiography