One thing you can pick up reading between the lines in paleogeneticist David “Aryan Conquests Were True” Reich’s Who We Are is that he has some issues, family issues, concerning his own personal ancestry.
This is only natural because he is researching, in effect, family trees, and everybody’s own family has a treeful of issues.
The main difference is that poor David’s family plays them out on the public stage. David’s psychoanalyst father studied under Freud’s daughter Anna and was director of the National Holocaust Memorial in Washington DC.
David’s novelist mother then wrote a satirical novel about the Holocaust Industry.
Hardcover – April 3, 2007
by Tova Reich (Author)
3.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
Maurice and Norman Messer, father-and-son business partners, know a good product when they see it. That product is the Holocaust, and Maurice, a Holocaust survivor with an inflated personal history, and Norman, enjoying vicarious victimhood as a participant in the second-generation movement, proceed to market it enthusiastically. Not even the disappearance of Nechama, Norman’s daughter and Maurice’s granddaughter, into the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz, where she is transformed into a nun, Sister Consolatia of the Cross, deters them from pushing their agenda.
Father and son embark on a tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, which Maurice—now the driving force behind the most powerful Holocaust memorialization institution in America—organizes to soften up a potential major donor, and which Norman takes advantage of to embark on a surrealistic search for his daughter. At the death camp they run into assorted groups and individuals all clamoring for a piece of the Holocaust, including Buddhist New Agers on a retreat, Israeli schoolchildren on a required heritage pilgrimage, a Holocaust artifact hustler, filmmakers, and an astonishing collection of others. All hell breaks loose when Maurice’s museum is taken over by a coalition of self-styled victims seeking Holocaust status, bringing together a vivid cast of all-too-human characters, from Holocaust professionals to Holocaust wannabees of every persuasion, in the fevered competition to win the grand prize of owning the Holocaust.
An inspiringly courageous and shockingly original tour-de-force, My Holocaust dares to penetrate territory until now considered sacrosanct in its brilliantly provocative and darkly comic exploration of the uses and abuses of memory and the meaning of human suffering.
David doesn’t come across as particularly comfortable with irony, so I have to feel a little sorry for the guy.
The New York Times hated Mrs. Reich’s novel.
The Forward, on the other hand, liked it:
The Greatest Shoah on Earth
Gabriel SandersMarch 23, 2007
By Tova Reich
HarperCollins, 336 pages, $24.95.
Of all the hucksters, fakers, phonies and wannabes to have been spawned by the so-called “Shoah business,” few can hold a (yahrzeit) candle to Maurice Messer, the fumbling, stumbling, malapropism-spewing figure at the heart of Tova Reich’s deliciously wicked satirical novel “My Holocaust.”
A wheeler-dealer, schnorrer, glutton and letch — and, yes, a Holocaust survivor — Messer got his start in ladies’ undergarments. But when the Holocaust became “more fashionable even than padded brassieres,” he changed course and, together with his nebbish son, Norman, founded Holocaust Connections, Inc., a concern devoted to lending the imprimatur of the Holocaust to any and all comers — for the right price, of course. In his quest for self-aggrandizement, the old man lies about having fought with the partisans and is willing to betray even his nearest and dearest; in short, there is nobody Messer — German for “knife” — wouldn’t stab in the back. Oh, and he is also chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Despite his many successes, Messer has a problem: His one and only grandchild, Nechama, a girl weaned on tales of Jewish tragedy and suffering, has gone off script — or has perhaps followed the family script all too literally. This “Holocaust princess,” who at her bat mitzvah insisted on being twinned with a Vilna girl cut down by the Nazis, has taken up as her own private cause the persecution of the world’s Christians, the “Christian Holocaust,” as she defiantly puts it. Undeterred by protests from her family (“Christians are not — I repeat not! — acceptable Holocaust material,” her father wails), she enters a convent, and not just any old convent. She joins up with the Carmelite sisters housed just outside the gates of Auschwitz.
Reich is no stranger to the world of Holocaust commemoration — indeed, no stranger to the twisted tale of the Carmelite sisters of Auschwitz. When, in 1989, a group of protesters scaled the fence surrounding the convent, which at that time was located on the grounds of the death camp itself, they were led by her brother Rabbi Avi Weiss — or “that crazy spiderman rabbi,” as one of the novel’s characters calls him. The author is also the wife of Walter Reich, who served as director of D.C.’s Holocaust museum from 1994 to 1998. His departure came in the aftermath of a public relations disaster set into motion by a botched attempt to have Yasser Arafat visit the institution. Though the invitation was said to have been initiated by the museum’s then chairman, Miles Lerman, it seemed as though Reich was made to take the fall.
“My Holocaust” is clearly an attempt to settle some old scores. Yet, while there are similarities between Lerman and Messer — as there are ties between Messer’s chief aide, Monty Pincus, and historian Michael Berenbaum — it would be a mistake to see Reich’s novel as a simple roman à clef. The book is far more than the story of a couple of boobs trying to run a museum. It is, rather, a much grander indictment, an indictment of an entire universe of groups — Catholic, Mormon, German, Polish, Japanese, African American, Native American, Palestinian, feminist and more — all looking to claim their own little slice of Holocaust victimhood.
Like I said, among his mom, dad, and uncle, “that crazy spiderman rabbi,” poor David has ancestral issues. We all do, but David is suddenly the World’s Leading Authority on ancestry.