When Memory Comes
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the other hand, he believes that having lived through the Holocaust
affords him a unique insight into the atmosphere of the times. Contemporary
historians may not fully grasp the nuances of the reality, he says.
For example, some can't understand why the Jews seemed so passive
and gave in so easily, or why others watched in silence as their
Jewish neighbors were stripped of jobs, businesses, homes, positions
and, finally, their lives.
Friedlander "witnessed the paralysis of my own parents."
insight is what earns him praise from other historians. Says David
N. Myers, director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, "Saul
Friedlander is one of the most distinguished historians in the world
today, not only of the Holocaust." His personal connection brings
to his research "a controlled passion and an underlying sense of
moral urgency to explain that terrible darkness that has blotted
out so much of this century. He fuses the skills of a great archival
historian, a grand synthesizer and a master theoretician."
says there is an "intellectual agitation, even restlessness" in
Friedlander's labors, and the way he combines "vast learning, lyrical
writing and ... ethical responsibility" makes the historian "a humanist
in the highest sense of the word."
Vincent P. Pecora of the Department of English says Friedlander's
passion for truth in his work may seem natural for an historian,
but has actually been an issue of debate recently as some question
whether historical research can ever really uncover the "way things
Friedlander, Pecora says, "insists that with time, patience and
rigorous research methods, we can indeed know enough ... to say
what is true and what is false about the past. He has spent most
of his scholarly career showing not only that it can be done, but
that it matters in the extreme."