Durkheim’s Sign Made Flesh: The “Authentic Symbol” in Contemporary Holocaust Pilgrimage
Keywords:Holocaust Tours, Symbols, Relics, Authenticity
AbstractSynthesizing Durkheim’s notion of “sacred symbol” with Walter Benjamin’s theorization of “authenticity,” this paper proposes the theoretical construct, “authentic symbol,” to account for the symbolic function of Holocaust relics in contemporary Holocaust pilgrimage. The symbolic function of four kinds of relics (the sites, witness/survivors, human bodily remains and accessories) is examined and compared in three different contexts: The March of the Living Holocaust tours organized for Diaspora Jewish teenagers, the Masa tours organized for Israeli and practical aims of the tours and displays teenagers and the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. Different ritual experiences are found to predominate in each of the three contexts, which significantly correlate with how symbols are processed by participants and the different ideological.
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