National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Fall 2005


Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 6:2, Fall/Winter 2005. Copyright © 2005 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


There has been a considerable debate among historians concerning the role of the Holocaust in the American collective memory. Since the watershed year 1993, when the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened its doors on the Mall in Washington, DC, and the film Schindler’s List debuted, the level of awareness of the Holocaust in the public mind has been at an all-time high in the United States. The question at the heart of this academic discussion is how Americans have come to identify so strongly with an experience that occurred over sixty years ago, on foreign shores, to a group of people to which most Americans have no obvious connection. This being the case, the question has been asked whether the Holocaust can be part of the American collective memory at all. This essay will contend that incorporation of the Holocaust into American consciousness has indeed taken place, albeit decades after the event, and that, furthermore, the religious belief system of the majority of Americans has played a central role in this development.