Off the beaten (job) track
Although Im not a University of Chicago grad, I picked up
a copy of your JuneAugust/99 issue and was enchanted by the
cover story, Nice Work.
What struck me most about people in these uncommon callings
is the excitementwhether prompted by radioactive containment
or chicken wingsthat each has for his or her job. Its
certainly a refreshing contrast to my daily meetings with consultants,
lawyers, and government workers who take jobs only to enable them
to retire after years of working at something that doesnt
Its nice to know that there are more job opportunities than
those listed in the Washington Post classifieds.
A simple lesson
With regard to Professor Peter Novicks article, Atrocitys
Yardstick (JuneAugust/99): After presenting a number
of lessonsreflections on the import to humanity
in modernity of the Holocaust by such notables as Nobel Peace Prize
winner Elie Wiesel, President Bush, and commentator George Willthe
professor states, The problem with most of these lessons is
not that theyre wrong but that they are empty, and not very
useful. He further opines that the average American need only
look about her community to see that modern man is capable of atrocities,
as she witnesses both rape and murder, in news footage if not in
person. What, then, is the usefulness of the Holocaust as a yardstick
of atrocity to modern inquirers?
The usefulness is in recognizing that the Holocaust
defines not only what individual man is capable of, but also of
what collected men are capable; both those who commit, and those
who sit idly and only observe. From the Nigerian civil war to the
Balkan conflict, and certainly including the Holocaust, mans
cruelty is beget by his number in relation to those he persecutes,
squared by a factor of general ambivalence. Cruelty becomes atrocity
when it is prevalent, systemic, and fostered by power and majoritarian
So to the average American, and to Professor Novick, I would advise
one simple lesson be learned: observe the timid, the weak, the downtrodden
minority, for following after those few will be the great many to
replay for you the lesson of the Holocaust.
R. Warren Pinkerton, MPP98
Missing the point?
The person on your staff who wrote the summary immediately
beneath the title of Peter Novicks piece obviously did not
read the article first.
Novick clearly documents Americas continuing inability ...to
mobilize public opinion and stir the government to action
on post-WWII genocides utilizing a Holocaust imagery.
As Novick sadly concluded, ...a ritualized reminder of expectations
and aspirations [regarding the Holocaust are] now tacitly abandoned.
Morrie Blumberg, AM68
Albuquerque, New Mexico
One lesson: remember
Peter Novicks article made several good points. Yes, we do
use the Jewish Holocaust of the 1930s and 1940s and Hitlers
name as bywords for atrocities, for inhumanity, for evil incarnate.
Since then, we have said never again and done nothing
so many times that I agree with the commentator he quoted as saying,
Never again would Germans kill Jews in Europe in the 1940s.
The first genocide, i.e., organized attempted extermination of
a people by modern means, was the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman
Empire in 19151923. Preoccupied with the Great War and its
aftermath, the Great Powers wrung their hands and sent some aid
to the starving Armenians. Yet, nobody thought of taking
action against a sovereign country, even one allied with the Central
Powers with which the Allies were at war.
Hitler noticed that. He said, Who remembers the Armenians
today?a quotation on the wall of the Holocaust memorial.
These days, when I have even heard a Holocaust survivor say it was
wrong to bomb Milosevics Serbia because its a
sovereign country, no matter what it has done, I am tempted
to ask if we truly remember the Holocaust either.
Ann Lousin, JD68
Moral dilemmas abound
First, I want to thank you for printing the very enlightening article
by Peter Novick. There has been so much loose and uninformed talk
about our post-war holocausts that needs a clear and
Second, the author has been scrupulous about not overstating what
outside nations might have done about the atrocities he discussed.
There is a great moral dilemma concerning our obligation (let alone
ability) to intervene in these instances of great human carnage,
viz. Somalia. However, there is little doubt that the United States
can do more in relief of human suffering without becoming embroiled
in foreign or tribal wars.
In addition to more humanitarian aid, we should support greater
efforts in population planning and birth control. The pressure of
too many people on limited resources is one source of the strains
that erupt in these civil conflagrations. Further, our immigration
policies are guided by political rather than humanitarian (or even
national interest) considerations. What is the sense of allowing
immigration for family reunification, which can be continued ad
infinitum, when more needy and worthy candidates are prevented from
As a sidebar, this scandalous immigration policy was amply demonstrated
just before WWII when a boatload of Jews from Germany was refused
entry to the US and wound up back in German concentration camps!
Bill Kamin, PhB47
Menlo Park, California
of people objected to our decision to publish one particular letter
in the October/99 issue. Written by two alumni, the letter--which
we entitled "Holocaust as Poltical Industry"--prompted many responses,
including phone calls, e-mails, and faxes from a dozen alumni. Four
of these letters were published in the December/99 issue (http://www.alumni.uchicago.edu/magazine/9912/departments/letters.html).
to publish the letter was a difficult decision. Generally, it is
our policy, when the opinions expressed are controversial, to err
on the side of free speech. In adhering to that policy, however,
we in no way desire to print letters that promote, either overtly
or in coded language, negative and hurtful stereotypes. Clearly,
this letter failed that test. We erred and we apologize.
Holocaust as political industry
Peter Novick asserts that the Holocaust has desensitized us to
other genocides, but stops short of asking who invented the Holocaust
in the first place. Who decided to capitalize the noun holocaust
and transform genocide into a political weapon and fund-raising
In America, which had little to do with the event itself, there
is an ever-growing Holocaust industry in academia. There is a Holocaust
publishing industry and a Holocaust Hollywood. There are Holocaust
museums and memorials trying to make concrete what might otherwise
become dated and ephemeral. And there is the Holocaust-promoting
chorus of wealthy and influential American Jews who make sure we
Never forgetting is the best way to intensify the collective
guilt on the part of Americas Christian majority and boost
the Holocaust industrys favorite political causethe
state of Israel. Guilt, laced with liberally dispensed charges of
anti-Semitism for opponents and sweetened with a heavy sprinkling
of PAC money, has made the Israel-firsters masters of the executive
and legislative branches. Easy and often exclusive access to the
media shapes public opinion. And at the end there is a pot of gold:
unlimited political and military support plus $6 billion in U.S.
taxpayerprovided annual aid to a country that is one of the
richest on earth.
Nazis killing Jews has become the paradigm for modern-day genocide,
but the Holocaust is hardly unique in the 20th century, which affords
numerous examples of mass killing. The politics of mass murder nowadays,
as practiced by dictators and democrats alike, is all about killing
people with words before you actually shoot them. Perversely, the
Holocaust is used to justify killing yet more people; i.e., to prevent
As Novick notes, George Bush didnt really cite the Holocaust
to disabuse us of Enlightenment illusions about man.
He wanted to suggest that men can be evil to justify the bloodshed
in the war against Iraq. Nor was George Will debunking the Renaissance
illusion that ...man becomes better as he becomes more clever.
George is a realist who appreciates the use of force majeure, as
long as it is not used against him or his friends. And then theres
Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate high priest of the Holocaust. Never
once has Wiesel spoken out against Israels deplorable treatment
of the Palestinians. Its okay to kick an Arab, but never a
Jew, and if we keep on reminding the world that the Nazis killed
a lot of Jews, we can continue to kick Arabs and no one will say
Rwandans, Biafrans, and Somalis are even lower on the scale than
Arabs, and there are fewer journalists standing around watching
how you treat them. Why intervene to save them? The Third World
is descending into chaos, and theyll only be fighting again
before the week is out.
In short, can anyone deny that most invocations of the Holocaust
are cynical and bogus? The Holocaust promoters understand that if
you keep saying the same thing over and over again everyone will
eventually believe it; i.e., that the Holocaust is the greatest
evil in history and justifies special breaks not only for its survivors,
but also for their descendants and co-religionists.
Perhaps what is truly unique about the Holocaust is the ability
of its exploiters to preemptively silence their critics. Surely
within the University of Chicago community there must be many who
recognize that the Holocaust industry has gone too far, that the
Holocaust is far from being the central event of the century, and
that its message of an exclusivity in sufferingserving to
promote a Zionist agendais dubious at best. But the open expression
of such views might be unwise. It is safer to remain silent.
Philip M. Giraldi, AB68
John K. Taylor, AB69
Fort Worth, Texas
I suggest the following criteria for choosing the next president
(Chicago Journal, JuneAugust/99):
(1) The new president must have a well- articulated understanding
of the aims of liberal education and the civilizing mission of the
University of Chicago. He or she must not be a captive of the fashionable
skepticisms and relativisms of our time. He or she must instead
have the optimistic vision and fervor of a Robert Maynard Hutchins.
(2) The new president must be an effective fund-raiser. He or
she must be someone people want to hear and who can persuade an
audience to support his or her vision.
(3) The new president must both understand the necessity for economies
and also recognize the primacy of the aims of education over economics.
Economics assumes that one can recognize a good when one sees it,
and then shows one how to produce or obtain that good most efficiently.
Economics cannot tell us what is a good. In our case, economics
cannot tell us what is civilization, what is liberal education,
and why the U of C has a civilizing mission.
In the words of Robert Maynard Hutchins, It is sad but true
that when an institution determines to do something in order to
get money, it [may] lose its soul, and frequently does not get the
money...I do not mean, of course, that universities do not need
money and that they should not try to get it. I mean only that they
should have an educational policy and then try to finance it, instead
of letting financial accidents determine their educational policy.
Robert L. Stone, JD82, PhD86
Judged by ones company
Your JuneAugust/99 issue (Chicago Journal) reminded
me of how chagrined and embarrassed I was to learn this spring that
Bill Clinton had chosen the University of Chicago as one of the
institutions whose commencement ceremony he would spoil. Thankfully,
I am a graduate of the Law School, not the College, but I felt violated
nonetheless. Couldnt the University at least have informed
the White House that it had already made other plans?
Please dont tell me that its a matter of respecting
the office, not its inhabitant, for Bill Clinton has disrespected
the office more than any of the rest of us ever could. Wholly apart
from his so-called personal misbehavior, he has shamed
himself and embarrassed the nation by continually and flagrantly
lying to the American people about matters both large and small.
At the same time, he has disrespected the judiciary and violated
his oath of office by lying under oath in the presence of a judge,
to the officers of the court, and to a federal grand jury.
I do not condemn those recent graduates who shook his handat
their age I might well have done the samebut I do salute the
principled young men and women who had the temerity, the courage,
and the self-respect to show their disdain for this most arrogant,
hypocritical, and deviant occupant of the Oval Office.
I hope that the next time a President of the United States invites
himself to commencement, the University gives some thoughts to that
persons qualifications as an individual and a scholar, and
not just to the office that the President temporarily holds in trust
for the American people.
David L. Applegate, JD78
As a Law School graduate, Id like to draw your attention
to the oeuvre of James Stewart Thayer, JD74, who lives in
Seattle, Washington. Jim has written a number of novels, starting
with The Hess Cross, which he began while in law school,
and which features the U of C campus. No alumni should be without
one of Jims novels for his or her personal collection.
I generally read the Magazine but dont recall seeing
any mention of Jims works. I think readers should be informed
that they can combine loyalty to their school with the opportunity
for a good read that may be a little bit lighter than, some of the
(no doubt worthy but) more scholarly works that regularly appear
in Books by Alumni.
Lane Wharton, JD74
Raleigh, North Carolina
The Magazine relies upon the kindness of alumni to let
us know about books written, changes made, etc. Thanks for writing.Ed.
The case of the missing emeriti
As an alumna and member of the Emeritus Class of the 1999 reunion,
I am writing to express my disappointment after reading the last
issue of the Magazine. There were pictures of many of the
classes but not one of any of the emeritus classes (19291944).
The photographer did a beautiful job on the picture they sent me,
but not a mention of it. After all, those of us who were present
had to put forth a lot of effort to get there as age does take its
I must say say I was treated well while there, but it would have
been nice to have been mentioned in the Magazine.
Muriel Winters, SB34, MAT38
Some constants, some changes
Thank you for the feature A Day in the Life of the College
(JuneAugust/99). The photos of Burton Court and the lecture
hall in Kent brought back many pleasant memories. My freshman dorm
room, 781 Burton, looked out at precisely that view, and in subsequent
years I occupied various rooms in the 500 and 600 entries, until
the dormitories were taken over by the military in 1942. And the
Kent lecture hall, though not furnished with the colorful floor
covering, looks much the same as when Professor Herman Irving Schlesinger
lectured to my freshman chemistry class.
A startling difference is reflected in the article Tuition
and Other Changes on the preceding page: in 1938, quarterly
tuition was $100, and the luxurious life in Burton-Judson cost $150
Thomas J. Madden, SB42, MD44
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
One change for the worse
A concentrator? When I first came across this term
in the JuneAugust/99 issue (A Day in the Life of the
College), I realized very quickly that it was a strange term
for majorlonger and awkwardbut still understandable.
But, to my horror, I found the term being used repeatedly with major
being totally rejected. Pardon me if I still insist that I was a
major in mathematics and not a concentrator.
Roy Dubisch, SB38, SM40, PhD43
Mount Vernon, Washington
The Colleges official term for major is indeed
Getting our priorities straight
Regarding Hair Tomorrow? (Investigations,
February/99): You write that Elaine Fuchs heads a research
team whose work may lead to a cure for baldness. Since when
has baldness been considered a disease that needs a cure? One hopes
that the 30 million balding men in the U.S. dont consider
themselves sick. Men here in Zimbabwe are dying of AIDS, not worrying
about balding. Lets get our terms and priorities straight,
and recognize that normal aging processes do not need cures,
and any research for a cure for baldness has nothing
to do with health but everything to do with wealth.
Ana K. Gobledale, AM77
Now, can we lowercase the U?
Lowercasing the the in the University of Chicagos
name (Letters, JuneAugust/99)along with
the names of many other universities, newspapers, magazines, etc.in
general copy was a change introduced in the 12th edition (1969)
of the Manual of Style. One of the broad policies of that edition
was to recommend (note that the Chicago Manual has never in its
93-year history dictated anything) the simplest, most natural styles
then in use.
It may be noted, however, that every University of Chicago Press
book bears on its copyright page the notice © [date]
by The University of Chicago, because that is indeed the Universitys
Highland Park, Illinois
invites letters on its contents or on topics related to the University.
Letters must be signed and may be edited. Write: Editor, University
of Chicago Magazine, 1313 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail: