Which Mary Was It?

MARY MAGDALENE WAS not the sister of Martha the "drudge" as Consuelo Saah Baehr proclaims in her review of Barbara Raskin's Current Affairs (Book World, Aug. 12). Rather, Mary of Bethany was the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Mary Magdalene was a different woman from another village. A careful reading of the appropriate scriptures would have avoided the error. ANN BENSON HALL Annandale

Consuelo Saah Baehr responds:

As a product of 16 years of convent school upbrining, I'm embarrassed to have misquoted the Bible, a book that was a daily companion in my Catholic girlhood. While the analogy was correct -- Martha did resent being the "drudge" while sister Mary spent her time sitting at the feet of Jesus -- it was inexcusable to pair Martha with the wrong Mary. Sister Francisca and Mother De Pazzi would not be happy and neither am I.

Editions and Editions

IN HIS Sept. 9 Book Report column, David Streitfeld rightly claims that modern first editions are generally more valuable than "later printings or a book club edition." His low estimation of the value of subsequent printings and editions, however, gives readers the impression that collectors would have little use for such books.

This would depend upon whether one desires the earliest edition, the best edition, or all variant editions of a book. Subsequent editions are often dearly paid for and highly prized: Astute collectors of popular authors, such as Dickens, ensured the survival of a wealth of his first editions -- the result was that many later editions were read to pieces and are more rare than the first editions; some later editions represent the first American edition of a text; others contain influential introductions.

A closer examination of Streitfeld's own example illustrates this point. The first issue of The Sun Also Rises contains errors that were not corrected until the second issue, and the third issue forshortens the quotation from Ecclesiastes, making the first three issues of the text unique historical artifacts. And it was not until Scribner's published its uniform edition in 1953 that some of Hemingway's censored words were finally restored. Certainly the first edition is the most costly to procure, but the uniform edition is the one that most nearly represents the novel that Hemingway intended to publish. AL DEFAZIO III Fairfax

The Need to Remember

WILLIAM HUGHES has a written a letter (Book World, Sept. 2) decrying the number of books written about the Holocaust. He has the perogative not to read such books and even the reviews of such books. However books on the Holocaust have two important purposes: to record for history what happens when prejudice culminates in mass murder and to ensure that such atrocities never occur again. The former honors the dead; the latter gives meaning to their sacrifices.

The lessons of the Holocaust are pertinent to the United States as well as to the German nation that committed these atrocities. A number of U.S. organizations as well as citizens certainly share in the responsibility for our failure to even attempt much less to prevent these mass murders.

Henry Ford throughout his life in a series of infamous publications spread a virulent anti-semitism in the United States. The German-American Bund and its leaders conducted anti-semitic demonstrations during the 1930s. Father Coughlin of Detroit resurrected century-old libels against Jews worldwide. In the mid to late 1930s our government made little or no effort to demonstrate to Nazi Germany that the persecution of the Jews and the consequent mass murder was unacceptable to this nation. Finally John McCloy during the war refused to allow the use of a few bombers to destroy the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and the rail lines leading into this and other concentration camps.

Even after the war, the United States under McCloy as the high commissioner in Germany made immigration of Jews to the United States extremely difficult. Many languished in camps for six years or more in the country that had been responsible for the mass murder of their coreligionists. Meanwhile the exodus of Nazi war criminals to South America and even to America was facilitated by various government bureaus and agencies. As a final affront, McCloy pardoned hundreds of Nazi mass murders and allowed them to reenter unscathed to continue their virulent anti-semitism in postwar Germany.

Certainly with such an historical background, it is important not only that books should be written about the Holocaust but also that the lessons should be applied to our contemporary and future societies. Hopefully most of your readers will share my views. NELSON MARANS Silver Spring

William Hughes' letter criticizing Elie Wiesel and what Hughes perceives as a Jewish obsession with the Holocaust, is revealing. Most significant is Hughes' failure to understand exactly what the Holocaust was: a watershed in the history of human evil. Sensitive people of many religions believe that it must be remembered to prevent it from happening again.

For Jews the Holocaust was a traumatic nightmare. It was the wiping away -- senselessly and agonizingly -- of a whole part of the people. Inevitably it has left its mark on the collective Jewish soul, and Jews believe that if nothing else it must be remembered because the millions who died should not be forgotten.

I see it as patronizing that Hughes thinks we Jews are insufficiently grateful for what America has done for us. "Instead of gratitude," he tells us, "America has received endless goyim bashing." Does this mean that America and goyim are to be equated -- to "bash goyim" is to bash America? -- and that Jews are not really Americans at all? I am not aware in Wiesel's writings of any tendency to criticize America. But Hughes should know that during World War II there were shameful incidents of American refusal to take in Jews, who ultimately perished at the hands of the Nazis.

Is it not sufficient to know that at least a good part of the time America did the right thing? As for "goyim bashing," Jews do not hold gentiles at large responsible for the Holocaust. Righteous Gentiles, those Christians who responded with humanity to the plight of Jews, are honored in Israel. ARLENE KUSHNER Rockville