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The Canadian Museum for Human Rights: the ‘uniqueness of the Holocaust’ and the question of genocide

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This article analyzes the debate about the controversial Canadian Museum for Human Rights by reconstructing the efforts to establish a government-sponsored Holocaust museum from the late 1990s. This history reveals that the controversy inheres in part in the conflation of the rival imperatives to promote atrocity memorialization on the one hand, above all of the Holocaust, and human rights education/activism on the other. In multicultural Canada, memory regimes, which utilize the egalitarian concepts of genocide or crimes against humanity to emphasize the suffering of all, also vie for official validation with the Holocaust uniqueness agenda. The article concludes that the museum is caught on the horns of a dilemma of its own making: the more it emphasizes commemoration, the greater the competition among migrant group leaders for exhibition space dedicated to ‘their’ experience. The more that human rights are emphasized, the less the interest from the private donors whose generosity is essential to museum's financial viability.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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