Finkelstein's father never spoke of his experience, but his mother spoke of little else. Yet, he recalls, even she was disgusted at the rise of the Holocaust industry in America. There were, he says, only 60,000 Jewish survivors of the camps and 20,000 of those died in the first week after liberation. Yet in the 1960s and 1970s many of his parents' friends started claiming to be survivors. Soon everybody was a victim of the great martyrdom.
"I'm not exaggerating when I say that one out of three Jews you stop in the street in New York will claim to be a survivor. And, since 1993, the industry has been claiming that 10,000 survivors have been dying every month. That is completely impossible. It would mean that there were 8m survivors in 1945, but there were only 7m Jews in German-occupied Europe before the war."
Finkelstein says the Holocaust industry was born at the time of the six-day war in June 1967 - before that both the Holocaust and Israel were scarcely mentioned in American public life. But it was not born, as many have said, out of fear for the survival of Israel; rather it sprang from American strategic interests. Israel became the American surrogate in the Middle East and the Holocaust was evoked morally to justify the alliance. Israel became the defender of US values and, since America at that time was losing the Vietnam war, it was a more effective defender than America herself.
The American Jewish elite embraced the cause of Israel and created the contemporary image of the Holocaust. Finkelstein highlights the power of this elite by pointing out that Jewish income is almost double that of non-Jews, 16 of the 40 wealthiest Americans are Jews, 40% of Nobel prizewinners in science and economics are Jewish, 20% of professors at main universities are Jewish, as are 40% of partners in law firms in New York and Washington.