After waking up this morning to yet another Holocaust story on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, I headed to npr.org’s search page to check my impression that such stories been coming thick and fast lately. Narrowing my query to “Heard On Air” (excluding the blogs, Associated Press stories, and other things posted at the website), “Past Year,” and “News” (the only NPR programs I regularly listen to), I found 20 stories, not including today’s, that included the word “Holocaust.” Comparing other historical phenomena with tragic consequences, I found 15 hits on the word “slavery,” 11 on “native Americans,” nine on “communism,” five on “Rwanda genocide,” one on “Armenian genocide,” and one on “Ukrainian famine.”
Suggestive as these results may be, such simple word searches don’t get at the heart of the matter, because most of the hits are passing references within stories focused on current issues. But of the 21 stories that mention “Holocaust,” six by my count were sustained, in-depth discussions of some aspect of the Nazi murder of the Jews more than 65 years ago: today’s interview with an Israeli professor about his new book on one famous photograph from the Warsaw ghetto, an October 28 item on the role of German diplomats in the genocide, an August 28 piece on the Nazi Nuremberg laws, a July 23 analysis of the role of the French national railroad in the deportation of French Jews, an April 15 piece on the memories of American vets who helped liberate the Nazi concentration camps, and a March 9 segment entitled “Russian Village Haunted By A Hidden Holocaust Past.”
By contrast, only one of the 15 stories that mention slavery was focused on the history of black slaves in the U.S. Not a single one of the stories with the phrase “native Americans” dealt with their dispossession and near-extermination. And so on with the other categories.
Also of note is that NPR’s stories on the Holocaust talk almost exclusively about the murder of Jews. I spotted no references to the millions of non-Jews – Roma, gays, trade unionists, leftists, etc. – who were also killed in the camps, nor to the tens of millions of Polish and Russian civilians who died in the war.
For NPR, it seems, the Holocaust is the Chosen Tragedy.