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The Dartmouth
March 3, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Panel addresses past and present of Jews in France

Harvard Professor Susan Suleiman said in a panel discussion last night that Jean Paul Sartre expressed subtle anti-Semitism in his attack on anti-Semites in France.

Six prominent speakers addressed the connection between media and the way the Holocaust is remembered, as well as the representations of the Holocaust in literature.

About 100 people attended the discussion in 105 Dartmouth Hall. It was the second of three parts of a series titled "Auschwitz and After: Race, Culture and the Jewish Question in France."

"In case you don't know it, we are living in a very depressing time," said Geoffrey Hartman of Yale University.

He delivered a speech that he called "melancholy," in which he discussed both the good and bad sides of the overwhelming presence of the Holocaust in contemporary media and film.

"The good side is that we cannot know," Hartman said. "The bad side is that the world of appearances and propaganda can be made to merge."

Hartman hesitated in quoting an anti-Semitic writer during his speech because of its blatant disregard and heartless images of Jews, he said.

Suleiman said Sartre lapsed into racial generalizations of Jews in the third and last chapter of his widely acclaimed book, "La Question Juive."

She said she felt Sartre chose the title to be provocative. She said "la question juive," which means "the Jewish question, is directly associated with the French Vichy government, which collaborated with the Germans during World War II, and the Nazis.

Jeffrey Mehlman of Boston University spoke on "God's Own Concentration Camp."

He made analogies between the Jews and the Germans, France and Spain and various films and works of literature.

All the speakers mentioned the importance of film on the "Jewish question." In the discussion that followed, speakers agreed that the Yiddish word for destruction should replace "Holocaust" because of the overbearing presence of the latter.