Adam LeBor

A Nice Little Earner

The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering


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Anyone who doubts that there is a thriving Holocaust industry should try taking a taxi in Krakow’s ancient Jewish quarter. ‘Schindler tourism?’ ask the drivers. ‘Schindler tourism’ is a pretty grisly affair, fusing Hollywood and Hitler. Step inside and the driver will immediately play a tape of Klezmer (Jewish folk music). Then the tour begins: first you are taken to the walls of the former ghetto, the bridge over which the Schindler’s List extras walked, and Schindler’s Emilia factory, which still operates; then to the site of the Nazi labour camp just outside the city, which was reconstructed for the film. There the driver points out the actual balcony – also used in the film – from which the SS camp commandant took pot shots at the camp inmates. A satellite television dish sits above it. In Prague, too, the synagogues stand almost empty of Jews, turned into sightseeing spectacles, just as the Nazis intended. Nearby stallholders peddle trinkets and kitsch items of tourist Judaica. Little wonder that Holocaust historians now quote the former Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban’s mordant quip that ‘There’s no business like Shoah business.’

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