The Cracks in the Wall: Toward a Neo-crisis Paradigm of Jewish Historiography?: David Engel, Historians of the Jews and the Holocaust
According to Historians of the Jews and the Holocaust, the overwhelming majority of post-1945 American and Israeli historians of the Jews in the pre-Holocaust modern period have erected an intellectual and mental separating wall of sorts between the event of the Holocaust and their historical consciousness, making it impossible for the Holocaust and its significance to be an integral part of the conceptualization of the Jewish history of the generations that preceded it. In contrast to post-Holocaust Jewish thought, which raised, in the wake of the Holocaust, “Jewish survival” and “Jewish continuity” to the level of supreme values, modern Jewish historiography is unaffected by and devoid of any influence of the Holocaust.
However, a close examination of the historiography discussed in the book shows that the opposite applies. In a similar vein to Jewish thought, there has been a deep impact of the Holocaust rupture on this historiography, which resulted in the quest to highlight the continuities and complexities in the history of Jews and their relationships with their non-Jewish surroundings. Engel, clearly, rejects this paradigm of dialectical continuities in understanding modern Jewish history, while preferring instead a crisis paradigm. However, as he devotes much effort to wrestling with the imagined wall sequestering, as it were, the Holocaust from the historical perception of pre-Holocaust Jewish history, he does not go on to methodologically develop his alternative historiographical vision.