Quincy University’s professor of philosophy, Robert Manning, Ph.D., authored an article published in the current issue of the journal of The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C, the Journal of Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Dr. Manning’s article concerns the important 20th century Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas and is titled “Einsatzgruppe and Collaborator Horror: Thinking the Holocaust’s “Explicit Presence” in the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas.”
Levinas scholars agree that his work was affected by the Holocaust and reflects a philosophical response to it. Yet Levinas only rarely mentions the Holocaust in his major philosophical writings, so how is what Levinas called “Holocaust horror” registered in his work?
Manning argues that scholarship says little about this because it has paid only scant attention to the tragedies of Levinas’s life and because it understands the Holocaust almost entirely through the lens of Auschwitz and the death camps. Manning shows that Levinas’s major works show many traces of the brutal, face-to-face violence characteristic of the Holocaust’s early stage, when killing formations known as the Einsatzgruppen, along with local Lithuanian collaborators, murdered almost all of the Jews of Lithuania, including Levinas’s parents and brothers. Traces of this specific horror—often referred to now as “the Holocaust by bullets” – much more than industrial killing in death camps are registered in Levinas’s philosophy.
“I am especially grateful that this article has been published not in a philosophy journal but by the journal of our Holocaust Museum so that historians and the general public can know more about Levinas as a post-Holocaust thinker. His own personal connection to Holocaust violence is something he never spoke about, not even to his own children, and is something I have wanted to write about ever since I decided not to ask him such difficult and painful questions when he hosted me in Paris in his apartment in 1989. So this article has been with me for a very long time.”
The article was published in The Journal of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 36, Issues 1, spring 2022, pages 74-88. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Manning joined the Quincy University faculty in 1990 and was the first recipient of the university’s award for scholarly achievement. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where he worked with such giants as Mircea Eliade, Paul Ricoeur, and David Tracy, and is the author of 2 books and several articles published in top journals in the fields of philosophy and religious studies, including Philosophy Today and The Journal of Religion. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Romania in 2006-07 and has spoken at philosophy conferences in eight foreign countries.
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