By Dina Kraft
Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli army officer stood before two sculptures, one depicting Jews trudging toward Nazi slaughter and the other portraying Jewish rebels, proud and muscular.
The officer told young recruits visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, that Israel used to emphasize heroism in remembering the Holocaust but that today the victims of the Nazis who did not fight back are no longer scorned.
As the Jewish state enters a new century, Israel grapples with what to remember. Next week, immediately after Tuesday’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yad Vashem will break ground for a new $25 million museum that will reflect some of the changes in how the story of the Holocaust is being told.
James Young, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst who has written on Holocaust memorials, said the original Yad Vashem, established in 1953, reflected the need of the young embattled state to tell a Holocaust story that would lead to the creation of Israel.
“Now that the state is secure, a new generation is very willing to re-examine founding myths. Other people are coming into view and the plight of other histories is coming to Yad Vashem,” Young said.
Still, the murder of 6 million Jews during the Nazi occupation of Europe remains a cornerstone of Israeli identity and collective memory. “We don’t need to forget it, but (need to) decide what we want to remember,” said Tom Segev, an Israeli author who wrote about the impact of the Holocaust on Israel.
“We are arguing about what the Holocaust tells us,” Segev said.
Those involved in the museum say Yad Vashem remains devoted to telling the story of the Jewish Holocaust. “It’s a Jewish museum in the Land of Israel,” said Avner Shalev, the director of Yad Vashem.