16. Imagination and the Holocaust

The late Professor Michael Bobkoff passionately taught Honors Holocaust Studies at Westchester Community College in New York for many years. During his last semester (Spring 2012) he gave a talk about the challenges he faced over the years in teaching his class. One of the challenges was: How do we make the vast destruction of Jews in the Holocaust concrete for the imagination? There is certainly no way to imagine all the destruction and especially all the suffering involved. But perhaps there is a way to imagine some of it in a way that can bring some degree of understanding.

He pointed out that Yankee stadium has approximately 56,000 people. Based on this, he provided a helpful, yet troubling, method for aiding the imagination in its effort to grasp the quantity of Jews murdered in the Holocaust:

O = One Yankee Stadium = 56,000 people

How many Yankee Stadiums would be full of American military casualties in Vietnam, WWII, the Civil War? Given some approximations, he argued we can imagine the following views of the stadium from an airplane:

Vietnam, 56,000:

O

WW II, 350,000:

OOOOOO

Civil War, 615,000:

OOOOOOOOOOO

But in the Holocaust 6,000,000 Jews murdered. So our view would be something hard for the imagination to forget indeed:

OOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOO

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