Literary and Critical Theory Holocaust Literature
by
Matthew Boswell
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0009

Introduction

In a 1977 lecture collected in Dimensions of the Holocaust, the Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel famously argued, “If the Greeks invented tragedy, the Romans the epistle and the Renaissance the sonnet, our generation invented a new literature, that of testimony.” This article offers some illustrative examples of the forms that testimonial writing can take, and of other “new literatures” and fields of intellectual inquiry that have developed alongside it, such as Holocaust fiction and memory studies. For the purposes of this article, Holocaust literature encompasses a broad range of documentary and fictional texts, including memoirs, diaries, essays, novels, poetry, drama, fake memoirs, and children’s literature as well as critical, theoretical, and philosophical reflections on this writing and on the Holocaust more broadly. Given the complexity and boundary-breaking nature of much Holocaust literature, many of the texts included in the article defy straightforward classification and could be included under multiple headings. The scope of this article is such that it does not include historical studies of the Holocaust or critical works, which focus principally on historiography or art forms other than literature.

General Overviews

From the mid-1970s to the turn of the 21st century, critical debates about Holocaust literature evolved through a series of landmark studies, such as Langer 1975, Ezrahi 1980, Rosenfeld 1980, Friedlander 1992, and Lang 2000, which explored diaries, poems, and memoirs of survivors as well as works of history and fiction. Often preoccupied by the question of the adequacy or otherwise of different forms of Holocaust writing, this generation of critics tended to be skeptical about the value of Holocaust fiction, which was thought to trivialize the experiences of Holocaust victims, with Lang 2000 and others arguing that silence often formed a more respectful and fitting response. During this period, landmark edited collections of essays, such as Friedlander 1992, were characterized by interdisciplinary conversations between historians and literary critics, with anxieties about fictionalization linking to attendant concerns about postmodern approaches to history and Holocaust denial. Works such as Young 1988 and Lang 2000 drew on narrative theory to offer sophisticated analyses of the relationship between literary form and the understanding of history. From the 2000s onward a new generation of critics, including voices emerging from outside this male American Jewish tradition, steered the discussion about representational ethics toward broader questions concerning the historical and (trans)cultural contexts that inform Holocaust writing, while being generally more open to the possibilities of fiction. Widening understandings of historical memory led to new literary and critical engagements with subjects such as transgenerational transmission, transnationalism, perpetrator perspectives, transgression, and the interconnectedness of Holocaust memory with other histories. These new directions are charted in detail in Adams 2014 and covered more fully in the Critical Studies section.

  • Adams, Jenni, ed. The Bloomsbury Companion to Holocaust Literature. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A valuable recent resource for students and experienced scholars, with chapters on various aspects of Holocaust literature such as postmemory, transgression, and ethics. Comprehensive and meticulously edited, includes a section on “New Directions in Holocaust Literary Studies,” an annotated bibliography, and a glossary of major terms and concepts.

    Find this resource:

    • Ezrahi, Sidra DeKoven. By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

      DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226233376.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses testimony and fiction, drawing particular attention to the religious and mythological schemas employed in this writing, and to continuities and ruptures with Jewish thought.

      Find this resource:

      • Friedlander, Saul, ed. Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the “Final Solution.” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A seminal volume on Holocaust representation, drawing together leading historians, theorists, and critics to consider the virtues and limits of diverse cultural and historical texts. Crystallizes debates about representational adequacy, which dominated the field in the 1990s.

        Find this resource:

        • Lang, Berel. Holocaust Representation: Art within the Limits of History and Ethics. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Builds on previous investigations into the aesthetics and ethics of Holocaust literature in works such as the edited collection Writing and the Holocaust (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1988). One of the last major attempts to make a case for the inherent limits of Holocaust writing.

          Find this resource:

          • Langer, Lawrence L. The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975.

            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Argues that Holocaust literature cannot be regarded as the exclusive domain of the victims alone, or even Jewish writers. An early study of the “art of atrocity.” The volume contrasts with Lang’s more proscriptive style of criticism.

            Find this resource:

            • Rosen, Alan, ed. Literature of the Holocaust. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Contributions from a wide range of scholars, affording an excellent general introduction to Holocaust literature. Consists of three parts covering wartime victim writing, postwar responses in different national literatures, and alternative approaches such as song and anthologization.

              Find this resource:

              • Rosenfeld, Alvin H. A Double Dying: Reflections on Holocaust Literature. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980.

                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                Outlines how Auschwitz marks a threshold moment for literature. Rosenfeld argues that literature must record both the extermination of the Jews and the death of the Enlightenment idea of the human (hence “a double dying”), with writers and critics brought to a new awareness of the limits of their language and methodological frameworks.

                Find this resource:

                • Young, James E. Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust: Narrative and the Consequences of Interpretation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                  Investigates the interrelatedness of literature, narrative, and historical understanding, exploring the phenomenon of interpretation through analysis of documentary and fictional sources, as well as oral history and memorials, which all contribute to what Young terms the “texture of memory.”

                  Find this resource:

                  Anthologies and Encyclopedias

                  Some commentators have been critical of Holocaust anthologies, arguing that they normalize the event by aligning literature to standard cultural practices and categories, and that they create unwelcome or problematic canons. However, they also play a valuable role in making diverse forms of Holocaust writing accessible to wide public readerships (see Rosen 2013, cited under General Overviews for an interesting reflection on anthologization). A notable recent example is Heiser and Taberner 2014, which includes poems written by victims in the Dachau concentration camp and afterward. Schiff 1995 is a more general anthology of Holocaust poetry, including testimonial verse and fiction, and Skloot 1982 and Skloot 1999 are landmark anthologies of Holocaust plays. Raphael and Raphael 1999 includes a wide-ranging selection of short stories, and Langer 1995 is an excellent general introduction to Holocaust literature across a range of forms, with excerpts from classic texts and work by writers who are less well known. Scholarly resources to support research on Holocaust literature include Kremer 2003, a comprehensive encyclopedia of Holocaust writers, and Levi and Rothberg 2003, an indispensable resource for those seeking an introduction to the major theoretical and philosophical approaches to the Holocaust. Morgan 2001 attempts something similar but is somewhat skewed toward theological responses.

                  • Heiser, Dorothea, and Taberner, Stuart, eds. My Shadow in Dachau: Poems by Victims and Survivors of the Concentration Camp. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2014.

                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    Originally published in German, new edition includes sixty-eight original poems by thirty-two inmates in ten different original languages with English translations. Foreword by Walter Jens, introduction by Dorothea Heiser, and preface by Stuart Taberner.

                    Find this resource:

                    • Kremer, S. Lillian, ed. Holocaust Literature: An Encyclopaedia of Writers and Their Work. 2 vols. New York: Routledge, 2003.

                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      Comprehensive volume featuring more than three hundred bio-critical essays on diverse authors written by 125 scholars. Includes general critical theory bibliography, along with a full primary literature bibliography and a selective critical bibliography for each entry.

                      Find this resource:

                      • Langer, Lawrence L., ed. Art from the Ashes: A Holocaust Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        Wide-ranging collection with contributions from renowned Holocaust writers, including essays, poems, plays, fiction, and excerpts from historical works. Also includes a complete novel by Aharon Appelfeld and examples of visual art and diverse contributions from lesser-known and neglected authors.

                        Find this resource:

                        • Levi, Neil, and Michael Rothberg, eds. The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003.

                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          Excellent grounding for those wishing to explore major theoretical approaches to the Holocaust, with specific section on “Literature and Culture after Auschwitz” and other sections covering areas such as testimony, trauma, postmemory, gender, historiography, religion, and ethics.

                          Find this resource:

                          • Morgan, Michael L., ed. A Holocaust Reader: Responses to the Nazi Extermination. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                            Organized chronologically and moving from “early reflections” in the postwar period to debates about representation and memory in the 1990s. Focuses somewhat narrowly on theological issues.

                            Find this resource:

                            • Raphael, Linda Schermer, and Marc Lee Raphael, eds. When Night Fell: An Anthology of Holocaust Short Stories. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1999.

                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                              Collection of twenty-six short stories by celebrated and lesser-known authors with critical commentaries covering general issues in Holocaust representation.

                              Find this resource:

                              • Schiff, Hilda, ed. Holocaust Poetry. New York: St. Martin’s, 1995.

                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                Collection of 119 poems by fifty-nine poets, organized by thematic topics such as alienation, persecution, destruction, lessons, and God.

                                Find this resource:

                                • Skloot, Robert, ed. The Theatre of the Holocaust. Vol. 1, Four Plays. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982.

                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  First volume of comprehensive two-part anthology of ten Holocaust plays. Includes insightful critical introductions to four plays written in melodramatic, realist, and epic styles. See also Skloot 1999.

                                  Find this resource:

                                  • Skloot, Robert, ed. The Theatre of the Holocaust. Vol. 2, Six Plays. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999.

                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    Second volume (see Skloot 1982 for Volume 1) includes six additional Holocaust plays that reflects the growing popularity of postmodern, surreal, and extremist dramatic styles.

                                    Find this resource:

                                    Testimonial Literature

                                    Testimony is often associated with first-person memoirs written in the style of the 19th-century realist novel. However, Holocaust testimony ranges from diaries and essays to poems and formally experimental prose, with the extreme suffering that informs these works seemingly redefining the testimonial genre in its demand for expression.

                                    Memoir

                                    This section covers prose memoirs that have come to be recognized as historically significant documents and, frequently, as great literature, such as the canonical memoirs Wiesel 1981, Delbo 1995, and Levi 1987. Their publication history reveals much about how writers and culture more broadly responded to the trauma of the Holocaust, suggesting multiple explanations for what is often referred to as the ten year (or more) “latency period” between the genocide and the cultural response. Rudolf Vrba’s Auschwitz testimony was initially presented as a wartime report for governments and published by newspapers in the United States and Europe following his escape from the camp in 1944. Yet the full version of Vrba 2006 was not published until 1961, on the eve of the much-publicized trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. After years of editing and the publication of several foreign language versions, the definitive English version of Wiesel 1981 was first published in 1960. Charlotte Delbo completed most of the first sections of Delbo 1995 in 1946 but did not allow them to be published until 1965, once she was assured they had stood the test of time. Levi 1987, widely acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of Holocaust literature, was originally published in Italian in 1947 in a small run of 2,500 copies; when a warehouse in Florence was hit by a flood in 1969 some six hundred destroyed copies remained still unsold. Szpilman 2002 was published in Polish in 1946 as Death of a City but remained virtually unknown until the film adaptation of 2002. Other important memoirs, such as Klüger 2001, were written later in life.

                                    • Delbo, Charlotte. Auschwitz and After. Translated by Rosette C. Lamont. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.

                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      Trilogy of three short works originally published in French in the mid-1960s and early 1970s. Describes Delbo’s imprisonment in Ravensbrück and Auschwitz through an innovative, nonlinear combination of poetry and prose.

                                      Find this resource:

                                      • Klüger, Ruth. Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered. Translated by Ruth Klüger. New York: Feminist Press, 2001.

                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        Published in German to critical acclaim in 1998. Focusses on Klüger’s childhood experiences in Theresienstadt and Auschwitz and the difficulties of life in postwar Germany.

                                        Find this resource:

                                        • Levi, Primo. If This Is a Man, and The Truce. Translated by Stuart Woolf. London: Abacus, 1987.

                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          Formally inventive and deeply humane exploration of the Italian chemist’s experiences of “the lager.” Translated as Survival in Auschwitz in the United States, most editions include The Truce, recounting Levi’s journey home after liberation.

                                          Find this resource:

                                          • Szpilman, Władysław. The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939–1945. Translated by Anthea Bell. London: Orion, 2002.

                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            Memoir of Polish composer and survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto. Adapted into a multiple award-winning film directed by Roman Polanski in 2002.

                                            Find this resource:

                                            • Vrba, Rudolf. I Escaped from Auschwitz. London: Robson, 2006.

                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              Full testimony by co-author of the Vrba-Wetzler report that gave detailed information about conditions inside Auschwitz following their escape in 1944. Longer version serialized by the Daily Herald in 1961. Published in full as I Cannot Forgive (New York: Grove, 1964).

                                              Find this resource:

                                              • Wiesel, Elie. Night. Translated by Stella Rodway. London: Penguin, 1981.

                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                Memoir by a survivor who became preeminent in American public life. Recounts childhood imprisonment in Buchenwald with his father and makes fascinating counterpart to Levi 1987, questioning the existence of God and writing within—and against—a more orthodox Jewish religious tradition.

                                                Find this resource:

                                                Essays and Diaries

                                                While there are few examples of well-preserved diaries written in concentration and extermination camps, for obvious reasons, diaries written about life under Nazi occupation are more common. Seminal works written in the Warsaw Ghetto include Ringelblum 1974, Kaplan 1999, and Korczak 2003. These have become key historical documents, recounting the struggles of daily life and the growing intensity of Nazi oppression. Other diaries reflect life in Germany under Nazi rule, such as Klemperer 1998 and Klemperer 2000, and the way that children experienced persecution, such as the celebrated Frank 2007. After the war, some survivors also reflected retrospectively on their experiences through autobiographical essays, meditating on topics such as memory and forgiveness. Levi 1989 discusses the inner workings of the camps and life afterward, covering topics such as the position of the intellectual in Auschwitz, his correspondence with Germans, and feelings such as shame. Critical reflection on survivors’ emotions is also a feature of Améry 1999 through an important defense of the victim’s resentments. This collection is also notable for unflinching descriptions of torture. Later in life, the historian and child survivor Otto Dov Kulka wrote the inventive memory narrative Kulka 2013, finding new representative possibilities in a lyrical version of the essay form.

                                                • Améry, Jean. At the Mind’s Limits. Translated by Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P. Rosenfeld. London: Granta, 1999.

                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  Five autobiographical essays: “At the Mind’s Limits,” “Torture,” “How Much Home Does a Person Need?” “Resentments,” and “On the Necessity and Impossibility of Being a Jew.”

                                                  Find this resource:

                                                  • Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl. Translated by Susan Massotty. London: Puffin, 2007.

                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Written in hiding in a secret annex of the family home in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. One of the most celebrated works of Holocaust literature, giving rise to a play and film and published in more than sixty languages.

                                                    Find this resource:

                                                    • Kaplan, Chaim A. Scroll of Agony: The Warsaw Ghetto of Chaim A. Kaplan. Translated by Abraham I. Katsh. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      Diary written in Hebrew, beginning with the Nazi invasion of Warsaw on 1 September 1939 and ending shortly before the author’s deportation in 1942. The diary was smuggled out of the ghetto and preserved in its entirety.

                                                      Find this resource:

                                                      • Klemperer, Victor. I Will Bear Witness: a Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933–1941. Translated by Martin Chalmers. New York: Random House, 1998.

                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        Diary of a son of a rabbi chronicling daily life in Germany. This first volume outlines worsening conditions for Jews as the Nazis come to power and precursors to the “inal solution” are put in place. See also Volume 2, Klemperer 2000.

                                                        Find this resource:

                                                        • Klemperer, Victor. To the Bitter End: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer, 1942–1945. Translated by Martin Chalmers. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2000.

                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          Second volume (see Klemperer 1998 for Volume 1) covers the height of the Nazi persecution and its escalation during the war. Also documents the bombing of Dresden in 1945.

                                                          Find this resource:

                                                          • Korczak, Janusz. Ghetto Diary. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                            Diary of iconic Polish doctor who ran an orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto and refused offers of rescue, instead accompanying children to their deaths in Treblinka.

                                                            Find this resource:

                                                            • Kulka, Otto Dov. Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imagination. Translated by Ralph Mandel. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.

                                                              DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674075092Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              Experimental account of childhood in Theresienstadt and Auschwitz based on the author’s tape recordings and diaries. Here the historian abandons “objectivity” and instead draws on “personal mythology,” poems, photographs, and dreamscapes.

                                                              Find this resource:

                                                              • Levi, Primo. The Drowned and the Saved. Translated by Raymond Rosenthal. London: Abacus, 1989.

                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                Continues themes of Levi 1987 (cited under Testimonial Literature: Memoir) in essay form. Eight chapters and a short conclusion make transformative contributions to an understanding of Auschwitz and the “memory of the offence.” Introduces important concepts such as “useless violence” and the “grey zone.”

                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                • Ringelblum, Emmanuel. Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto: The Journal of Emmanuel Ringelblum. Translated by Jacob Sloan. New York: Schocken, 1974.

                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  Diary of a historian and teacher who oversaw the creation of an extensive hidden archive chronicling ghetto life during the Nazi occupation.

                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                  Poetry

                                                                  Increasingly understood as a distinctive mode of testimonial writing (see Rowland 2014, cited under Critical Studies: Poetry), Holocaust poetry written by survivors ranges from work in the German lyric tradition, such as Celan 2002 and Sachs 2007, to work in the Hebraic tradition, such as Pagis 1989. It also includes poetry written by those who would not think of themselves primarily as poets, but for whom verse became an important testimonial outlet, such as Levi 1992.

                                                                  • Celan, Paul. Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan. Translated by John Felstiner. New York: W. W. Norton, 2002.

                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    Comprehensive collection by major German-language poet famed for the much-anthologized Todesfuge (“Deathfugue”) and his later move toward a more “hermetic” style. Includes previously unpublished juvenilia as well as essays and lectures.

                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                    • Levi, Primo. Collected Poems. Translated by Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann. London: Faber and Faber, 1992.

                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      Poems speak with a directness, intensity, and anger that contrasts with the more restrained tone of Levi 1987 (cited under Testimonial Literature: Memoir).

                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                      • Pagis, Dan. The Selected Poetry of Dan Pagis. Translated by Stephen Mitchell. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        Written in Hebrew by an Israeli poet who spent three years in a Nazi camp as a teenager. Includes classics of Holocaust verse such as the fragment, “Written in Pencil in the Sealed Railway-Car.”

                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                        • Sachs, Nelly. Collected Poems I, 1944–1949. Translated by Michael Hamburger, Ruth and Matthew Mead, and Michael Roloff. Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2007.

                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          See also Collected Poems II, 1950–1969 (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2007). Definitive edition of works of a Nobel Prize–winning German Jewish poet who escaped to Sweden in 1940. She was a close friend of Celan and their poetry shares romantic and mystical influences.

                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                          Second- and Third-Generation Literature

                                                                          From the 1990s onward a distinctive body of literature has been produced by the children of Holocaust survivors (the “second generation”) and their grandchildren (the “third generation”), reflecting on the experience of growing up in families that bear the memories and losses of the Holocaust. These responses have been diverse and include “roots narratives” in which an author visits the homeland of their ancestors, of which Jacobson 1999 is a particularly sophisticated and erudite example; reconstructed family histories, such as Appignanesi 1999 and Mendelsohn 2008 (Safran Foer 2002 [cited under Fiction: Magic Realism and Fantasy] is, in part, a fictional version of such a narrative); and the experimentalism and postmodern self-reflexivity of Spiegelman 2003, a renowned graphic novel. Inventive scholarly contributions include Berger and Berger 2001, which brings together responses to Holocaust memory by the children of survivors and the children of perpetrators, and Hirsch and Spitzer 2010, an account of Jewish culture in the city of Czernowitz that blends travel writing, family history, and the study of cultural memory.

                                                                          • Appignanesi, Lisa. Losing the Dead. London: Chatto and Windus, 1999.

                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Memoir recounting the author’s journey to Warsaw in search of a lost past, uncovering how her Polish parents survived the war by adopting “Aryan” identities.

                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                            • Berger, Alan L., and Berger, Naomi, eds. Second Generation Voices: Reflections by Children of Holocaust Survivors and Perpetrators. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2001.

                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              Controversial yet considered collection, which puts the children of survivors and the children of perpetrators into dialogue with one another.

                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                              • Hirsch, Marianne, and Leo Spitzer. Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz in Jewish Memory. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.

                                                                                DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520257726.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                Two leading scholars of cultural history and the “postmemory” (see Hirsch 2012, cited under Critical Studies: Memory Studies) of the second generation recount the story of Hirsch’s parents and their relatives, set within the wider context of the history of Czernowitz. Charts how the city’s once flourishing Jewish population was destroyed under successive occupations.

                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                • Jacobson, Dan. Heshel’s Kingdom. London: Penguin, 1999.

                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  Contemplative account in which the South African–born author returns to Lithuania to explore the life and homeland of his grandfather, Heshel, whose death in 1919 inadvertently enabled other relatives to escape the Nazis. A significant intertext for Sebald 2002 (cited under Fiction: Realism).

                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                  • Mendelsohn, Daniel. The Lost. London: HarperPerennial, 2008.

                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    Account of author’s transcontinental quest to find members of the Jewish community of Bolechow in the Ukraine (formerly Poland) who may have remembered the members of his family who were murdered by the Nazis. Elegant reflection on postmemory and storytelling.

                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                    • Spiegelman, Art. The Complete Maus. London: Penguin, 2003.

                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      Postmodern graphic novel in two parts, employing bold representational schema in which Jews are mice and Germans cats. The book centers on Art’s relationship with his father and the death of his mother, both of whom survived Auschwitz. A widely studied classic of Holocaust literature.

                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                      Fiction

                                                                                      Routinely treated with suspicion by critics in the 1980s and 1990s, Holocaust fiction is no longer viewed as inherently scandalous (see Vice 2000, cited under Critical Studies: Fiction). Few critics now object to the way that novels, in particular, use forms such as realism, magical realism, and allegory to explore various aspects of the Holocaust from nontestimonial perspectives. Recent years have seen a particular growth in literature aimed at children and young adults. Other phenomena, such as fake or embellished memoirs, continue to generate public debate about Holocaust writing and about the relationship between literature and truth.

                                                                                      Realism

                                                                                      Many well-known classics of Holocaust fiction are written in a realist mode. Often they are based on true stories and through the 1980s and 1990s works such as Styron 2000, Keneally 1996, and Schlink 1998 were adapted into major films, reaching wide audiences. An interesting subset of this category is novels written by survivors that are based in part on personal experiences, but which are fictionalized to the degree that they have been presented as novels rather than testimony. Examples include Rawicz 2003, Semprún 2005, and Kertész 2006. More recently, the meditative, melancholic Sebald 2002 reflects a shift to more formally experimental modes of realist fictionalization.

                                                                                      • Keneally, Thomas. Schindler’s Ark. London: Sceptre, 1996.

                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        Booker Prize–winning novel originally published in 1982. Based on the true story of the German industrialist Oskar Schindler and adapted into the iconic film Schindler’s List, directed by Steven Spielberg, in 1993.

                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                        • Kertész, Imre. Fateless. Translated by Tim Wilkinson. London: Vintage, 2006.

                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Written between 1969 and 1973 and first published in 1975, semi-autobiographical novel based on Nobel Prize–winning author’s experiences of imprisonment in Auschwitz and Buchenwald as a fourteen-year-old boy. Adapted into a Hungarian film in 2005.

                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                          • Michaels, Anne. Fugitive Pieces. London: Bloomsbury, 1998.

                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            Lyrical novel by Canadian poet charting the life story of Jakob Beer, a fictionalized child survivor from Nazi-occupied Poland.

                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                            • Rawicz, Piotr. Blood from the Sky. Translated by Peter Wiles. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              Rawicz pushes realism into more experimental terrain in this long-overlooked novel based in part on the Jewish-Ukrainian author’s experiences of imprisonment in Auschwitz. Received revived critical interest following publication of this edition, and subsequent scholarly attention.

                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                              • Schlink, Bernhard. The Reader. Translated by Carol Brown Janeway. New York: Vintage, 1998.

                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Made a major impact in Germany on original publication in 1995. Written by a German lawyer, tells the story of a former Auschwitz guard whose illiteracy is used as a metaphor for the moral blindness of Germany under Nazism. Film directed by Stephen Daldry released to similar acclaim in 2008.

                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                • Sebald, W. G. Austerlitz. Translated by Anthea Bell. London: Penguin, 2002.

                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  Seminal work by a German author centering on the life story of an eccentric architectural historian rescued from the Nazis by the Czechoslovakian Kindertransport. Formally inventive in its use of black-and-white photographs and long sentences and its eschewal of paragraphs.

                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                  • Semprún, Jorge. The Long Voyage. Translated by Richard Seaver. New York: Overlook Press, 2005.

                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Based on the author’s experiences of imprisonment in Buchenwald, the temporally shifting narrative centers on the protagonist’s five-day journey to a German concentration camp in a cattle car.

                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                    • Styron, William. Sophie’s Choice. London: Vintage, 2000.

                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Bestselling, award-winning novel originally published in 1979. Set in the American South, the narrator, Stingo, becomes infatuated with a former Auschwitz inmate. Adapted into a major Hollywood film directed by Alan J. Pakula and starring Meryl Streep in 1982.

                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                      Magic Realism and Fantasy

                                                                                                      A longstanding form of Holocaust representation, early acclaimed examples of Holocaust novels written in a classic “magic realist” mode include Schwarz-Bart 1961 and Grossman 1990. Reflecting the influence of postmodernism, post-structuralism, and psychoanalysis, works that resist the documentary claims associated with realism are notable for the way they have led the literary engagement with taboo subjects such as the representation of perpetrator perspectives: see Amis 1991, Albahari 2004, and Littell 2009. Their transgressive aesthetic has often polarized critical opinion, and texts have met with controversy due to issues of authenticity and authorship, with Thomas 1982 and Kosiński 1996 exciting particular outrage. In the early 2000s, this form of Holocaust fiction had nonetheless continued to yield major works, such as Safran Foer 2002 and Littell 2009, that reflect the range and elasticity of magical realism (or anti-realism) as a mode of historical representation. For an excellent analysis of the genre, see Adams 2011 (cited under Critical Studies: Fiction).

                                                                                                      • Albahari, David. Götz and Meyer. Translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać. London: Harvill, 2004.

                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        An unacknowledged classic of Holocaust literature, consisting of a single meandering paragraph in which the narrator attempts to engage with the inner lives of the drivers of a van used to kill Jews by gas in Serbia. Striking meditation on the limits and possibilities of the historical imagination.

                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                        • Amis, Martin. Time’s Arrow. London: Penguin, 1991.

                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Bold, temporally reversed narrative exploring the inner life of an Auschwitz doctor, with an internalized but dislocated first-person narrator that some equate to the doctor’s soul. Partly inspired by Robert Jay Lifton’s The Nazi Doctors.

                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                          • Grossman, David. See Under: Love. Translated by Betsy Rosenberg. London: Jonathan Cape, 1990.

                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Surreal, wide-ranging work originally published in 1986. Begins with a young Israeli learning about the Holocaust and includes wild flights of fancy, such as a famous section in which the Polish writer Bruno Schulz, who was murdered by the Nazis in 1942, is saved by being turned into a salmon.

                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                            • Kosiński, Jerzy. The Painted Bird. London: Black Swan, 1996.

                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              Controversial novel with Polish author variously accused of anti-Polish sentiment, literary deception, and plagiarism. Published and marketed as fiction, the furor that surrounded the violent, picaresque novel exemplifies the scandalous nature of Holocaust fiction (see Vice 2000, cited under Critical Studies: Fiction). Publications after 1976 include an introductory afterward by the author reflecting on the book’s reception.

                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                              • Littell, Jonathan. The Kindly Ones. Translated by Charlotte Mandell. London: Chatto & Windus, 2009.

                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Originally published in French in 2006 and a Prix Goncourt winner. Takes the form of the fictionalized autobiography of SS Obersturmbannführer Maximilien Aue, who claims to be an “everyman” yet is everything but. The Oresteia meets War and Peace meets Inside the Third Reich meets American Psycho.

                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                • Safran Foer, Jonathan. Everything Is Illuminated. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Moving and darkly comic novel incorporating two narrative strands: a magic realist history of the Jewish shtetl of Trachimbrod and a postmodern investigation in which the writer Jonathan Safran Foer visits the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis.

                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                  • Schwarz-Bart, André. The Last of the Just. Translated by Stephen Becker. London: Secker and Warburg, 1961.

                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Originally published in French in 1959 and another winner of the Prix Goncourt, follows the “just men” of the Levy family over eight centuries. Centers on the experiences of Ernie, the “last of the just,” as the Nazis come to power and set about implementing the “final solution.”

                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                    • Thomas, D. M. The White Hotel. London: Penguin, 1982.

                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      The story of a fictional opera singer and patient of Freud’s who is killed in the massacre at Babi Yar in Kiev. Told through an inventive combination of poetry, prose, letters, and a parody of a Freudian case history. Includes controversial use of Anatoly Kuznetzov’s “documentary novel” Babi Yar.

                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                      Allegory

                                                                                                                      Something of an unfashionable form, allegory has nonetheless been used by authors wishing to challenge aesthetic norms and readerly preconceptions about the build up to, and aftermath of, the Holocaust. Appelfeld 2005 explores the political and social naivety that accompanies the onset of catastrophe, while Camus 2008 considers the politics and existential challenges of catastrophe and Martel 2010 interrogates the dynamics of witnessing in a novel that also incorporates magic realist elements.

                                                                                                                      Short Stories

                                                                                                                      As with novels, short stories about the Holocaust range from those written by authors with direct experience of the concentration camps and Nazi occupation, such as Borowski 1976 and Fink 1987, to those written by authors born after the Second World War, such as Seiffert 2001. Their style ranges from the sparse, brutal prose of Borowski 1976 to the lyricism of Ozick 1988.

                                                                                                                      • Borowski, Tadeusz. This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. Translated by Barbara Vedder. London: Penguin, 1976.

                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        Draws on the author’s experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz and Dachau. Written in the first person, stories depict the moral compromises and harsh realities of those with “special privileges” working in what Levi 1989 (cited under Testimonial Literature: Essays and Diaries) terms “the grey zone.”

                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                        • Fink, Ida. A Scrap of Time and Other Stories. Translated by Madeline Levine and Francine Prose. New York: Pantheon, 1987.

                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Powerful, spare collection about the intrusion of Nazism into the everyday lives of Polish villagers, their world reduced to scraps, fragments, and traces.

                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                          • Ozick, Cynthia. The Shawl: A Story and a Novella. New York: Knopf, 1988.

                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Lyrical two-part narrative about the murder of a child in a concentration camp and the impact on the child’s mother, Rosa.

                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                            • Seiffert, Rachel. The Dark Room. London: Heinemann, 2001.

                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Often regarded as a novel but comprising three distinct short stories set in Germany before and after the war, examining the impact of Nazism across three generations of non-Jews and questions of complicity, guilt, and memory.

                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                              Poetry

                                                                                                                              Many of the most celebrated works of fictional Holocaust poetry, such as Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” and Geoffrey Hill’s “September Song,” have been included in volumes that mainly deal with subjects other than the Holocaust. (They are also collected in Holocaust anthologies such as Schiff 1995, cited under Anthologies and Encyclopedias). Yet a number of important volumes have been devoted entirely to the genocide, notably by American poets who rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s. They are marked by their willingness to explore taboo topics and by their radical formal experimentation, such as the abandonment of poetic language in Reznikoff 2007 and the creative mise-en-page of Heyen 1991 and Snodgrass 1995.

                                                                                                                              • Heyen, William. Erika: Poems of the Holocaust. Saint Louis, MO: Time Being, 1991.

                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                Revised and expanded 1984 version of the 1977 collection Swastika Poems, divided into two sections: “Men in History” and “The Numinous.”

                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                • Reznikoff, Charles. Holocaust. Boston: Black Sparrow, 2007.

                                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  Originally published in 1975. Long “objectivist” or “found poem” in twelve parts composed through testimonial fragments taken from the transcripts of the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials.

                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                  • Snodgrass, W. D. The Fuehrer Bunker: The Complete Cycle. Brockport, NY: BOA, 1995.

                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    Series of dramatic monologues spoken by leading Nazis that each take a distinctive poetic form. Controversial and often overlooked, an example of “Holocaust impiety” discussed in Boswell 2012 (cited under Critical Studies: Thematic Studies).

                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                    Drama

                                                                                                                                    Holocaust literature has long given lie to the claim that the genocide resists representation, but the lack of critically acclaimed plays about the Holocaust suggest that on some level it does resist convincing dramatization. The most well-known examples, such as Sherman 2010 and Weiss 2000, are set outside the time and space of the actual extermination and have been subject to much criticism. See Skloot 1982 and Skloot 1999 (both cited Anthologies and Encyclopedias) for a fuller selection of primary texts.

                                                                                                                                    Children’s and Young Adult Literature

                                                                                                                                    Following early examples such as Yolen 1998, Holocaust writing aimed at children and young adults has become increasingly sophisticated and popular, with “crossover texts” such as Boyne 2007 and Zusak 2007 reaching wide readerships of young people and adults, while also being adapted into major films. Often engendering critical mistrust through obvious historical distortions, a more sympathetic critical literature is also beginning to evolve around this writing.

                                                                                                                                    • Boyne, John. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. London: Definitions, 2007.

                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Bestselling novel about the friendship between the son of a concentration camp commandant and an imprisoned Jewish boy. Major film version released in 2008.

                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                      • Yolen, Jane. The Devil’s Arithmetic. New York: Viking Penguin, 1998.

                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        A young Jewish girl living in 1980s New York is transported to Poland in 1942 where she experiences for herself the events that survivors in her family had so often described.

                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                        • Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. London: Black Swan, 2007.

                                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          Narrated by Death, the coming-of-age story of a German girl whose family shelter a Jew as the Nazis rise to power.

                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                          False Memoirs

                                                                                                                                          False memoirs can be regarded as a genre of Holocaust writing in their own right, encompassing a beguiling array of deceptions, fabrications, and embellishments. High-profile hoaxes such as Darville 1995 and Defonseca 2007 have led to a public outcry and even legal trials when works, which were initially celebrated as memoirs, were unmasked as fakes, polarizing public and critical responses and testing the relationship between authors and publishers. Perhaps the most notorious example is Wilkomirski 1996, a volume the author of which still does not acknowledge his own deception even as its authenticity has been roundly disproved. See Vice 2014 (cited under Critical Studies: False Memoirs) for considered reflection on textual deceptions and an assessment of their literary and cultural significance.

                                                                                                                                          • Darville, Helen. The Hand That Signed the Paper. St Leonards, Australia: Allen and Unwin, 1995.

                                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            Prize-winning novel was first published in Australia in 1994 under the pseudonym Helen Demidenko: a name suggestive of a family link to the Ukrainian communities, which form the novel’s controversial subject. Darville maintained the fake identity in media interviews but the book was subsequently republished under the British author’s own name once the deception was revealed. Remains an accomplished debut for a writer in her early twenties.

                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                            • Defonseca, Misha. Surviving with Wolves. Translated by Sue Rose. London: Piatkus, 2007.

                                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              Originally published in 1997 as Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years and translated into eighteen languages, despite the fact that this story is self-evidently untrue. Hoax uncovered by Belgian press in 2008. The author was taken to court in 2014 and ordered to repay the publisher $22 million.

                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                              • Wilkomirski, Benjamin. Fragments: Memories of a Childhood, 1939–1948. Translated by Carol Brown Janeway. London: Picador, 1996.

                                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                Notorious hoax memoir. Published as an autobiography to immense acclaim until a Swiss journalist uncovered the real identity of Bruno Dössekker (born Grosjean) who had spent the war in a Swiss orphanage, not Majdanek or Auschwitz.

                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                Biographies, Interviews, and Reportage

                                                                                                                                                Nonfictional writing about the Holocaust by nonvictims also has a history of controversy. Indeed, at a time when the topic remained somewhat taboo for novelists, pioneering works, such as Arendt 1994, Sereny 1995, and Sereny 1996, probed the figure of the perpetrator through incisive studies of leading Nazis, with their refusal to demonize, provoking hostile critical responses. In this category, biographies range from the conventional, popular, and readable style of Thomson 2003 to the more literary and critical focus of Felstiner 1997 and Lang 2013. Important testimonial documents have also been produced through interviews with survivors, such as Gill 1988.

                                                                                                                                                • Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. London: Penguin, 1994.

                                                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Classic account of the Eichmann trial in which Arendt introduces the concept of the “banality of evil.” Originally published in The New Yorker. Frequently criticized for exculpating the perpetrators and blaming the victims, as depicted in the 2012 film Hannah Arendt.

                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                  • Felstiner, John. Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

                                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    Excellent critical biography by Celan’s translator. Explores the poet’s life and work through interviews and close readings, with reflections on influences and the process of translation.

                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                    • Gill, Anton. The Journey Back from Hell: Conversations with Concentration Camp Survivors. London: Grafton, 1988.

                                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Oral testimonies from 120 Holocaust survivors from fourteen different countries, focusing on how they attempted to come to terms with their experiences.

                                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                      • Lang, Berel. Primo Levi: The Matter of a Life. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013.

                                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        Biography with a focus on Levi’s contribution to the philosophy of ethics and his Jewishness (the book forms part of the Jewish Lives series).

                                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                        • Sereny, Gitta. Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder. London: Pimlico, 1995.

                                                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          Exploration of evil and guilt, based on more than sixty hours of interviews with Franz Stangl, commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp.

                                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                          • Sereny, Gitta. Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. London: Picador, 1996.

                                                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            Probing examination of the inner life of Hitler’s architect and armaments minister, drawing on personal discussions, letters, and interviews with his family. Controversy surrounded Sereny’s supposed befriending of her subject.

                                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                            • Thomson, Ian. Primo Levi: A Biography. New York: Metropolitan, 2003.

                                                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Voluminous biography. Generally received more positively than the Carole Angier volume published the same year.

                                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                              Critical Studies

                                                                                                                                                              In this section, critical approaches to Holocaust representation have been organized by the different literary forms to which they respond, though the interdisciplinarity that characterizes the field means that critical works also frequently include analysis of film, visual art, museums, and memorials. An opening subsection discusses studies that focus on a particular corpus of texts or representational approach.

                                                                                                                                                              Thematic Studies

                                                                                                                                                              This subsection identifies two linked forms of critical response to Holocaust literature. The first type of study involves the identification of a specific corpus of connected texts (for example, they may be connected stylistically, thematically, or historically). These include Eaglestone 2004, McGlothlin 2006, Guyer 2007, and Boswell 2012, which reflect, respectively, on postmodernism, second-generation writing, romanticism, and transgression. Gordon 2001 offers a compelling study of the work of Primo Levi that makes an important contribution to our understanding of testimony and ethics in light of Levi’s rational humanism. This section also includes studies of Holocaust representation that mark innovative developments in longstanding debates about aesthetics and the limits of representation that were instigated by the texts included in General Overviews. Works such as Hungerford 2003, Mandal 2006, and Kaplan 2007 challenge received ways of reading Holocaust literature, with the literariness and stylizations of cultural works coming to form the basis for new forms of historical engagement.

                                                                                                                                                              • Boswell, Matthew. Holocaust Impiety in Literature, Popular Music and Film. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

                                                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Considers a counter-tradition of irreverent and transgressive Holocaust representation across diverse cultural forms, with examples ranging from Sylvia Plath to the Sex Pistols and Quentin Tarantino.

                                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                • Eaglestone, Robert. The Holocaust and the Postmodern. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199265930.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  Positions postmodernism as an ethical response to the Holocaust through readings of key philosophers, such as Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas, and postmodern literature, including testimony, fiction, and false memoirs.

                                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                  • Gordon, Robert. Primo Levi’s Ordinary Virtues: From Testimony to Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

                                                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    Argues that Levi’s humanism and Enlightenment rationalism survived Auschwitz as a result of his capacity to move beyond testimonial frameworks to the language of ethics. Levi’s writing understood as an important investigation of human mind and behavior. See also Lang 2013 (cited under Biographies, Interviews, and Reportage).

                                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                    • Guyer, Sara. Romanticism after Auschwitz. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.

                                                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      Theoretically sophisticated study that puts the tropes and traditions of romanticism into dialogue with Holocaust literature, arguing that each must be rethought in light of the other.

                                                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                      • Hungerford, Amy. The Holocaust of Texts: Genocide, Literature and Personification. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

                                                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        Argues that personification characterizes the way we respond to Holocaust literature and genocide more broadly, pointing to the ethical and representational limitations of this practice.

                                                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                        • Kaplan, Brett Ashley. Unwanted Beauty: Aesthetic Pleasure in Holocaust Representation. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.

                                                                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          Develops debates about the relationship among aesthetic pleasure, history, and ethics through analysis of works by survivors such as Celan and Delbo, as well as visual art, monuments, and museums.

                                                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                          • Mandal, Naomi. Against the Unspeakable: Complicity, the Holocaust and Slavery in America. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006.

                                                                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            Exemplifies the new generation of thought about Holocaust representation that resists tropes of ineffability and the limits of representation. Also exemplifies the move toward “multidirectional” (see Rothberg 2009, cited under Memory Studies) approaches to Holocaust memory.

                                                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                            • McGlothlin, Erin. Second-Generation Holocaust Literature: Legacies of Survival and Perpetration. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2006.

                                                                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              Like Berger and Berger 2001 (cited under Second- and Third-Generation Literature), draws together responses by families of survivors and perpetrators. Here this functions to expand the definition of the “second generation” and address cross-cutting issues such as stigmatization.

                                                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                              Memory Studies

                                                                                                                                                                              The growth of memory studies reflects the central place that memory holds in post-Holocaust literature and culture. Originating in the study of testimony, and responding to the absence of testimony from historical accounts, memory studies was traditionally informed by theoretical frameworks provided by psychoanalysis and trauma studies. The concept of “memory” has since been broadened to encompass a wide range of cultural as well as personal acts of remembrance. This section includes studies that have been pivotal to the intellectual evolution of the field, with Hirsch 2012 developing and refining the influential concept of “postmemory” and Rothberg 2009 introducing the concept of “multidirectional memory.” It also includes works that have made key theoretical interventions through analysis of a specific literary or cultural corpuses, such as the French and Francophone literature discussed in Silverman 2013 and Sanyal 2015. Crownshaw 2010 and Kaplan 2011 reflect the way that memory studies has increasingly come to engage with the experiences of later generations and with itself, exploring the transcultural, transnational, and transgenerational dynamics of the transmission of Holocaust memory. Bigsby 2006 offers a more eclectic exploration of a “chain of memory” that links contemporary writers of fiction and survivors.

                                                                                                                                                                              Testimony

                                                                                                                                                                              Pioneering early work on oral history archives such as the Yale Archives for Holocaust Testimonies includes Langer 1991 and Felman and Laub 1992, combining sensitive analysis with novel and influential theorization, with the latter also taking a capacious approach to the definition of testimonial writing. More recent analysis of a diverse selection of historical and contemporary archives is given in Waxman 2006. Early studies of testimony drawing on trauma studies have subsequently been refined through complex theoretical works, such as Agamben 1999 and Dean 2010, with the strong influence of psychoanalytic theory continuing in LaCapra 2001 and Levine 2006. Recent years have also seen a move toward greater self-scrutiny in the study of trauma and memory, especially in respect of attempts to describe encounters with the Holocaust by members of later generations in terms of witnessing and memory. See Weissman 2004.

                                                                                                                                                                              • Agamben, Giorgio. Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. Translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen. New York: Zone, 1999.

                                                                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                Theoretical reflections on testimony, the impossibility of witnessing, and the importance of listening to that which is unsaid by Italian philosopher best known for work on biopolitics and concepts such as “bare life.” Emphasizes the Muselmann (see Levi 1989, cited under Testimonial Literature: Essays and Diaries) as the central figure for impossible witnessing.

                                                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                • Dean, Carolyn J. Aversion and Erasure: The Fate of the Victim after the Holocaust. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  Considers the notion of victimhood in light of the Holocaust and challenges received ideas about identity politics and hierarchies of suffering.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                  • Felman, Shoshana, and Dori Laub. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History. New York: Routledge, 1992.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    Iconic study co-authored by a literary critic and psychoanalyst arguing that the trauma of the Holocaust led to a “crisis of witnessing.” Includes readings of literary, cinematic, and historical texts, from Camus 2008 (cited under Fiction: Allegory) to Paul de Man and Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                    • LaCapra, Dominick. Writing History, Writing Trauma. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      Uses historical analysis and psychoanalytic theory to interrogate trauma and its impacts on culture and individual well-being.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                      • Langer, Lawrence. Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        Influential early study of oral history given by Holocaust survivors based on analysis of archives at Yale University, with author’s sophisticated yet accessible approach bringing these testimonies to wide public attention.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                        • Levine, Michael G. The Belated Witness: Literature, Testimony and the Question of Holocaust Survival. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          Theoretical work drawing on psychoanalysis, history, and philosophy to explore the way that Holocaust literature transforms traditional categories of human experience and our understanding of how they can be represented in literature. Includes readings of Celan 2002 (cited under Testimonial Literature: Poetry), Ozick 1988 (cited under Fiction: Short Stories), and Spiegelman 2003 (cited under Second- and Third-Generation Literature).

                                                                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                          • Waxman, Zoe. Writing the Holocaust: Identity, Testimony, Representation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            Cultural history of Holocaust testimony, from early ghetto diaries, such as Ringelblum 1974 (cited under Testimonial Literature: Essays and Diaries), to more recent accounts, emphasizing the way that different contexts determine what is remembered and how this is expressed.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                            • Weissman, Gary. Fantasies of Witnessing: Postwar Efforts to Experience the Holocaust. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              Combative, skeptical exploration of the desires that motivate attempts to collapse the gap between the memories of Holocaust victims and the “postmemory” of later generations. Critique of trauma theory and memory studies through analysis of texts such as Wiesel 1981 (cited under Testimonial Literature: Memoir) and Langer 1991.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                              Fiction

                                                                                                                                                                                              Critical works on Holocaust fiction, such as Horowitz 1997, Vice 2000, and Sicher 2005, respond to influential arguments about the use of the Holocaust as literary inspiration first outlined in the 1970s in works such as Wiesel 2011. Despite the censorious critical climate that dominated from the 1970s to the 1990s, works of Holocaust fiction proliferated, with studies such as Rothberg 2000 and Adams 2011 showing how representational strategies such as “traumatic realism” and forms such as magic realism were used and adapted to confront the complex and often competing demands of Holocaust representation. More recently, Miller Budick 2015 draws on psychoanalytic theory to explore the unconscious forces that shape the ongoing literary fascination with evil, mass suffering, and genocide.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Poetry

                                                                                                                                                                                              Studies of Holocaust poetry as a genre, such as Gubar 2003, Rowland 2005, and Rowland 2014, respond to debates about post-Holocaust poetics and the ethical validity of using a beautiful aesthetic form to represent atrocity, first articulated by Theodor Adorno in Adorno 1997 and Adorno 1977. The specific representational possibilities of verse as a nonlinear, fragmented, imagistic, and self-reflexive form are highlighted in Gubar 2003 and Rowland 2014, while Nader 2007 is a valuable study of literature written by prisoners inside the camps. Kalaidjian 2006 sets Holocaust memory within the context of postwar American poetry’s wider confrontation with traumatic histories.

                                                                                                                                                                                              • Adorno, Theodor. “Commitment.” In Aesthetics and Politics. Edited by Ronald Taylor, 177–195. Translated by Francis McDonagh. London: NLB, 1977.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                Rejoinder to Adorno 1997, first published in 1965, in which the German philosopher revisits questions of aesthetics and representational ethics, contending that while it is barbaric to write poetry after Auschwitz, at the same time “literature must resist this verdict.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                • Adorno, Theodor. “Cultural Criticism and Society.” In Prisms. Translated by Samuel and Shierry Weber. By Theodor Adorno, 17–34. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1997.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Influential essay about culture and the danger of reification first published in 1951. Includes the famous dictum, “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” See Adorno 1977 for important theoretical qualifications.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Gubar, Susan. Poetry after Auschwitz: Remembering What One Never Knew. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Draws together iconic and lesser-known poets and argues for the ethical value of a form that makes complex questions about representational possibility central to its inner logic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Kalaidjian, Walter. The Edge of Modernism: American Poetry and the Traumatic Past. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Wide-ranging study of contemporary American poetry and the way that it responds to the “edge” of modern traumas such as the Holocaust.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Nader, Anrés. Traumatic Verses: On Poetry in German from the Concentration Camps, 1933–45. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2007.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Draws on philosophical and psychoanalytic frameworks to explore poems written by victims while imprisoned in Nazi camps. Includes original German texts alongside English translations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Rowland, Antony. Holocaust Poetry: Awkward Poetics in the Work of Sylvia Plath, Geoffrey Hill, Tony Harrison and Ted Hughes. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Study of Holocaust verse by four major poets whose work is characterized by its self-reflexivity and “awkwardness.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Rowland, Antony. Poetry as Testimony: Witnessing and Memory in Twentieth-Century Poems. New York: Routledge, 2014.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Outlines how poetry by survivors in works including Levi 1992 (cited under Testimonial Literature: Poetry) and Delbo 1995 (cited under Testimonial Literature: Memoir), as well as work by earlier poets such as Wilfred Owen, constitutes a distinct form of witnessing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Drama

                                                                                                                                                                                                            A number of general studies of Holocaust drama debate the adequacy of different theatrical forms, charting the evolution of Holocaust theater from a more traditional epic mode in the 1960s to the provocative postmodern forms of the 1990s. Examples include foundational works, such as Skloot 1988 and Isser 1997. As well as discussing thematic issues, critics of Holocaust drama have also made extensive efforts to catalogue historical performances, from those that took place in Nazi Germany, listed in Rovit and Goldfarb 1999, to the more recent performances discussed and documented in Schumacher 1998 and Plunka 2009. Patraka 1999 takes a more theoretical approach to the performance of violence in different historical and memorial contexts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Isser, Edward. Stages of Annihilation: Theatrical Representations of the Holocaust. London: Associated University Presses, 1997.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                              One of the first studies to consider Holocaust drama in diverse national and thematic contexts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Patraka, Vivian M. Spectacular Suffering: Theatre, Fascism and the Holocaust. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Theoretically nuanced monograph, introduces the concept of the “Holocaust performative” and applies it to settings such as Holocaust museums as well as the stage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Plunka, Gene. Holocaust Drama: The Theater of Atrocity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511576591Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Argues that the value of Holocaust drama lies in its immediacy and emotional affect, with an analysis of more than thirty plays and information about production history.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Rovit, Rebecca, and Alvin Goldfarb, eds. Theatrical Performance during the Holocaust: Texts, Documents, Memoirs. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Edited collection reflecting on Jewish theatrical performances in Nazi Germany. Combines academic essays, historical documentation, and memoirs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Schumacher, Claude, ed. Staging the Holocaust: The Shoah in Drama and Performance. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Edited collection with essays on different genres and playwrights, and an annotated bibliography with details of more than two hundred Holocaust plays.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Skloot, Robert. The Darkness We Carry: The Drama of the Holocaust. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        First book-length study of Holocaust drama; includes analysis of numerous plays, including Sherman 2010 and Weiss 2000 (both cited under Fiction: Drama). Emphasis on issues such as historical fidelity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Children’s and Young Adult Literature

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Two prominent examples of critical studies that reflect sensitively on the evolving corpus of Holocaust literature written for children and young adults, and the aesthetic and ethical challenges this involves, are Kertzer 2002 and Kokkola 2003.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        False Memoirs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Vice 2014 marks the first substantial scholarly monograph to situate fake or embellished Holocaust memoirs within a wider context of literary falsifications and deceptions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        back to top