A Holocaust Detective Story from Buchenwald to New Orleans
From Hurricane Katrina–ravaged New Orleans to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to the Buchenwald concentration camp to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, almost everything Jacobson uncovers about the lampshade is contradictory, mysterious, shot through with legend and specious information. Through interviews with forensic experts, famous Holocaust scholars (and deniers), Buchenwald survivors and liberators, and New Orleans thieves and cops, Jacobson gradually comes to see the lampshade as a ghostly illuminator of his own existential status as a Jew, and to understand exactly what that means in the context of human responsibility. One question looms as his search progresses: what to do with the lampshade—this unsettling thing that used to be someone?
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I must say I didn’t put much stock in the possibility that a Dominican spiritualist working out of a basement in Union City, New Jersey, would have much to say about a human skin lampshade reputedly made in a Nazi concentration camp. But there I was sitting across from Doña Argentina, a large woman wearing a ceremonial headdress and smoking a pair of cigars, one on either side of her mouth. A friend of mine, a devotee, had recommended the medium, saying that if the lampshade had truly once been part of a person, “the spirit” would still be present. If so, then Doña...see more
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