The Holocaust, Reduced to an 'Item' in Our Newspapers

Apparently, we need PR companies in order to never forget.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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File photo: The March of the Living
File photo: The March of the LivingCredit: Moshe Milner / Laam
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Seventy years after the end of World War II, the Holocaust is no longer a unique and constitutive event in Jewish and world history. In 2015, it is an “item” – one in a series of “items” that public relations offices send to reporters in the hope they will “get it into the paper or onto the website, hopefully with a picture and a few words from ”

The onslaught began even before Passover, and during the week-long holiday many reporters were forced to sort through dozens of e-mails with suggestions for “items” ahead of the approaching Holocaust Remembrance Day. The first was “Seder Night for Survivors” – a lovely and praiseworthy initiative, but its organizers didn’t make do with just holding the event. If no one but the survivors hear about it, is it worth anything?

“Can you get this in?” a PR office recruited for the task asked. Yes, even the public relations people use terminology like that, if you were wondering. No one “publishes” anything anymore, but they “get an item in,” and anyone who doesn’t get it might also accidentally forget the Holocaust.

In order to compete for reporters’ limited attention, the PR firms use various methods usually reserved for selling cosmetics: “I have one hot item for you,” “this is a great story.” “it’s an exclusive,” they write unabashedly. The high point was an e-mail with the subject line “Need a survivor?”

Yes, on Holocaust Day 2015, you can “sell” a good story by hook or by crook. The Holocaust hasn’t been gas chambers, crematoriums, Auschwitz and Treblinka for a long time. The Holocaust is an item. An item that has to get in.

Another kind of e-mail that came in droves during the holiday was the reminders that the passage from slavery to freedom was only temporary because Holocaust Day was approaching. It was the invitations to events around which an “item could be built.” The official ceremonies, like the annual event at Yad Vashem, don’t need any marketing. They are anyway broadcast live with the prime minister and president and other important figures in attendance, and they get tremendous exposure even without any PR agencies.

But what about the smaller entities that also want to boast of a ceremony that was written about in the press? The solution is declaring an “Alternative Ceremony” or a “Unusual Event” and of course, how can we make do without “moving.” I still haven’t gotten an answer to the question “How do you know it will be moving before it even takes place?”

Seventy years after the Holocaust, even the survivors’ organizations have spokespeople and public relations agencies, because nowadays that’s the only way to “get an item in the newspaper.” If Hitler were alive today, even he would hire a PR professional to push his Facebook page or at least make sure the papers use up-to-date photos of him and not the same old black-and-whites.

Seventy years after victory over the Nazis, the Holocaust is an item. An item that must be marketed. Marketed and not forgotten.

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