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Not in the Name of Yad Vashem's Historians

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The clarification published by my friend and colleague Prof. Dan Michman – head of the Yad Vashem International Institute of Holocaust Research – in which he apologized for the videos screened during the ceremony held on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, precipitated a furor, and rightly so. It was, to be sure, an unusual and courageous statement: Few institutions publicly admit to making professional mistakes. On the other hand, too much time had elapsed since the event itself, and Michman’s brief declaration raised more questions than it answered.

For the sake of full disclosure, I and my colleagues at the institute played no part in the ceremony whatsoever. In retrospect, we understood that Yad Vashem had devoted immense resources to organizing what was essentially a diplomatic meeting, while totally neglecting the content put on display there. I have no doubt that Yad Vashem will ultimately find a way to clarify the genesis of this event, and more importantly, that it will also draw the appropriate conclusions. However, I, together with other scholars both at Yad Vashem and other institutions, believe that our duty as historians is to present a clear professional voice. As such, this apology and clarification is insufficient. The footage screened at the ceremony – regardless of the reasons it was chosen – called into question our own expertise. More seriously, that screening threatens the very integrity of Yad Vashem, which has been developed, laboriously, over the course of many years, and through the dedication and toil of many outstanding scholars.

Let’s call a spade a spade: The ceremony will indeed be remembered as an impressive and exceptional international diplomatic gathering, a fact stated by Holocaust scholar Prof. Yehuda Bauer in these pages (in........

© Haaretz