Bauman’s introduction to Modernity and the Holocaust raises questions pertaining the Holocaust and its relationship with modern civilization. While there are many historical and theological arguments attached to the questions raised, there are minimal accounts of sociological arguments.
If looking though through a historical/theological lens, one can find how modernity contributed to the Holocaust. While human beings would like to think only about the positive outcomes of modernity, we must think of the negative outcomes that resulted in such a change in society. While there is not a specific beginning of modern society, I believe in the later 19th century when individuals moved to urban cities due to industrialization, the shift in society changed to a more modern view. Life shifted away from religion and more towards consumerism and urban ideals. With modernity taking over, industrialization began to sweep Europe.
Relating the shift of modernity to the Holocaust, Nachama Tec, John R. Roth, and Henry Feingold try to explain how modernity could have influenced the Holocaust. A journalist from Le Monde interviewed hijacked victims who experienced divorce after their horrific experiences. As a result, the victims were able to notice negative characteristics of their spouses that were not as obvious as before the hijacking occur. This proves that there are hidden abnormal traits amongst all people that are most likely never to be identified by people due to the desire to only view what is the norm. In relation to the Holocaust, while modernity is viewed as a positive shift, somehow the hidden abnormal traits were exposed, which resulted in the Holocaust. Bauman states, “we suspect (even if we refuse to admit it) that the Holocaust could merely have uncovered another face of the same modern society whose other, more familiar, face we so admire. And that the two faces are perfectly comfortably attached to the same body. What we perhaps fear most, is that each of the two faces can no more exist without the other than can the two sides of a coin” (7).
Further explaining how the Holocaust resulted from the shift towards modern civilization, Feingold states, “Auschwitz was also a mundane extension of the modern factory system. Rather than producing goods, the raw material was human beings and the end product was death, so many units per day marked carefully on the manager’s production charts” (8). As expressed by Feingold, the Holocaust produced all evidence from the modern shift, it was just the inhumane choice to destroy human beings instead of producing materialistic goods.