MEMORYHolocaust Literature in European Languages
Historiography of the Holocaust
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The fact that a "literature of the Holocaust" evolved by the 1970s may be an indication of the desire to salvage some meaning out of the senselessness of that period in Jewish history. It is somehow consoling to believe that the chaos has become amenable to the ordering of aesthetic vision, that it has generated language through which the experience can be mediated to discipline the ambiguities and civilize the horror.
It is true that many poems were forged in the flames of the ghettos and camps themselves, and perhaps one of the most uplifting, and at the same time tragic, expressions of the human spirit is the collection of paintings and children's poems that is almost all the testimony that remains of the 150,000 people who passed through *Theresienstadt. But the fact is that once the war had ended, writers were slow to pick up the bloody mantle of these martyrs. Historians worked almost alone over the charred remains in order to reunite numbers with names, anonymous corpses with their biographies, the ruined ghettos with the history of their struggles. The proliferation of personal testimonies of survivors supplemented the documentary evidence in journals and diaries that had been buried in the ghettos or smuggled beyond the walls. Gradually, philosophers, psychologists, and theologians joined historians in trying to confront the event in their own terms. No symbolic universe could attempt to assimilate the Holocaust without the risk of being shaken to its foundations. Yet whole new schools of philosophy, therapy, and theology have evolved out of the experience of the camps. Bruno *Bettelheim's orthogenic approach to the stresses that mass society imposes on the individual and Victor *Frankl's logo-therapy are their professional responses to their own suffering in the Nazi camps. Emil *Fackenheim and Richard *Rubenstein represent perhaps the two extreme polarities of theological response to the contemporary questions of theodicy that the Holocaust raised.
Yet the sensibilities of the artist were the last to emerge from the anesthetization of the historical experience. T.W. *Adorno's declaration that there can be no poetry after Auschwitz both reflected and sanctioned a general feeling of helplessness and inadequacy that artists have felt in confronting recent history. As many critics pointed out, the Holocaust defies art insofar as it represents the annihilation of meaning. And yet novels, plays, and poems began to appear.
For some writers it was enough to commemorate and mourn the dead. But as the Holocaust has entered the imagination of the more creative artists, it has entered into the realm of the "possible." The more completely the event is assimilated, the more it is available as a creative resource, a source of metaphor, allegory, symbol, for human behavior in the modern world; a paradigm of contemporary existence and the substance of modern myth. The literature of the Holocaust spans the literary spectrum from the documentary to the mythical – from the journals kept by those who were destined not to survive, to the memoirs of the survivors, to the documentary or pseudodocumentary art of those writers who strive for historical authenticity, to the art that has been integrated into established historical and literary traditions, and finally to the "apocalyptic" art of those writers for whom the Holocaust has so permeated the mind that it has transcended the bounds of historical time and social space.
diaries and journals
The chronicles of the Holocaust include diaries and journals written under siege. Most of the writers never lived to see the camps liberated or their writings published. In fact the journals themselves seldom reached the extermination camps, but chronicled the life in attic hideouts or in the ghettos. Thus they constitute a peculiar genre with a beginning and a middle, but no end. Anne *Frank's diary becomes a "tragedy" only through the interaction between the writer – who, even in her last entries, affirms her belief that "it will all come right," that she must continue to uphold her ideals in the hope the time will come when she will "be able to carry them out" – and the reader, who knows that it did not come right, that she did not live to carry out her ideals. This knowledge is the sad burden of the post-Holocaust reader.
There were a very few diarists who managed to survive. One was Mary Berg, whose mother's American passport brought her and her family to New York as part of a prisoner exchange. Her diary is a chronicle of the Warsaw ghetto, where she lived between the ages of 16 and 18. She managed to smuggle her diary out of Poland while the war was still raging; published in English translation in 1945, it was one of the earliest such documents to reach an American readership. Mary Berg was a girl of mature literary and emotional qualities not unlike those of her more famous Dutch counterpart, but living in circumstances so different from the sealed-off world of Anne's "secret annex," she focused on the world of the ghetto, and her diary is less introspective and more of a history of the communal life of the Jews of Warsaw.
literature and the language of the victims
The most significant journals of the Warsaw ghetto were those written in Yiddish by Emanuel *Ringelblum and in Hebrew by Ḥayyim Kaplan. Each regarded his task as a sacred mission, and each contributed invaluable information on the inner life and the death throes of the ghetto. These two painstakingly written accounts, as well as the hundreds of other diaries, eyewitness accounts, poems, plays, and novels written in Yiddish or Hebrew, are beyond the scope of the present discussion. The distinction between Hebrew and Yiddish writing on the Holocaust, and the literature that has appeared in European languages, is not merely linguistic but, in a broader sense, cultural. For the European writer, the Holocaust does not reflect a particular national odyssey for which specific cultural referents would be a necessary resource. The Holocaust did not respect national borders, and Frenchmen, Czechs, and Poles share with other Europeans the same vocabulary of experience in what has been called "the concentration camp universe." The literature they produced shares certain qualities of cultural deprivation and of cross-cultural perspective precisely because it is a literature of displaced persons. This could explain why many European writers have chosen to write of their experience in foreign, or adopted, tongues: Jorge Semprun, Michel del Castillo, Anna *Langfus, and Piotr Rawicz in French; Jerzy Kosinski, Ilona Karmel, and Zdena Berger in English. Although Elie Wiesel lives in the United States and operates in an American ethos, he continues to write in French, which is his adopted language. Yiddish and Hungarian are native tongues; Romanian, the language of the country of his birth, Hebrew the language of his journalistic career, and English the language of the land in which he lives. Still he persists in French.
The obvious exception to this principle of linguistic interchangeability is the impact of the Holocaust on the German language, a fact with which most German writers have had to come to terms. George *Steiner, in Language and Silence, describes the effects of the Nazi regime on the German language, a "language being used to run hell, getting the habits of hell into its syntax." Perhaps the impatience of many readers with Nelly *Sachs' poetry stems from her attempt to use the German language as if it were a neutral resource, a simple linguistic funnel through which the Jewish agony could be channeled.
The literature of the Holocaust written in Hebrew and Yiddish constitutes a category distinct from the literature in European languages primarily because it has assimilated into an ethnic tradition that has had to develop specific internal responses to the direct threat of cultural genocide. In responding to this challenge, even the most secular Yiddish or Hebrew writer is committed to a certain cultural framework, specific historical memories, and an ongoing dialogue with Jewish history and the Jewish God. Adolf *Rudnicki, himself a Polish writer, admitted that
no other nation has so many synonyms for suffering as have the Jews. The Book of Job was not written by a Frenchman, nor even a Russian. Everybody knows that what the Germans did during the Second World War has no equivalent in history, yet it was all contained within the Jews' ancient vocabulary.
What characterized the Holocaust diaries and journals in all the languages was an abiding faith in ultimate restoration, in the sanity of the outside world for whom these records were kept – and an innocence of the actual dimensions of the destruction. This cannot be said of the literature of the survivors.
memoirs of survivors
Almost immediately after their liberation, the survivors began to write their memoirs. To many, that task seemed the only reason for which they had remained alive – to commemorate their dead and, by documenting the atrocities perpetrated on them, perhaps help to avenge their deaths. Leon Wells, in The Janowska Road, one of the most moving accounts of human endurance, writes in an epilogue: "I feel now, that I have fulfilled my mission. The last wish of my people, each as he died, was to let the world know what had happened. They felt and hoped that the world cared about them and their fate. Does the world care?" Much of the caring world proved to consist of other refugees, who by their perseverance and testimonies managed to bring some of the Nazi criminals to trial. Wells' own story of the "Death Brigade" served as evidence that helped to condemn to death the man who had been second in command in the Janowska camp.
The numerous other accounts published since the war by survivors add little to the fund of knowledge of what happened. The story is so often, so pitilessly, the same – but each man's testimony is a Kaddish to his own dead. Two Polish memoirs that have appeared in English reflect the special plight of the children of the Holocaust. The first, Halina Birenbaum's Hope is the Last to Die, is the child's tale told from the perspective of the adult. The second, Henryk *Grynberg's Child of the Shadow, is a similar tale of persecution, refuge, and survival told simply and almost didactically, as if the Holocaust child were relating the story to other, non-Holocaust, children. Yet as moving as this account is, it does not, even in its entirety, convey the essence of fear and triumph that are distilled into the very brief story, "The Grave," that prefaces the book. It is Grynberg's short fictional "epiphany" that stays with the reader long after he has forgotten the chronology of events that are the structure of the autobiography.
A very unusual story of survival is told by Alexander Donat in The Holocaust Kingdom. It tells of the preservation of an entire family – husband, wife, and child. Donat was a prominent publisher of one of the Warsaw daily newspapers, and the scope of his awareness and understanding of the people and events around him reflects the perspective of a trained journalist. The author's own narrative is augmented by a unique addendum – two chapters written by his wife and one written by the non-Jewish woman who had cared for their child, interspersed with notes written by the child himself – that provides multiple perspectives on the same events.
One of the earliest and still most revealing eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust was David Rousset's The Other Kingdom, which delineated the world that he called "l'univers concentrationnaire." Published in French in 1947, his narrative describes life and death in *Buchenwald, Helmstedt, Neuengamme and Woebbelin from the point of view of one who had been interned in these camps for helping to organize the French underground resistance movement. Rousset's book explores the fate of political prisoners in the camps. It is in the main a story of men sustained by group solidarity and devotion to a cause, even as the cause becomes obscured by present reality. Unlike those who were arrested, deported, interned, and gassed simply because of the biological fact of their being Jewish or of Jewish ancestry, the political prisoners had in large measure chosen their own destiny. In analyzing their behavior and their plight, Rousset also illuminates the very different logic of death and survival that prevailed among the Jewish prisoners.
The Other Kingdom is a peculiar combination of the factual, the philosophical, and the poetic. Rousset's literary analogies are more than mere ornament; they are integral to his perception of the reality around him. His "Kingdom" is ruled by a synthetic Nazi who is a direct descendant of Ubu Roi – that grotesque buffoon who butchered the ruling monarchs and crowned himself King of Poland in Alfred Jarry's fin-de-siècle parody. And the demography of this realm is seen as having been prefigured in the dark fantasies of two other pre-Holocaust writers: "the inmates of the camp belong to a world by Céline with overtones of Kafka."
The concentration camp thus becomes that region where the most lurid literary imaginings are experienced as life itself. Here the woodsmen never hear Little Red Riding Hood's cries and she is devoured – and digested – by the wolf; Jack doesn't quite reach his beanstalk in time – and is consumed by the giant. It is the world imagined centuries ago by Dante. Ten years after Rousset published his essay on the camps, Primo *Levi wrote If This Be a Man (U.S title Survival in Auschwitz), his own account of internment and survival in the Buna Camp at *Auschwitz. His chapter on Dante, "The Canto of Ulysses," is the testimony not only of a man who is a victim of the realization of the most hideous fantasies that the literary imagination had ever conceived. It is also the testimony of the human capacity to transcend, through art, the agony of physical and spiritual degradation. In his account of initiation into camp life, he had described the slow process by which the Nazis achieved "the demolition of a man": "Nothing belongs to us anymore; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair… They will even take away our name…" Then one day, as this nameless Häftling (prisoner) is trudging to the kitchens with another man to bring the soup ration to their Kommando, he is seized by the need to speak of The Divine Comedy – to recite verses long locked in his memory, to teach his companion a few words of the text. He feels the urgency of one who knows that tomorrow he – or his companion – may be dead, and that in that moment before doom he must transmit the message that may contain the essence of their common fate. This is the moment in which Häftling no. 174517 begins to rediscover his humanity, to combat by the powers of imagination and analogy the absurdity of his existence.
The confessions of Rousset and Levi illustrate the ways in which the significance of some of the classical elements of European culture are completely transformed in the context of the camps. Josef *Bor's Terezin Requiem (1963) is another story of the role of art as the medium for the spiritual struggle to defy the harsh realities of camp life. It is the true account of the performance of Verdi's Requiem in the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, in the presence of Eichmann and his henchmen. Bor distills the facts into a highly charged drama. His story is told from the point of view of Raphael Schaechter, the conductor, who molds the Requiem into a prism that reflects the individual miseries – and the one final triumph – of the inmates. The tension and drama mount as rehearsals for the performance proceed. But in the course of the rehearsals, many of the soloists are transported to the death camps, and each empty seat is a harbinger of death. Though the Requiem might have been nothing more than a dirge sung by the doomed themselves, it is transformed into a cry of protest and of victory. Schaechter takes the liberty of changing the four pianissimo notes of the finale – "libera me" – into a defiant fortissimo, three short strokes and one long, delivered as fighting blows. "O Saint Verdi in heaven, forgive me my sin," pleads Schaechter. "If you had been in a concentration camp you, too, would have composed your finale differently…" By the end of the performance, Schaechter has dropped his baton and is conducting with his fist. The entire cast of performers is shipped out on the very next transport to the death camp – but that fact is by now almost insignificant.
documentation as art
Most of the eyewitness accounts of this period demonstrate an almost compulsive concern with factual accuracy, though in the narratives of Rousset, Levi, and Bor, it is not only the external, physical reality but also the facts of consciousness that are being documented. In the broadly inclusive genre of memoir, the obsessive commitment to historicity is certainly not unusual. Yet it is no less evident in some of the imaginative literature of the Holocaust. As one crosses over from autobiography into art, the usual distinctions are blurred by the obsession of certain artists with historical accuracy. The Soviet writer Anatoly Kuznetsov (writing originally under the pseudonym of A. Anatoli) defines his Babi Yar as "a document in the form of a novel," and is constantly jolting his reader out of the temptation to be lulled into the existential distance usually reserved for fiction. "This book contains nothing but the truth," Kuznetsov repeats; oddly enough, his insistence on historical truth can be seen not only as reflecting his view of the bounds of the imagination in confronting the Holocaust, but as a plea for artistic freedom in a regime that demands of its artists that they fantasize and manipulate history to mirror the "artistic truth" of Socialist Realism. Ironically, but predictably, Kuznetsov's appeal for the freedom to follow the dictates of historical fact was undermined by the deletion, in the original edition, of all those passages deemed even remotely critical of Soviet behavior during the Nazi occupation. In 1970, after his escape from the Soviet Union, Kuznetsov published the unexpurgated version of his novel, which had now become a document of Soviet as well as Nazi oppression.
Perhaps the most prominent of the artists who are explicitly concerned with the artistic expression of historical fact are the German playwrights Peter *Weiss and Rolf *Hochhuth. Weiss once stated that "audiences are ready to become concerned with the real world instead of the private loves and hatreds of individuals." Reflecting new trends in dramaturgy as well as certain internal imperatives of the reality it dramatizes, Weiss' play The Investigation is a condensed presentation of the proceedings of the trials, held in Germany in 1964–5, of twenty-one of the people who were responsible for the operation of Auschwitz. The absolute decorum and austerity of the depositions belie the emotionally charged facts being offered as evidence. In this case it is the strict logic of the legal procedure that is used by the artist to give form to experience that was totally lawless. The judge and the attorneys ask their questions and the witnesses tell their stories without any histrionic aids – there is neither punctuation in the free-verse text nor stage directions that would indicate a change in pitch or shift in position, and most performances are delivered entirely in straight-faced monotone. There is no personal drama here; the witnesses – like the actual inmates of the camps – have no names; the accused, like the actual torturers, do – but Weiss states in a prefatory note that the accused have simply "lent their names which, within the drama, exist as symbols of a system that implicated in its guilt many others who never appeared in court."
Weiss is uncompromising in his refusal to allow his audience any form of classical catharsis. How unyielding his drama is in its insistence on unmitigated evil, in its withholding of a sacrificial hero, can be seen when it is compared with an earlier anti-Nazi play written by another German playwright, Carl Zuckmayer. In The Devil's General (written in exile from 1942 to 1946), Zuckmayer endowed his main protagonist, Luftwaffe General Harras, with the qualities of refinement and a developed sensibility that were finally to prove stronger than his commitment to his duties as an officer in the Nazi higher command. The ambiguities of the actual events are diminished and distanced by clear-cut distinctions between good and evil, by soothing rhetoric, well-honed literary symbols, and, finally, the expiatory suicide of the hero.
Rolf Hochhuth's play, The Deputy, was, like The Investigation, published almost a generation after the event (1963), and is something of a compromise between the perspectives of Weiss and Zuckmayer on the art of the Holocaust. Like his contemporary, Hochhuth also bases his drama on historical fact. However, he has submitted reality to a very different logic, to which traditional principles of dramatic development are more integral. In an appendix, "Sidelights on History," Hochhuth writes that he has "combined the already available facts into a truthful whole." He rejects extreme naturalism in art and the kind of aesthetic approach that would transform the subject of the Holocaust into detached metaphor and the victims and victimizers into pure symbols. In his elaborate stage direction for Act v, which takes place in the cattle cars leading to Auschwitz and in the camp itself, Hochhuth writes:
Despite the tremendous force of suggestion emanating from sound and sense, metaphors still screen the infernal cynicism of what really took place – a reality so enormous and grotesque that even today, fifteen years after the events, the impression of unreality it produces conspires with our natural strong tendency to treat the matter as legend, as an incredible apocalyptic fable. Alienation effects would only add to this danger. No matter how closely we adhere to historical facts, the speech, scene, and events on the stage will be altogether surrealistic.
What Hochhuth seems to be saying, and what his drama attests to so powerfully, is that poetry has been wrested from the artist by the reality of Auschwitz. The transformation of this reality into legend or "apocalyptic fable" is, then, not the artist's prerogative, but a kind of defense mechanism by which post-Holocaust culture confronts the reality. Hochhuth would force his public to confront the reality by closing off the option of viewing it as fantasy. The victims, the victimizers, the accomplices, and the heroes in The Deputy are not anonymous, nor are they symbols, but rather concrete individuals, each with his private fate. Some are fictitious characters modeled after real people. Some – the prime movers – are actual historical figures. There is one major figure who has no name; he is referred to as "the Doctor," the man responsible for the dispatch of new arrivals at Auschwitz to the work camp or to the gas chamber. The Doctor is obviously patterned after the infamous Dr. Mengele, but Hochhuth refrains from naming him, as if by so doing he would be dignifying him with some semblance of humanity.
Unlike Weiss' drama, in which the guilt is diffused throughout the Nazi ranks and even taints the victims themselves and all those who remained silent in the face of the atrocities – until it stands as an indictment of all of Western civilization – The Deputy singles out the historical perpetrators of the crime, their historical accomplices, their historical victims, and those who tried to help the victims and to halt the slaughter. The blame of silent acquiescence to the Nazi atrocities is placed squarely on the shoulders of the Pope, who appears in this play not as an institution but as a person. Similarly, the self-sacrificing actions of the two heroes, Riccardo and Gerstein, are not the heroism of invention but of actual deed. Hochhuth's understanding of the drama, as of history, is based on the premise of individual freedom of choice, even in the most repressive of circumstances.
vicarious reconstruction of experience
Another group of writings that inhabit the twilight zone between document and fantasy are the novels presented as documentaries or which claim to be based on documentary evidence. Most of these were written by American novelists. The most popular of these writers are John Hersey, Leon *Uris, and Richard Elman. Of the three, Hersey can be singled out as having opened a new frontier in the American fiction of the Holocaust, and Elman as being the most serious.
John Hersey, a gentile journalist who came upon traces of the Jewish massacre while on assignment in Europe, spent several years researching the misery and the heroism of the Warsaw ghetto. His novel, The Wall, was published in 1950, and for many years remained the unchallenged definitive work on the subject. The novel is written in the form of a journal whose format closely approximates the journals of Emanuel Ringelblum. But there the resemblance ends, and the confusion of genres begins. The chronicler of this fiction, Noach Levinson, probes the inner thoughts and feelings of the characters and reports "conversations." The fiction of historicity ("broadly it deals with history, but in detail it is invented," the author says) covers a multitude of sins.
Leon Uris' Mila 18 (1961) is another in a series of historical novels that won popularity. Uris admits to many hours of research and acknowledges that "within a framework of basic truth, tempered with a reasonable amount of artistic license, the places and events described actually happened." Again, like Hersey, he uses the general form of the journal to structure his novel on the Warsaw uprising – but the journal entries, written by one Alexander Brandel, are limited to the opening remarks of each chapter of the novel. Nevertheless, the yoke of history does not fit well on the shoulders of the heroes and heroines, and the facts often intrude impolitely into the melodrama, which Uris has tailored to that same reading public that acclaimed his latter-day Exodus as if it too had been handed down from Sinai. Alexander Brandel's final soothing words in the bunker of Mila 18 affirm the simplistic confidence that "we Jews have avenged our honor as a people," and that the scales of history will be balanced when the State of Israel is reborn out of the ashes.
Richard Elman has done a more convincing job of weaving together history and fantasy, with fewer compromises. His novel, The 28th Day of Elul (1967), originated in a series of documents that came to the author's attention and, by hisown admission, constituted a kind of historical imperative for his art. The novel is an epistolary narrative written by Alex Yagodah from his home on a moshav in Israel, to the executor of his uncle's estate in America, in which he describes the events leading up to the deportation of his family from their hometown of Cluj, Hungary. As in The Diary of Anne Frank or the Polish novel by Ladislav *Grosman, The Shop on Main Street, the tragic load of the tale is not intrinsic in the narrative itself, but in the reader's retrospective knowledge of what the epilogue must be.
Although the story is told for the most part with skill and seriousness, it raises "relevant" philosophical and theological questions about the Holocaust. This is a tendency shared by many other American writers, especially Jewish writers, who evidently feel that in coming to terms with their own identity as Jews they must confront the Holocaust in their art. In 1963, Saul *Bellow raised the issue of the impact of the European tragedy on the American writer who had not experienced it directly:
It would be odd, indeed, if these historical events had made no impression on American writers, even if … they characteristically depend on their own observations and appear at times obstinately empirical.
Since there was no shared experience, the Holocaust is in a sense freed from the discipline of historical fact when it enters the domain of American fiction. And yet the American writer also clings at least to the pretense of historicity. Bellow himself, when he finally appropriated the theme of the Holocaust as a subject for his art, wrote a novel (Mr. Sammler's Planet) that was far more contrived than his earlier fiction. He tries to compensate for his own acknowledged lack of empirical resource by fabricating the events out of textbook accounts. His dramatization of the experiences of a Holocaust survivor through use of flashback and monologue is not convincing or psychologically coherent. The same can be said of Edward Lewis *Wallant's use of the "dream" technique in The Pawnbroker.
Likewise, the attempt to romanticize history by circumventing the facts has not proved much more effective. Bernard *Malamud tried to confront the beast on nonhistorical grounds in his short story, "Lady of the Lake." Many of his stories and novels are scantily clad moralities, often dramatizing the inescapable fate of the Jew as sufferer. But in this tale the symbols of the Holocaust are so artificially manipulated to serve allegorical requirements that they remain too comfortably remote in the realm of romance and fantasy.
One American writer who has directly acknowledged and incorporated the theme of historical deprivation into his art is the poet Irving *Feldman. In two elegaic poems, "The Pripet Marshes" and "To the Six Million," he explores the meaning of the vicarious suffering of the American Jew. In "The Pripet Marshes," he attempts to transplant his own, non-Holocaust, friends into the ghetto at the moment before the Germans are to arrive. And just as these Jews are being rounded up for transport in the marketplace of his mind's eye, he invokes the prerogative reserved only for those who are not bound by historical necessity – and retrieves them:
But there isn't a second to lose, I snatch them all back,
For, when I want to, I can be a God.
The American poet as creator can rescue his Jews only because they were not the real victims.
Feldman's second elegy, "To the Six Million," is a masterpiece of Holocaust poetry in English. It goes further than the first in attempting to discover, and finally to possess, the dead whose fate the poet happened to have been spared. The final merger is accomplished through the use of Biblical rhetoric and erotic, almost necrophilic, imagery:
Sweetness, my soul's bride,
Come to the feast I have made,
My bone and my flesh of me,
Broken and touched,
Come in your widow's rainment of dust and ashes,
Bereaved, newborn, gasping for
The breath that was torn from you,
That is returned to you.
The English poet Karen *Gershon also succeeded in conveying the sense of deprivation that haunts those who were spared. In her case it was the Childrens' Transport that carried her and 10,000 other children out of their native Germany to England in 1938 and saved them from the fate reserved for their parents. Her poetry is an attempt to reconstruct the final days of her parents' lives, when "I was not there to comfort them." The unadorned language of these confessional poems is moving in its very simplicity and directness. Whereas for Irving Feldman, the freedom from historical imperatives generates a kind of enslavement to fantasy, for Karen Gershon the freedom from historical experience creates a vacuum to be filled through research, and art becomes a medium for the reconstruction of history.
There are a number of other English-writing poets who have attempted to incorporate the Holocaust into their art, but the subject has proved for the most part unassimilable. Probably the most powerful of these poets is Sylvia Plath, who refused the exemption that her birthright as a non-Jew would have conferred on her. A. Alvarez wrote in his study of suicide that the death of her father when Sylvia Plath was still a young child was later transformed into the conviction that "to be an adult meant to be a survivor… an imaginary Jew from the concentration camps of the mind." Several of the poems in Ariel, written just before her final, successful, suicide attempt, are weighted with the burden of Holocaust, her skin "bright as a Nazi lampshade" ("Lady Lazarus"), "thick palls" of dead Jews invading the kitchen where the "Sunday lamb cracks in its fat" ("Mary's Song"), her own father transformed posthumously into a Nazi and she herself into a Jew ("Daddy").
literature of survival
For the continental European writer, there is no escape from historical memory. But for those who are faithful to it, history provides a way out as well as a way in; quite simply, the war began in 1939 and ended in 1945. Most of the realistic fiction of the Holocaust opens in that quiet time when roses still bloom on trellises of country houses and Sabbath candlesticks gleam on white tablecloths, and there are still Jews in Europe to smell the flowers and bless the candles. This ancien régime slowly crumbles into the nightmare of Auschwitz. In the end the survivor returns to the ruins of his former existence. In the 1960s and 70s there was a proliferation of this "survival" literature, dramatizing the process by which civilized life shrivels to bare existence and then is pitifully resurrected on tombstones and ashes.
Terrence Des Pres, in an illuminating essay in Encounter in 1971, observed that the survivor had supplanted the sacrificial hero as the protagonist of modern fiction. In an era when thousands of human beings were slaughtered daily in machines built expressly for that purpose, the heroic death of a latter-day Oedipus or Lear lost its liberating value, and the will to survive had replaced the classical willingness to die affirming transcendental truths. "When men must live against overwhelming odds and death is a condition of life, when mere existence is miraculous, to die is in no way a triumph," writes Des Pres. The very preservation of life – when it does not come at the expense of other lives – becomes the ultimate goal in much of Holocaust and post-Holocaust fiction. And it is this refusal to betray others while one is fighting for one's own survival that characterizes what Des Pres calls the "human, as opposed to the Darwinian, survivor." The individual is powerless to change anything in his environment, and thus it is the act of struggle, and not the outcome of the struggle, that defines the new heroism. The Holocaust novels of Anna Langfus, Zdena Berger, Ilona Karmel, Michel del Castillo and Jacob *Presser are informed by the durability and dignity of the victim who survives the temptation to succumb to his own death or to cooperate in the murder of others, who manages to preserve not only his physical self, but his sanity and humanity as well.
Most of these novels are fictionalized autobiographies, in which the authenticity of the experience is evident to the reader long before he comes to the biographical note about the author at the end of the book. Many of these authors have written only one novel on this subject, their autobiographical fiction serving primarily to delineate a space for future silence.
One of the most talented of these writers was Anna Langfus, whose two books written originally in French, The Whole Land Brimstone (1962) and The Lost Shore (1963), form a continuous narrative of tranquility, destruction, survival, and return. A single symbol, appearing in the opening pages of the first book – the crash of the family's chandelier as the first bomb of the war hits their town – presages the shattering of the lives of all these people, and could epitomize the disintegrative phase in this entire genre of survival literature. The heroine, who is destined to be an only survivor, is first introduced to us as a self-serving young lady surrounded by an indulgent family. She has no point of reference beyond the sphere of her own family, and her story reflects only incidentally the communal history of the Warsaw ghetto in which she lives; it is almost as if she alone were subjected to war and bereavement. This kind of anomie is typical of the wartime biography of many assimilated Jews. At the end of her wanderings from refuge to refuge in The Whole Land Brimstone, she crawls back in desperation and self-pity to her family's home – to find it occupied by new tenants. By the end of the second volume, The Lost Shore, she has managed to regain a small measure of human empathy and a tenuous hold on the future.
Zdena Berger's novel, Tell Me Another Morning (1959), covers the same territory from the home to the Holocaust and back again – but with greater tenderness and tolerance. The chapters are organized around physical objects, properties of a civilized pre-Holocaust world that may ultimately serve as signposts to guide the soul's return. The three heroines are neither cut off from a community of values nor from one another, and even in the camp they are saved from the loneliness and despair that lead the musselman to his death. In that inevitable moment in survival literature when Tania, the first-person narrator, returns to her former home to find it expropriated by strangers, she somehow finds the strength to lay her memories to rest; it is at this moment that drops of menstrual blood begin to trickle down her leg, signifying the return of her life energies and faith in the possibilities of renewal.
Ilona Karmel, like Zdena Berger, was a survivor who adopted America as her home and English as the medium for her fiction. Her novel, An Estate of Memory (1969), is also about survival in a group. Unlike the others, her story begins in medias res – "on that day everyone in the camp was painted" – with flashbacks to prewar conditions. It is narrated from the perspective of each of the four women who make up the group. Of the four, only one is to survive the war – but this time the sign of regeneration is not in the survival of these adults but in the rescue of a child who is born to one of the women in the course of her internment. This child's birth and survival represent the possibilities for life even in the death camps, and to each of the four women, who is motherless and childless, the baby symbolizes all her unborn and her dead. For all the horror, for all the temptation and the compromise, a semblance of the basic human impulses is preserved.
Another novelist whose wartime experience carried him across national and linguistic boundaries is Michel del Castillo, who was born in Spain but was eventually to migrate to France and write his autobiographical novel, Child of Our Time, in French in 1957. His novel is one of the outstanding examples of literature of the displaced. Whereas for the American writer, the problem of authenticity in art is primarily one of content, for the displaced European writer it is more the communication of experience. Del Castillo's story is also a significant contribution to the growing number of tales of the children of the Holocaust told by their adult selves. Tanguy is five years old when he begins the long journey that is to lead to separation from both his parents and internment in several concentration camps. He is twenty-four years old when he is finally reunited with his mother in 1955. His tale is told quite simply and directly at first, the innocent and factual perceptions of the child only underscoring the horror of a world that swaddles its children in rags and sends them out to "play" at digging trenches, shooting those who do not work fast or efficiently enough. It is only later, as a young man, that Tanguy begins to wonder "if a world could ever exist in which children were loved and protected." The keynote of his survival is the lack of hatred or desire for revenge that he carries with him into a postwar world in which he can no longer believe in God or in political ideology but only in the few human beings who have buffered him from the brutality of the system.
Jacob Presser, a Dutch writer, is somewhat unusual in having realized his Holocaust memories in both fiction and historiography. He published one short autobiographical novel, Breaking Point, in 1958 and ten years later, in his capacity as professor of history, wrote a detailed study of the history of the Dutch Jews during the German occupation. Yet the almost infinite accretion of facts in his scholarly work does not convey the essence of the conflicts and the agonies of the times as powerfully as his fictionalized story of one man's struggle with and triumph over the temptation to collaborate with evil. The author ironically acknowledged the historicity of his story by admitting that, with one exception, "none of the characters is to be identified with any person still living" (emphasis mine). The first-person narrative is a relentlessly direct confession of a man who is awaiting deportation to a death camp from the *Westerbork transit camp. The simple tale of the cooption of Jacob, a marginal Jew, into the diabolical hierarchy in which victims become victimizers, and the process of his spiritual return, escapes banality and melodrama by virtue of the depth and the irony that underlie the simplicity of presentation. This is not strictly a story of survival, inasmuch as it is meant to be the last testament of a man condemned to death. But the "coincidence" of the namesakes of narrator and author suggests that "Jacob" did survive to tell the tale; and the ultimate affirmation of the value of life lived humanly is a basic characteristic that this novel shares with the rest of "survival literature."
the holocaust in the continuum of jewish history
There is a way out as well as a way into the inferno for the survivor whose physical and moral preservation provides him with a historical and a normative link to his pre-Holocaust past. For a few European writers such as Elie Wiesel, Nelly Sachs and André *Schwarz-Bart, it is not personal biography, but Jewish history that provides the structural continuity between past and present.
Elie Wiesel, who was deported from his home town of Sighet, then part of Hungary, as a child, infuses his tales of home with all the piety and innocence that childhood memories confer. His writing is not only an act of commemoration, but also of resurrection, of the men who appeared to his young mind as saints and prophets. He focuses not on the deaths but on the lives of these people, and all of his writing has been an attempt to snatch the victims back from the flames that consumed them, to free them from fate, to suspend history, if only for a brief moment. But since, unlike the historically liberated fantasies of Irving Feldman, Wiesel's tales must conclude by handing the victims back to the executioner, the tale must be repeated again and again in what becomes almost a ritualistic act. The madman, the master, the beggar, and the orphan reappear many times in various guises. Wiesel is almost unique among Holocaust writers in reiterating aspects or projections of his own autobiography in repeated stories. By maintaining the dialogue with relatives and teachers long after they have perished, he has managed to retain elements of the pre-Holocaust world as options for relations in the post-Holocaust universe.
Insofar as the Holocaust tends to defy preexistent forms of art, many writers seem to prefer historical narratives to traditional forms of imaginative literature. Stephen Spender wrote that "an attempt to envisage thousands of victims as tragic heroes and heroines is too great a strain on the survivors, and, in art, risks becoming insincere." Wiesel manages to preserve certain aesthetic forms and religious categories by avoiding direct confrontation with atrocity. With the exception of Night, his first and most directly confessional novel, the camps exist only on the periphery of the mind of the survivor, or on the edge of the partisan-inhabited forest. He has not taken upon himself the task of envisaging the "thousands of victims." Wiesel himself admitted, in a discussion with Eugene Heimler, that even in the Auschwitz or Buchenwald of Night, "I did not describe the Holocaust. I described a child in the Holocaust." He has chosen subjects that are manageable and credible in a world whose totality is unmanageable and incredible. The substance of his dialogue with his masters and with God fall within a tradition, which furnishes a literary and theological framework for encompassing the problematic reality of the Jews in the Holocaust. Even his blasphemies can be located in a tradition that stretches from the Patriarch Abraham to Rabbi Levi Isaac of Berdichev. InThe Town beyond the Wall, Michael admits to his friend and alter-ego, Pedro,
I go up against Him, I shake my fist, I froth with rage, but it's still a way of telling Him that He's there, that He exists… that denial itself is an offering to His grandeur. The shout becomes a prayer in spite of me.
As long as the form of prayer is still there, even when it is emptied of its contents, there is hope of renewal.
But even Wiesel, who has been hailed as the oral as well as the literary spokesman for the Holocaust, seems to be turning away. His books on the Holocaust, Beggar in Jerusalem and One Generation After, were fragmentary in design, their symbols often contrived and their language closer to empty rhetoric than true parable. In 1972 he published Souls on Fire, a recounting of the Hasidic legends he had heard as a child – and in form, if not in content, the book is an extension of his best Holocaust writing. The power and uniqueness of Wiesel's tales of the Holocaust, like the legends on which they were modeled, was that they united dramatic realism with a moral lesson, or, more often, a moral challenge. In Souls on Fire, Wiesel seems finally to be able to lay his dead to rest and return to the legendary sources themselves.
Nelly Sachs was perhaps the only poet writing in a European language whose themes and symbols of the Holocaust were so integrated into Jewish history that they tended to diminish the uniqueness of the horror and to turn the murderers into impersonal and abstract forces. The thrust of her poetry is the inevitable suffering of the Jew in the historical dialectic between Jew and non-Jew; if it is the ancient destiny of the Jew to suffer, then it is the equally inescapable destiny of the gentile to perpetrate suffering. The Germans are never singled out as the victimizers in the contemporary catastrophe Nelly Sachs is elegizing; only the Jews are named. "It is our power together to fulfill the ancient call of our people – new and purified by suffering," she wrote to Professor Berendsohn in 1946. It is not difficult to understand why the Germans awarded the Frankfurt Peace Prize to Sachs in 1965 – a prize that carried the commendation for poetry that "reconciles German and Jew without contradiction. Her poems and lyric descriptions are masterpieces of German, works of forgiveness, salvation, and peace." Even the most demonic symbol of the Nazi machinery of death, the crematory chimney, is neutralized in her poetry into a mere latter-day conveyance for facilitating the flow of dust that is as old as the martyrdom of Jeremiah and Job:
O the chimneys!
Freedomway for Jeremiah and Job's dust–
Who devised you and laid stone upon stone
The road for refugees of smoke?
It almost seems as if there could be more than one answer to the question. In the poem "Landscape of Screams," this latest martyrdom of Israel is seen as preordained and prefigured in the Akedah – the screams of Israel are an echo of Abraham's "scream for the son of his heart," and even the sacrificial knife has been passed down as a murder weapon from Mt. Moriah to Maidanek.
For the battered reader of Holocaust literature, Sachs' lyrics offer solace and gentleness. There is no hatred here, no pledge to vengeance. And as the Holocaust assimilates into Jewish history, so all of nature is organic and integral and, ultimately, benevolent.
André Schwarz-Bart's novel, The Last of the Just (1959), is another attempt to integrate the Holocaust into the continuum of Jewish suffering. His literary images are far more textured and subtle than those of Nelly Sachs, and the agonies and horrors are far more vivid. But in viewing the Holocaust as a kind of culmination of the pogroms that began in York eleven centuries ago, and in presenting Ernie Levy, one of the Six Million, as the last in the Levy line of Just Men, he too has avoided many of the tensions that plague other writers of the Holocaust. Even the ironies of a betrayed faith at the close of the book are not the tortured challenge and revolt of Wiesel's writing, which is concerned entirely with the internal process of Jewish history and questions of theodicy. If Wiesel rejects the concept of the destiny of the Jews as suffering witnesses to Christian history, both Schwarz-Bart and Nelly Sachs seem to embrace it. "The Christians," says Ernie Levy, "take the cross by the other end and make a sword out of it." Ernie himself becomes an unwitting actor in a children's improvised Passion play, and later accepts a clearly Christological role by seeking martyrdom in the concentration camp at *Drancy and suffering all the children to be comforted by him in their last hours, as his eyes weep tears of blood. Again, as with Nelly Sachs' poetry, there is an abiding faith in the foreordained order of historical roles that lessens moral tensions and diminishes even the death agonies in the gas chambers.
the holocaust as an apocalyptic event
There is another group of writers, who, although they have little else in common, deny the continuity between the pre-Holocaust past and the post-Holocaust future. For them the Holocaust is the primary and only reality, an apocalyptic event from which there is no return.
The writer who most powerfully delineated the geography of this anti-Eden is Adolf Rudnicki. His collection of short stories, Ascent to Heaven, was published in Polish shortly after the war and translated into English a few years later (1951). The desolate backdrop of the ruined ghettos of wartime Poland renders the human attempts to retain a semblance of dignity feeble and pitiful. In all of Holocaust literature, probably the most graphically striking picture of the physical destruction of the civilization of the Jews of Eastern Europe can be found in Rudnicki's story, "The Crystal Stream":
Here [in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto] was not one of the elements created or organized by human effort, nothing to establish that this spot had been inhabited by man. Over an area which the eye could encompass only with difficulty, where formerly the greatest concentration of Jews in Europe had been housed, there was nothing but rubble and broken brick.
The physical context in which Jorge Semprun's French novel The Long Voyage (1964) takes place – a boxcar transporting one hundred and twenty political prisoners to Buchenwald – is as indigenous to the landscape of the Holocaust universe as the rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto. The five-day journey becomes the microcosm that contains memories of time past and projections of time future. Semprun uses the voyage, a motif that is almost as old as literature itself, to fix the Holocaust in the eternal present. The narrative, written 16 years after the event, opens this way: "There is the cramming of the bodies into the boxcar, the throbbing pain in the right knee." The endless darkness that envelops these five days is the primordial night, and the works of these days are a new beginning; by the end of the fifth day, death has gained dominion – death by starvation in the boxcar and the murder of Jewish children at the entrance to the camp. For the writer for whom there can be no Holocaust-free memories, this is the first year of the new calendar; 16 years after its stillborn creation, the death of these children is "already adolescent."
But the countryside through which the train passes on its way to – and from – Buchenwald is the serene Moselle Valley, as mockingly indifferent to the plight of these voyagers as are the peasants who live in these valleys and pretend not to smell the sweet smoke that emanates from the camp's chimneys. Buchenwald remains the sole inalienable property of those who were incarcerated there. But if Buchenwald is the primary condition of the narrator's existence, freedom is his essence. Semprun's narrative, like Rousset's, is the story of the political prisoner who chooses his own fate in joining the forces of the Resistance, and however necessary the consequences of such a choice may be, they are predicated on a freedom that was never the Jew's option.
Piotr Rawicz's novel Blood from the Sky explores other options, open to those Jews not marked by blatantly "Semitic" features. The hero, Boris, is a young educated Jew from a well-to-do family who manages to survive the war disguised as a Ukrainian farmer. The novel was originally published in French in 1961, and constitutes a very unusual – and not altogether coherent – literary experiment. It is narrated directly by Boris himself and introduced by the "author," who claims to have met him in a café after the war. This double narrative allows for both the earnest confessions of Boris and the cynical commentary of the "author." The fragmented narrative is interspersed with poems, parables, and philosophical speculations that transport the reader out of the normal flow of historical events. The cynicism that Rawicz shares with other writers of quasi-apocalyptic Holocaust literature is evident in some of the more grotesque scenes, which border at times on the scatological. But the more intently serious passages reflect oscillations in Rawicz's search for a literary medium that would be adequate to his subject. Other writers, such as Yakov Lind in German, Romain *Gary in French, and Jerzy *Kosinski in English, have been more consistent in adopting forms that leave no room for sentiment, for altruism or for heroism, which have no reference to a civilized world beyond the concentration camp universe.
Lind's collection of short stories Soul of Wood was published in 1964 and Gary's novel The Dance of Genghis Cohn appeared in 1968. There are no sane or sober touchstones in this fiction to provide direction for the reader's moral sensibilities. The hero of Lind's title story is a paralytic; Gary's novel is narrated in the first person by the ghost of a Jewish victim who has come back in the form of a dybbuk to haunt his Nazi murderer. In his former existence, the narrator was a stand-up comic in the Yiddish burlesque circuit in Berlin, in Warsaw – and "finally in Auschwitz." Both Lind and Gary have rejected the paradigm of tragedy for the paradigm of madness, embracing surrealism as the only mode through which art could express the outrage that the Holocaust had wrought on the human psyche. Gary's narrator, the irrepressible Genghis Cohn, muses with disgust on the classical works of art that have been inspired by the agonies of dying mortals:
The thought occurs to me that thousands of artists have made works of great beauty out of the sufferings of Christ. They have feasted on it. I also remember that out of mutilated corpses of Guernica Picasso produced Guernica and Tolstoy milked war and peace for his War and Peace. I've always believed that if we still talk about Auschwitz and Treblinka, it's because the thing has not yet been redeemed by a beautiful work of literature…
Am I, by any chance, being written up, or turned into a work of art or a poem, God forbid? That's one way of getting rid of me, a well-known method of exorcising the dybbuk
Truth is ugliness; ugliness, truth. The grotesque is the norm. Lind's stories do not allow for speculation on the propriety or plausibility of the fact that a passenger riding on a train finds himself sharing a compartment with a genteel-looking man who plans to bludgeon and dismember him and then consume his flesh – or that when one is invited to a stranger's house for dinner, he may find himself served up as entrée. The language of these satires is compressed and matter-of-fact, never indicating by authorial tone that anything out of the ordinary is taking place.
Like Lind, Kosinski circumvents the camps themselves and presents the Holocaust as the universal condition of contemporary mankind. His novel The Painted Bird (1965) is, essentially, the story of the inception and growth of evil in the soul of a young child. The Boy is only six years old when the story opens, but it does not take him long to learn that the secret of survival lies in sacrificing his innocence and pledging himself to the demonic forces that are sovereign in his world. As an alien who is taken at times for a gypsy, at times for a Jew – his true identity is never established and is actually irrelevant – he hides in numerous villages and only survives the cruelty of the local peasants by learning to beat them at their own game. These unlettered, instinctual peasants approximate only crudely the tortures that were being perfected a few miles away by civilized humanity in highly efficient concentration camps.
This story is too grim for even black humor. The essence of the drama, admits Kosinski in notes to the German translation of the novel, is hate. And of all the actors, it is the Boy whose hatred is the deepest and most conscious. Precisely because the tainted hero is a child, the novel taps the most primary sources of fear and terror that are sublimated even in much of Holocaust literature. Somehow, until Kosinski, childhood had retained its innocence in tragedy. Michel del Castillo leads his child right through the fires, but he brings him out morally unscathed. Arnošt *Lustig, a Czech writer whose translated stories appeared in the collection Night and Hope in 1962, has carved an island of adolescent love, loyalty, and a kind of defiant innocence in the midst of the ghetto. Even Ilse Aichinger's novel, Herod's Children (translated from German in 1963), a highly sophisticated attempt to present the fantasy world of a group of persecuted children, preserves the insulation of childhood. The fantasies are often nightmares, and reality intrudes rudely at times to shatter the dreamers with their dreams, but until the end the surviving children retain their solidarity and their ability to love.
Just as Kosinski refuses to limit the collaboration with the forces of destruction to a specific age group, so he refuses to locate Auschwitz on a specific geographical plane. The Holocaust becomes the essence of Western civilization in the twentieth century. It is assimilated into the routine and the vocabulary of our lives. It is the
Coal-black milk of morning we drink it at sundown
we drink it at noon and at dawning we drink it at night
we drink it and drink it…
(Paul *Celan, "Todesfuge" ("Fugue of Death"))
There is one writer who refused to enhance or augment stark reality by submitting it to even the minimal demands of artistic or moral mediation. Tadeusz Borowski was a Polish writer who spent several years as a political prisoner in Nazi camps. His own behavior during his internment was, according to his compatriot and fellow writer Czeslaw Milosz, admirable – but the narrators in his fiction are presented as collaborators in a system that is universally debasing. When all the trappings of civilization are stripped away, naked humanity shows itself to be a bundle of animal needs, its cleverness and strength directed only toward satisfying those needs. There is revulsion in the attitudes of the camp inmates to work they are forced to do, but it is aesthetic, rather than moral, revulsion. Borowski's prose is brutally direct, and he refuses to clothe the naked bloated bodies of dead children in the dignity of a single metaphor. Not only is there no pre-Holocaust world in his fiction, there is no world at all outside the physical boundaries of the system.
Borowski's short stories began to appear in English translation in the early 1960s, but were collected, under the title This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, only in 1967. By this time their author had been dead for 16 years. Most of his Holocaust stories had been written immediately after the war – quite an unusual phenomenon, if one recalls that several years (in some cases, decades) had to elapse before most writers could attempt to transform their memories into art. Borowski did not permit himself the luxury of distance either in time or in literary perspective. He received immediate recognition in postwar Poland for his uncompromising treatment of Nazism – but with the hardening of the Party line his writing came to be regarded as too nihilistic, and he was prevailed upon to set his literary talents to Communist polemic. Finally, overburdened by the mendacious propaganda he was forced to write, or by the memories his fiction had not exorcised, Borowski took his own life in 1951.
art as the redemption of meaning
It is striking that for the most part the Jewish writers, or at least those who share a traditionally Jewish view of the function of art, have not allowed their world or their word to collapse. For the seminal Hebrew poet, Ḥayyim Naḥman *Bialik, the poetic word was a bridge over the chasm of nothingness, a spontaneous creation out of the void. Yet it is not simply in the act of nomination, but also in the affirmative act of transmission that the Jewish poet has sought to fulfill his role. Bialik himself was the poet of national calamity as well as national aspiration, and his poems commemorating the martyrs of the *Kishinev pogrom constitute a form of historical transmission that is as old as the lamentations of Jeremiah. It is in the light of this impulse to use art as a vehicle for national experience that we can understand the concern of many European Jewish writers with the documentary authenticity of their art, or the attempt of other writers to fit the Holocaust into a historical continuum.
Nevertheless, the inevitable consequence of the passage of time is the diminishing presence of the survivors, witnesses to the history, who force the confrontation between the event and the literary reflections of the event. To the extent that the Jewish artist is engaged in the "documentation" of historical agonies and the transformation of experience into a summons for renewal, time is running out.
The writer who has seen the fires of the camps and called them the flames of a dreadful apocalypse, and the writer who has looked at the same fires and seen the phoenix rising from the ashes, present not only two distinct artistic responses to the Holocaust experience, but also different paradigms for the relation between art and history and the place of art in modern culture.
into the twenty-first century
In the last quarter of the twentieth century and well into the first decade of the twenty-first, Holocaust literature has emerged as a distinct genre, recognizable, and increasingly indispensable to understanding the event and its implications and to the ability to comprehend humanity in extremis.
Survivors, primarily Jewish survivors, have continued to write memoirs and to tell their stories. The extent of their contribution is significant, especially considering the paucity of written recollections of what happened to the Roma and Sinti (gypsies), whose testimony remains oral and virtually unrecorded and undocumented. The Jewish survivors have written in every European language, including Yiddish and Hebrew. With the increased interest in the Holocaust, important works written in one language find their way into others.
New media have provided new opportunities. With the advent of inexpensive video technology and the massive efforts of video history programs, no generation to date has left as complete a record of its experience. Lawrence *Langer's Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory (1991) is an important literary exploration of the importance of this new way of telling. These recordings will offer future generations a people's memories of the event.
As James *Young has pointed out, there is a dramatic difference between memoirs written after the event, at a distance, and the diarist writing within the inferno. The diarists did not know what lay ahead, perhaps could not know what lay ahead precisely because it was unimaginable, and thus the reader is left with the whirlwind of often indigestible experience, without order, and often without any way of interpreting it. In contrast, the memoir writer knows at the beginning of the story what happened and imposes order on what was experienced in chaos, inserts knowledge of what was happening elsewhere that was unavailable to one undergoing the experience. Generally, the organization is simple, as reflected in the title of Siegfried Halbreich's 1991 memoir, Before, During and After, though the life that he lived did not lend itself to such neat order. "Before" was not quite before and "During" there was total uncertainty if there would be an "After."
Each memoirist encounters the limits of language in its ability to describe in ordinary words what happened. Primo Levi was not alone in insisting that had the lagers lasted a little longer, they would have invented a language of their own to describe the destruction and dehumanization of men and women. Indeed, it is the mark of a serious writer on the Holocaust that he understands and wrestles with the attempt to express the inexpressible, to put into words what it may be impossible to be put into words. Elie Wiesel wondered if the very commitment to language was not betrayal. Ludwig *Wittgenstein wrote at the end of the Tractatus: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent." And yet, as Martin Buber said: "Speak we must. Such is the melancholy of man, also his greatness."
Major writers have tried to grapple with the events of the Holocaust and some have written significant books. William Styron, whose Confessions of Nat Turner (1967) was an important exploration of slavery, used a young Southerner as his means for exploring the Holocaust. He relied on the work of Richard L. Rubenstein in The Cunning of History, in which Rubenstein viewed the Holocaust as the perverse perfection of human slavery: The slave was no longer a capital investment but a consumable raw material to be used in the process of manufacture and recycled into the German war economy. In Sophie's Choice (1979) Styron respectfully did not use a Jewish inmate but Sophie, a non-Jewish Pole, as his entry point. Styron did not enter Auschwitz; he viewed it from the vantage point of the Commandant's house. Styron understood the particularity of the Jewish experience and respected it.
But at the defining moment of the novel, when Sophie is forced to make a choice, Styron backs away. He cannot penetrate into Sophie's world. Styron understood that the victims faced "choiceless choices," choosing between the impossible and the horrific, never choosing between good and bad, right and wrong, but between the unimaginable and impossible. So when Sophie was forced to choose, Styron protected her zone of privacy. Every casual reader wanted to know how Sophie felt – a trivial question that would merit a trivial answer. She did not feel. She could not feel. Instead Styron asked: what manner of man put Sophie before such a choice – a profound question that shatters our image of humanity and that shakes us to the foundation of our being.
Someday I will understand Auschwitz. This was a brave statement but innocently absurd. No one will ever understand Auschwitz. What I might have set down with more accuracy might have been: Someday I will write about Sophie's life and death. And thereby help demonstrate how absolute evil is never extinguished from the world. Auschwitz itself remains inexplicable. The most profound statement yet made about Auschwitz was not a statement at all, but a response.
Philip *Roth, whose earlier explorations of American Jews enraged some Jewish critics, who feared that he was telling non-Jews too much about the dark side of American Jewish life, has been instrumental in bringing East European writing, especially Jewish writing, to the United States. Like his elders, Saul *Bellow and Arthur *Miller, and other American Jewish writers, Roth explored the Holocaust, albeit from the vantage point of safety, from the perspective of memory. His offering, a 2004 work of counterhistory, The Plot against America, envisions an antisemitic Charles Lindbergh as president from 1941, not Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and depicts a counterhistory so vividly that even though the reader knows it is fiction, he rapidly turns the pages to see how it turns out.
Holocaust literature has been recognized and rewarded as unique testimony of the human spirit. In 2002, the Hungarian Jewish writer Imre *Kertész was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature "for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history."
The citation read: "In his writing Imre Kertész explores the possibility of continuing to live and think as an individual in an era in which the subjection of human beings to social forces has become increasingly complete…. For him Auschwitz is not an exceptional occurrence that like an alien body subsists outside the normal history of Western Europe. It is the ultimate truth about human degradation in modern existence." His work, especially his novel Sorstalanság (1975; Fateless, 1992), deals with his experience as a young teenager in Auschwitz. As does his Kaddis a meg nem született gyermekért (1990; Kaddish for a Child not Born, 1997), which shares much of Primo Levi's pessimism regarding the human condition, and explores the dubious blessing of survival and the price paid for that survival.
There is a paradox relating to the Holocaust: the more distant we stand from the event the larger the event looms. For some writers the event is no longer the focus, but memory; not direct experience but the recollection of that experience by themselves or by others. The focus is on memory, most especially when there is a struggle for memory. Saul *Friedlaender, a distinguished historian who has focused on the Holocaust, produced what may arguably be called his most important work in When Memory Comes (1979; originally published in France as Quand vient la souvenir, 1978). A child survivor of the Holocaust whose parents were murdered in Auschwitz, raised as a Catholic, Friedlaender was told the truth about himself only as he was preparing to enter the priesthood. Child survivors of the Holocaust, young children especially who by the turn of the twenty-first century were men and women in their sixties and seventies, have been insistent that they too remember. For years, many of them had their memories challenged – sometimes protectively, sometimes defiantly, and sometimes dismissively as people said: "What could you remember, you were only a child."
Children's memories are suspect; so too are their memoirs, especially now after the controversy surrounding Binjamin Wilkomirski's Fragments (1995), a brilliant "memoir" that was very well reviewed but turned out to have been a work of imaginative fiction. The fraud was scandalous, injurious to the entire genre of memoirs, and fodder in the hands of those who would deny the Holocaust and challenge all survivors' testimony. The genocide scholar and young child survivor Robert Melson's work False Papers (2000) was an important attempt to distinguish between the stories that he had heard and the moments he recalled. Children may not remember events because events have a context and a history, and children may not be familiar with either. They will recall, often quite vividly, emotions like fear and terror, excitement or anticipation. They may even recall colors and smells, which later knowledge permits them to interpret events in a more complete narrative. Despite his youth at the time, Melson insists on the integrity of his memory and keeps the reader informed of the difference between what he has remembered and what he has pieced together as an adult. Melson insists that he remembers what he remembers, but fortifies his personal memories by allowing the reader to understand how the fragments of his memories have been pieced together into a coherent narrative. He interviewed his parents over an extended period of time and presents their stories in their own voices. Nina, Willy, and Bobi thus emerge with integrity of their own, and each character is given his due. Yehuda Nir has written of The Lost Childhood (1989). His teenage years were not a period of adolescence; he went from childhood to adulthood with the German invasion. His sentiments are mirrored by the historian Nechama Tec's Dry Tears: The Story of a Lost Childhood (1982). Alexandra Zapruder edited an important collection of children's diaries and essays written during the Holocaust in Salvaged Pages (2002).
Child survivors must be distinguished from children of survivors. Helen Epstein's Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Survivors (1979) called a generation into being. And several major writers have emerged as literary figures in their own right who are children of survivors and who have made the Holocaust a centerpiece, if not the centerpiece, of their work. See Under – Love (1989; in Hebrew, 1986) is one of many fine works by the Israeli author David Grossman. American writers like Melvin Bukiet, author of Stories of an Imaginary Childhood (1992), After (1996), and Nothing Makes You Free: Writings by Descendants of the Jewish Holocaust Survivors (2002), an anthology he edited, and Thane Rosenbaum, author of Second Hand Smoke (1999), Elijah Visible (1996), and Golems of Gotham (2002), have centered their work on their experience as children of survivors. The cartoonist Art *Spiegelman used his craft to daringly and controversially portray his family narrative in two works, Maus (1986) and Maus ii (1991), and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his efforts.
Women's literature has emerged as a distinct form of Holocaust narrative. While Jewish women were victimized as Jews, there are distinct aspects to their suffering that are not encompassed in the male experience and the male narrative. Dalia Offer and Lenore Weizmann, Carol Rittner and John Roth have compiled anthologies and critical discussions. Charlotte Delbo is a non-Jewish French writer who has shared her experience as an inmate. The Holocaust has been used by some women writers as an instrument to advance a feminist agenda, usually unsuccessfully. More importantly, when the tools of women's studies are used to understand unique aspects of the Holocaust, little controversy emerges and greater understanding.
The emergence of Holocaust literature has spawned the field of literary studies of the Holocaust. Lawrence Langer wrote The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination (1975) as a student of literature; his subsequent works have been attempts to understand the Holocaust through the lens of literature and increasingly of art. He has given the field a definitive understanding of the situation of the victims with his memorable phrase "choiceless choices." He has been insistent that the Holocaust be confronted not as a tragedy but as an atrocity, an event without redemptive meaning that shatters the orderliness of time and perspective.
Alvin Rosenfeld has spent half a century using literary criticism as a lens of understanding. His early work Double Dying: Reflections on Holocaust Literature (1980) has been joined by a later, edited, work, Thinking About the Holocaust: After Half a Century (1997), that uses his skill as a literary scholar to probe the Holocaust. Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi's By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature (1980), explores literature and the limitations of literature.
The literary critic Terrence Des Pres introduced the term "excremental assault" (in The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps, 1976), which over time has been understood not as a metaphor but as an actual depiction of the Nazi attempt at human defilement. What Bruno Bettelheim in the Informed Heart (1960) once dismissed as infantilization of the victims has come to be perceived as structural. Robert Jan Van Pelt described the architecture of Auschwitz in Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (1994), edited by Israel Gutman and Michael Berenbaum. Van Pelt tallied 70 latrines for 35,000 inmates, a biological catastrophe that was an essential part of the design of the camp. Dehumanization, as Gitta Sereny discovered in her memoir, Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (1974), was essential to the perpetrators. It made the act of killing easier.
David Roskies and Alan Mintz, both of the Jewish Theological Seminary, both students of Hebrew literature and Roskies of Yiddish literature, have attempted to put this literature of the Shoah into the context of the history of Jewish literature and thus to explore what it shares in common and where it differs. Roskies' anthology, Literature of Destruction: Jewish Responses to Catastrophe (1989), traverses the whole of Jewish literature and places the Holocaust within it, while his work Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (1984), confines itself to the modern world and travels far beyond literature. Mintz, in Ḥurban: Responses to Catastrophe in Hebrew Literature (1984), seeks like Roskies to explore the Holocaust in a broader context. He later wrote on Popular Culture and the Shaping of Holocaust Memory in America (2001).
Gabriel Rosenfeld has explored counterhistory in The World Hitler Never Made (2005). Thus with all the exalted genre of Holocaust literature, there is a dark side as well; high art joins low. In the hands of talented and respectful writers, those who approach the subject with fear and trembling, the very subject matter calls forth new creation and expands the boundaries of literary possibility. It illumines our understanding of the event as those with imagination, sensitivity, and talent grapple with its impact and asks new questions or explore old questions in new ways. And because the Holocaust has now become a paradigmatic manifestation of twentieth-century evil, a centerpiece of our understanding of all evil and of the human capacity to inflict and to endure evil, there is no doubt that it will be a subject of literature for the future as well.
I. Halperin, Messengers from the Dead (1970); A. Alvarez, in: Commentary 38, no. 5 (Nov., 1964), 65–69; D.G. Roskies, in Conservative Judaism (Summer, 1971), 41–45; E. Roditi, in: Congress bi-Weekly, 33, no. 13 (Oct. 24, 1966), 15–16; M. Syrkin, in: Midstream, 12:5 (May, 1966), 3–20; E. Pawel, ibid., 16, no. 6 (June/July, 1970), 14–26.
[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]
Literature dealing with the Holocaust began to take shape in the 1950s. From the end of the war through the early 1950s the main task was gathering facts and personal memoirs. P. Friedman collected a bibliography of bibliographies of that period. Among the first were Léon Poliakov, Bréviaire de la haine (1951; Harvest of Hate, 1954) and Gerald *Reitlinger, The Final Solution (1953). They describe actual events, look at some of the primary sources of Nazi hatred, and ask how such cold-blooded murder could have been perpetrated. In these studies the Jews appear as a passive element, the helpless victims of the machinery of destruction. In Their Brothers' Keepers (1967) P. Friedman attempted to describe mainly the courageous stand of the Jews, as did Ber Mark from a pro-Communist point of view in Walka i zaglada warszawskiego getta (1959). A new era in Holocaust research was inaugurated with Raul Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews (1961), which is the basic book for an understanding of German bureaucracy and the history of the murder of the Jews. Like the previous works it is based mainly on German sources. Hilberg studies in depth the amoral character of German bureaucracy and in doing so alludes to the danger inherent in bureaucratic systems as a whole. While he does not deal specifically with Jewish reaction, he states that Jewish leadership during that period became part of the Nazi bureaucratic system, albeit unwillingly, and that this contributed to the efficiency and the lack of any real resistance. He believes that the passivity of the Jewish people was the result of its historical Diaspora heritage, and that they did not avail themselves, except in isolated instances, of the only possible mode of reaction: armed revolt.
Many questions on these subjects were raised at the Eichmann trial in 1961. The dramatic character of the trial and the wealth of facts that emerged provided a new incentive to research into the Holocaust. Among the directly related publications are Ne'um ha-Petiḥah me'et Gidon Hausner, Ha-Yoeẓha-Mishpati la-Memshalah neged Edolf Eichmann, Piskei Din ve-Eduyyot, 1 (1961–63); idem, Ne'um ha-Sikkum 3 (1962); H. Barlas, N. Blumenthal, and Y. Kermish, Ha-Sho'ah ve-ha-Mishpat, 1–3 (1961–63); and R.M.W. Kempner, Eichmann und Konplizen (1961) (Heb., Ha-Mikẓoa Hashmadah (1963)), and Gideon Hausner, Justice in Jerusalem (1966).
Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963) interpreted the facts in an extreme manner. She believed that the atrocities had been perpetrated by bureaucrats the likes of which are found in large numbers in every society today. In her opinion, Jewish leadership cooperated fully with the Nazis and it would have been better had there been no leaders. Jacob Robinson in his And the Crooked Shall be Made Straight (1965) pointed out countless errors in her book, and seriously challenged the validity of her conclusions. The book by the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, The Informed Heart (1961), expresses views related to those of Hilberg. The Nazi system, as evidenced by what happened during the reign of terror in the concentration camps, had the power to crush its victims and turn them into mere ciphers. Only rare individuals could survive; it was precisely the Jews with their humanistic-liberal education who were among the easiest victims. Robinson also replied to Bettelheim in Psychoanalysis in a Vacuum: B. Bettelheim and the Holocaust (1970). From objections to the books of Hilberg, Arendt, and Bettelheim, an apologetic literature emerged that tried to defend the stand of the Jews: e.g., Y. Suhl, They Fought Back (1967); M. Elkins, Forged in Fury (1971); and R. Ainzstein in his Jewish Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Eastern Europe (1974) went to extremes in describing the Holocaust as the history of the war of the armed Jews against the Nazis. The aim of such an exaggerated approach was possibly to fill the spiritual need of the Jewish public in general, and that of the Israelis in particular, to counteract the feeling of helplessness felt so strongly at the Eichmann trial.
In Eastern Europe, mainly in Poland, historiography that explains the Holocaust as the result of the rise to power of German imperialism and European fascism has been prevalent (especially since 1967). The Polish people are described as assisting in the attempts to save the Jews while the Jews are described as totally passive and their leadership as traitorous and weak. Allegations were directed particularly against the Zionists, who are said to have cooperated with the Nazis. According to these interpretations, the ghetto uprisings, especially in the Warsaw ghetto, were carried out by pro-Communist Jews under Communist leadership. Such is the case with W. Bartoszewski-Z. Lewin, Righteous Among Nations: How the Poles Helped the Jews, 1939–1945 (1969), which describes in broad detail the help allegedly extended by most of the Polish people to the Jews. This distortion of history is also found in the works of serious historians: G. Madajczyk, Polityka iii Rzeszy w okupowanej Polace (1970), K. Iranek-Osmecki, Kto ratuje jedno zycie… Polacy i Zydzi 1939–1945 (1968). Some Polish historiography, occasionally shared by Polish emigrés to the West, tends to become propaganda and approaches antisemitism by accusing the Jews, in effect, of participating in their own annihilation.
The Nazis ("neo-Nazis"), and those who consciously or unconsciously support them, also have their own propaganda historiography: P. Rassinier, Le drame des Juifs européens (1964); R. Harwood, Did Six Million Really Die: The Truth at Last (1974); Austin J. App, The Six Million Swindle: Blackmailing the German People for Hard Marks with Fabricated Corpses (1974); T. Christophersen, The Auschwitz-Betrug (1975). This literature minimizes the number of Jews murdered, denies the very existence of the gas chambers in Auschwitz, claims that the Jews suffered no more than other nations and that their only casualties were war victims, or even that the murder of the Jews did not take place at all. This propaganda reached its climax with a book by Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century (1976), which claims that only a million Jews were killed during the war, that all the others emigrated and scattered, and that the Holocaust was invented by the Jews to extract money from the Germans and gain favor with the Western powers.
Following the Eichmann trial, and increasingly from the end of the 1960s, historiographic literature has been published that is not connected with any ideology. While Nora Levin's The Holocaust (1968) is largely a repeat of Hilberg's great book, The War against the Jews 1933–1945 (1975) by Lucy S. Dawidowicz was a new attempt at producing a general work on the Holocaust. The book does not deal with all of Jewish Europe and makes some generalizations that are not accepted by all research scholars. However, it does help in producing a much more balanced picture. A book by N. Eck, Sho'at ha-Am ha-Yehudi be-Europa (1975), is a less convincing comprehensive attempt. Helen Fein in her Accounting for Genocide (1979) uses a sociological-historical model that attempts to explain the differences between various occupied countries with regard to victimization of the Jews. Yehuda Bauer's Holocaust in Historical Perspective (1978) and The Jewish Emergence from Powerlessness (1979) are analytical attempts to deal with overall problems of the period from the historian's angle. Studies on many specific topics are missing and, although significant progress in the field of monographs and basic research has been made, without such studies it will be difficult to arrive at a balanced historical description. German scholars deal in depth with the study of the Nazi policy towards the Jews; e.g., H. Krausnick's "Judenverfolgung," in Helmut Krausnick, Martin Broszat, and Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, Anatomy of the ss State (1968), clarifies when the Nazis decided on the Final Solution and the stages in the Nazi policy towards the Jewish question. Andreas Hillgruber in "Die Endlosung und das Deutsche Ostimperium" in Viertel-jahreshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte, 2 (1972) deals with the connection between the murder of the Jews and the policy of Hitler towards the East; V.D. Adam in Judenpolitik im Dritten Reich (1972) traces the administrative steps of the Nazis towards the Jews and the tortuous paths of Nazi policy. Generally speaking, however, neither German, nor American, British, or French historiography has integrated the Holocaust in its analysis of World War ii.
Isaiah Trunk's Judenrat (1972) deals with the problematics of the Jewish Councils (Judenraete) in Poland and in the Baltic countries and their areas of activity and patterns of behavior. Another comprehensive survey of Judenraete is to be found in Patterns of Jewish Leadership in Nazi Europe 1933–1945 (1979), in the Proceedings of the Third Yad Vashem International Historical Conference, April 1979. Bibliography on this subject was collected by V. Wahlen in "Select Bibliography Judenraete under the Nazi Rule," in Yad Vashem Studies, 10 (1974). Books of basic documentation have been published: Nachman Blumental, Darko shel Judenrat (1962) on the Bialystok ghetto; Blumental, Te'udot mi-Getto Lublin (1967); Blumental and Yosef Kermish, Ha-Meri ve-ha-Mered be-Getto Varshah (1965); Adam Czerniakow, Yoman Getto Varshah (1969). In addition to the collections of documents, more than 500 books in commemoration of destroyed communities and memoirs of survivors have been published. Each adds a piece to the puzzle.
The study of the reaction, behavior, and resistance of the Jews is also still in progress. Among the important studies on this subject are Z.A. Brown and D. Levin, Toldoteha shel Maḥteret, ha-Irgun ha-Loḥem shel Yehudei Kovno (1962), on Kovno; Yitzhak *Arad, Vilna ha-Yehudit be-Ma'avakah u-ve-Kilyon (1976) on Vilna; Arad, Ghetto in Flames (1980) on Vilna; Israel Gutman, Mered Kovno (1962), on Kovno; Gutman, Mered ha-Neẓurim (1963), about Mordecai Anielewicz; Gutman,Yehudei Varshah 1939–1943 (1977), on Warsaw; A. Margaliot, Ben hatsalah le-ovdan: 'iyunim be-toldot Yehude Germanyah 1932–1938 (Jerusalem, 1990); and Livia Rothkirchen, Ḥurban Yahadut Slovakia (1961), on Slovakia. The description of the rescue of the Jews of Denmark is a separate chapter that has been dealt with by L. Yahil's Haẓalat ha-Yehudim be-Denyah (1967; The Rescue of Danish Jewry, 1969).
Studies of armed resistance by the Jews include Yehuda Bauer, They Chose Life: Resistance in the Holocaust (1973); Dov Levin, With Their Backs to the Wall (1978); Dov Levin, Loḥamim ve-Omedim al Nafsham: Milḥemet Yehudei Lita ba-Naẓim 1941–1945 (1975), on Lithuania; Dov Levin, Imha-Gav el ha-Kir – Leḥimat Yehudei Latvia neged ha-Nazim 1942–1944 (1978), on Latvia; Shmuel Krakowski, Leḥimah Yehudit be-Polin neged ha-Naẓim 1942–1944 (1977), on Poland; Erich Kulka, Ha-Yehudim be-Ẓeva Swoboda bi-Berit ha-Moaẓot,' Leḥimat Yehudei Tchekhoslovakia be-Nazim be-Milhemet ha-Olam ha-Sheniah (1977), on Jews with the Czech Army in the U.S.S.R.
However, most of the specific research on these subjects has appeared in articles and monographs published mainly in the collections of Yad Vashem Studies, thirty-three volumes as of 2006 in Hebrew and English; Yalkut Moreshet (73 issues as of 2006); Dappim le-Ḥeker ha-Sho'ah ve-ha-Mered, published by Bet Loḥamei ha-Getta'ot, First Series, two volumes (1951–52); Second Series, 17 volumes up to 2006; Institute for Research of the Holocaust Period, the University of Haifa and the Ghetto Fighters House, Studies of the Holocaust Period Vol. 1 (1978). Yad Vashem has also published collections of studies: Ha-Amidah ha-Yehudit bi-Tekufat ha-Sho'ah (1973), an introduction into the general problems of the Holocaust, and Nisyonot Haẓalah be-Tekufat ha-Sho'ah (1976), on rescue attempts.
Among those who have written on the survivors of the Holocaust are Z. Zimmerman, "Li-Demutah shel She'erit ha-Peletah be-Germanyah" (in Gesher, 4, 1969); Zimmerman, Ha-Itonut shel She'erit ha-Peletah be-Germanyah (1970), on the survivors' press; Yehuda Bauer, Flight and Rescue: Brikha (1970).
There has been an increase in the literature on the attitude of the various countries and groups to the Holocaust. Those concerning the United States include David S. Wyman's Paper Walls (1968); Henry L. Feingold, The Politics of Rescue (1970); and Saul S. Friedman, No Haven for the Oppressed (1973). Piercing questions about the apathy of the world are raised by Arthur D. Morse in While Six Million Died (1968). More and more questions are being asked about the attitude of the Jews of the free world and the Yishuv in Palestine towards their brethren under the Nazi rule, as in Yehuda Bauer's American Jewry and the Holocaust (1980). In the Jewish and Christian worlds, questions are raised as to how an omnipotent God could have allowed such bestiality to occur. From a traditional but not necessarily Orthodox Jewish point of view, Emil Fackenheim's God's Presence in History (1970) deals with the "commanding voice of Auschwitz" against giving Hitler a posthumous victory. A more conservative approach is that of Eliezer Berkovits in Faith after the Holocaust (1973). He dwells on the doctrine of hester panim (God's turning away His face). Irving J. Rosenbaum's The Holocaust and Halakhah (1976) produces evidence that there was ongoing religious activity during the Holocaust, as does H.J. Zimmels' The Echo of the Nazi Holocaust in the Rabbinic Literature (1975). A critical approach to the religious aspect of the Holocaust is in Richard L. Rubinstein, After Auschwitz (1966); Alexander Donat, The Holocaust Kingdom (1965); and Donat, "Kol mi-Tokh ha-Afar" (in Yalkut Moreshet, 21, 1976; "Reply" of M. Unna in ibid., 22, 1976).
A summary of the various theological approaches and their categorization according to models (mainly biblical) appears in P. Peli's Be-Ḥippus aḥar Lashon Datit la-Sho'ah (Shenaton Yerushalayim, 1977).
Another trend in historiography aims at clarifying the sources of Nazi antisemitism: Samuel Ettinger, "Shorshei ha-Anti-Shemiyyut be-Zeman ha-Ḥadash," and Jacob L. Talmon, "Te'udah ve-Edut: Mashma'utah ha-Universalit shel ha-Anti-Shemiyyut ha-Hadashah" (in Sho'at Yehudei Europa, 1973) investigated the question of whether Nazi antisemitism is a new historical phenomenon or the continuation of traditional antisemitism of the Christian religious type. Uriel Tal, in Christians and Jews in Germany: Religion, Politics and Ideology in the Second Reich, 1870–1914 (1975), studies the prior background to these problems. In a number of articles (cf. Yad Vashem xiii) Tal examines in depth some of the basic historiographical problems of the Holocaust. The influence of mass culture on the development of deep-seated hatred of the Jews is investigated by George Mosse in Germans and Jews (1970) and The Nationalization of the Masses (1975).
Saul Friedlaender in Pius xii and the Third Reich (1966; Pie xii et le iiie Reich, 1964), L'anti-semitisme Nazi: histoire d'une psychose collective (1971), and "The Historical Significance of the Holocaust" (in The Jerusalem Quarterly, 1, 1976) makes use of psychology to explain the history of the Holocaust and investigates the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jews during that period. Other studies on the subject are Guenther Lewy's The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany (1964), and from the Christian point of view, Franklin H. Littell and Hubert G. Locke (eds.), The German Church Struggle and the Holocaust (1974); Littel, The Crucifixion of the Jews (1976); A. Roy Eckardt, Elder and Younger Brothers: The Encounter of Jews and Christians (1967); and Rosemary Radford Ruether, Faith and Fratricide (1975). All these works show that Christian antisemitism had a central influence upon the development of Nazi antisemitism.
Discussion about the influence of the Holocaust on literature and art has become more widespread, for example in Shamai Golan (ed.), Ha-Sho'ah: Pirkei Edut ve-Sifrut (1976); Cynthia Haft, The Theme of Nazi Concentration Camps in French Literature (1973); Jacob Glatstein, Israel Knox, and Samuel Margoshes (eds.), Anthology of Holocaust Literature (1973); and Lawrence L. Langer, The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination (1975).
Various bibliographical works have been published on this theme. Philip Friedman gathered material on the first period of research in his bibliography of bibliographies; Mendel Piekarz (ed.), Ha-Sho'ah Veha-Gevurah be-Aspaklaryah Shel ha-'itonut ha-'Ivrit, four volumes (1966; "The Jewish Holocaust and Heroism Through the Eyes of the Hebrew Press"); Piekarz, Ha-Sho'ah u-Sefiḥeha be-Sefarim ha-Ivri'im she-Yats'u la- or be-Shanim 1933–1972, two volumes (1974; "The Holocaust and its Aftermath"); Philip Friedman and Josef Gar, Bibliography of Yiddish Books on the Catastrophe and Heroism (1962); Jacob Robinson, The Holocaust and After-Sources and Literature in English (1973); Guide to Unpublished Material of the Holocaust Period, The Hebrew University Institute of Contemporary Jewry, 1–5 (1970–79).
[Yehuda Bauer and
In the years between 1980 and 2005, scholarship on the Holocaust has grown in quality and quantity and in a certain sense is overwhelming.
Studying and researching the Holocaust has become a multidisciplinary task. Historians still dominate but the areas of psychology and literature, sociology and theology, philosophy and film, linguistics and even chemistry and architecture have made important contributions to the field. Two major developments will have an ongoing impact on the subject. With the collapse of Communism and the fall of the Iron Curtain, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem have jointly and individually undertaken major efforts throughout Europe, especially Eastern Europe, to microfilm records relating to the Holocaust. These records, hitherto inaccessible to Western scholars, are now available in Washington and/or Jerusalem. It will take decades to mine this material. The ongoing declassification of records will make still more material available, and this too is shedding important light on the field. Secondly, as the invention of video technology coincided with increased consciousness of the Holocaust, survivor testimony is now available and will add to increased understanding not just of the history of the Shoah, but also to personalize and individualize that understanding. This new material will also provide a useful tool to probe memory and contrast earlier testimony, when the events were fresh in the survivors' minds and untainted by information acquired later.
Several general histories been published, and they have added immeasurably to Holocaust understanding. Raul Hilberg has published a second (1985) and third edition (2003) of his magisterial work, The Destruction of the European Jews, along with his introduction to the study of the Holocaust, Sources of Holocaust Research: An Analysis (2001). He also published Perpetrator, Victim, Bystander: The Jewish Catastrophe 1933–45 (1992). Hilberg incorporated documents not available for his first edition and each subsequent edition has been a refinement and more precise than the original. His work on Sources is an important guide to how to read documents. He never backs off from his reading of the way in which German documents perceived the Jewish struggle, though the English edition of the Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow clearly articulates the dilemma facing Jewish leadership. As always, Hilberg's work is authoritative and instructive.
Martin Gilbert's The Holocaust: A History of the Jews during the Second World War (1985) makes voluminous use of testimonies to narrate the events. It offers the texture of testimony and packs emotional power. Saul Friedlander has written the first of a proposed two-volume study, Nazi Germany and the Jews (Volume 1: The Years of Persecution, 1933–1939), which weaves together narratives that have seldom been combined, along with rigorous historical analysis. Richard L. Rubenstein and John K. Roth have updated Approaches to Auschwitz: The Holocaust and Its Legacy (1987, 2003). It provides diverse ways of understanding the event, from psychology to theology, history, and literature as well as film and art. Yehuda Bauer's History of the Holocaust (1982) is meant for classroom use. It offers a comprehensive view from the perspective of Israel's preeminent Holocaust scholar. Younger scholars Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt have written Holocaust: A History (2002). The title is appropriately modest for a substantive work that balances the large narrative of history with the personal stories of survivors. The authors had previously collaborated on Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present and have woven the historical with the personal. Because of Van Pelt's training as an architect, the book pays attention to physical construction and architectural issues, and because of Dwork's writings on children, the plight of children is illustrated throughout. Michael Marrus' The Holocaust in History (1987) reviews the major issues of historical debate in the first 42 years after the Shoah and still has enduring value. Omer Bartov's Germany's War and the Holocaust; Disputed Histories (2002) brings together German historians of World War ii with Holocaust historians, Israeli, American, and German.
Lawrence Langer began his career as a student of literature who touched on the Holocaust. He then became a student of the Holocaust who uses his literary training to understand the event and its representations. His work on Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory (1991) is probing and uncompromising, as is Versions of Survival: The Holocaust and the Human Spirit (1982). The literary anthology he edited, Art from the Ashes (1995), is comprehensive and offers a wide range of literary and other artistic explorations. Together with Alvin Rosenfeld, whose works include Imagining Hitler (1995), Anne Frank and the Future of Holocaust Memory (2005), and the volume he edited, Thinking about Hitler: After Half a Century (1997), and Sidra Ezrachi, author of By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature (1980), have demonstrated that literature is indispensable to understanding the Holocaust.
Helen Fein's Accounting for Genocide (1979) deals with the sociology of the Holocaust and has implications for all genocide. Zygmunt Bauman's Modernity and the Holocaust (1989) is less comprehensive but more explorative, concise and hard-hitting. The introductory essay on the sociology of the Holocaust – or lack thereof – is highly critical of his field.
Three encyclopedias have appeared: Israel Gutman's Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (1990); The Holocaust Encyclopedia (2001), edited by Walter Laqueur; and the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (2000), edited by Robert Rozett and Shmuel Spector. There is a companion to Gutman's work, the Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (1991), edited by Christian Zentner and Friedmann Bedurftig. It focuses on the perpetrators and not their victims.
The Holocaust Chronicle (2000) uses the chronology of the Holocaust to build a pictorial and documentary presentation. Israel Charny's Encyclopedia of Genocide (1999) provides a broader perspective within the context of comparative genocide. Yad Vashem is in the process of publishing the country-by-country Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations: Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust (2003– ), and Shmuel Spector has edited The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life: Before and During the Holocaust (2001). Each of these works demonstrates the way in which the field of Holocaust Studies has come of age.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has published the Historical Atlas of the Holocaust (1996), which assists in understanding the Holocaust through its geography. It joined an earlier work by Martin Gilbert.
For a further sense of Adolf Hitler, Gerhard L. Weinberg has edited Hitler's Second Book: The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf (2003), which expands the understanding of Hitler. John Lukacs, in The Hitler of History (1998), allows those who have not read the detailed biographies of the Fuehrer to understand their import and the man they depict. It is less a biography than a study of the merits and limitations of the biographies that have been written about him. Since 1980, several other works on Hitler have appeared; among them Gerald Fleming's Hitler and the Final Solution (1984) and Richard Breitman's The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and The Final Solution (1991) are valuable additions to the field.
More work has been forthcoming on the groups that the Nazis defined as enemies of the state and confined in concentration camps. Guenter Lewy's The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies (2000) is the most comprehensive and best recent study on the subject. Gunther Grau's Hidden Holocaust? Gay and Lesbian Persecution in Germany 1933–45 (1995) is an important collection of documents relating to the German persecution of homosexuals.
Henry Friedlander has added a work on the German euthanasia program, The Origins of Nazi Genocide from Euthanasia to the Final Solution (1995). Together with Robert J. Lifton's Nazi Doctors, it shapes our understanding of the role of physicians, who they were, what they did, and what it was about their professional life that enabled them to participate in atrocities. Furthermore, it now makes it impossible to speak of the evolution of gassing without speaking of the so-called euthanasia program. Christopher Browning's Fateful Months (1985) also provides a connection between the euthanasia killing and the emergence of permanent gassing installations.
Several works have been written on the fate of the Mischlinge. Among them are Bryan Mark Rigg's Hitler's Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military (2002) and Larry Orbach and Vivien Orbach-Smith's Soaring Underground: A Young Fugitive's Life in Nazi Berlin (1996). James F. Tent's In the Shadow of the Holocaust: Nazi Persecution of Jewish-German Christians (2003) further probes the unique situation of those Christians whom German law defined as Jews.
As to the treatment of ghetto life, Israel Gutman's The Warsaw Ghetto (1982) is still an unmatched work on Warsaw, the largest of the ghettos. Lucjan Dubroszycki's English edition of The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto (1984) is an invaluable source, as is Surviving the Holocaust: The Kovno Diary of Abraham Tory (1990). Alan Adelson and Robert Lapides' The Lodz Ghetto: Inside a Community under Siege (1989) provides excellent material for understanding this unique ghetto.
Christopher Browning has written with Juergen Matthaus The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy September 1939–March 1942 (2004), which sheds important light on the interplay between local and regional decisions, on the one hand, and a comprehensive policy regarding the Jews throughout German-occupied Europe, on the other. It provoked significant controversy in Jerusalem when Browning appeared there, and it dovetails with Browning's other works, including The Path to Genocide: Essays on Launching the Final Solution (1992) and Fateful Months: Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution (1985).
In the mid-1990s, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen published Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996), which joined with Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland to intensify the discussion of the killers and their motivations. It also added insights into both the death marches and the motivations of the Einsatzgruppen. Richard Rhodes' Masters of Death: The ss-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust (2002) provides vivid descriptions of the killers' activities and also probes their motivations.
Jan T. Gross' Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (2001), which describes the fate of the Jews who were murdered by the local Polish population of that town in a pogrom facilitated by the German presence in the region but not in the town, forced a rethinking of the role of local populations and their activities independent of the Einsatzgruppen. It also demonstrated the falsification of memory, as so many knew what had happened and so few acknowledged it, at least not until Gross put the story together.
Radu Ioanid's The Holocaust in Romania: The Destruction of the Jews and Gypsies under the Antonescu Regime, 1940–1944 (2000) fills in the history of what happened in that country. Ioanid also produced, under the chairmanship of Elie Wiesel, the report of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, commissioned by and presented to that country's president. For the advanced student, Randolph Braham's two-volume study, The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, remains the definitive work. Its condensation, into a slim, readable one-volume work of the same title offers the insights in a digestible form (2000).
On Auschwitz, the work of Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt, Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present (1996), depicts the town and the camp that ultimately brought it infamy. Van Pelt's The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (2002), which was shaped by his testimony at the *Irving v. Lipstadt libel trial in Britain, is a significant study of the evolution of the gas chambers as well as of the evidence for the killing process at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Israel Gutman and Michael Berenbaum edited Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (1994), a study by 29 scholars of what is known about the killing center, the concentration camp, and the work camp. Michael J. Neufeld and Michael Berenbaum edited The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It? (2003), which brought together Holocaust historians and military historians who had never before been in dialogue to consider whether bombing had been feasible and what it would have achieved. The book also presents the basic documents that enable students and scholars to consider the issue.
There has been a flurry of works published by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in the post-Communist era. Franciszek Piper's Auschwitz Prisoner Labor (2002) is an important work by the chief historian of Auschwitz, and Andrzej Strzeleciki's The Evacuation, Dismantling and Liberation of kl Auschwitz (2001) depicts the liberation in great detail. The museum has also published a comprehensive five-volume study, Auschwitz 1940–1945: Central Issues in the History of the Camp (Vol. 1: Establishment and Organization of the Camps; Vol. 2: The Prisoners, Their Life and Work; Vol. 3: Mass Murder; Vol. 4: The Resistance Movement; and Vol. 5: Epilogue).
David S. Wyman and Rafael Medoff have produced A Race against Death: Peter Bergson, America, and the Holocaust (2001), the oral history of Peter Bergson [Hillel Kook], a Lithuanian-born Palestinian Jewish activist who worked to call attention to the plight of the Jews and who fought the American Jewish establishment, much to its chagrin and with considerable success. These join Wyman's bestselling critique of American policy during and preceding the Holocaust, which he called The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941–1945 (1985). Americans and American Jews as well as Israelis now perceive Franklin D. Roosevelt's policies as abandonment. Henry Feingold's Bearing Witness: How America and Its Jews Responded to the Holocaust (1995) is a balanced collection of his work that builds upon The Politics of Rescue: The Roosevelt Administration and the Holocaust 1938–1945 (1970).
In the past decade, several works have appeared that shed light on the issue of women in the Holocaust. Carol Rittner and John K. Roth's Different Voices: Women and the Holocaust (1993) is an excellent place to begin. Among the more recent works are a collection of essays by Dalia Ofer and Lenore J. Weitzman, Women in the Holocaust (1998), and Judith Baumel's Double Jeopardy: Gender and the Holocaust (1998). Nechama Tec, who has written extensively on resistance and hiding, probes the difference between women and men in the Holocaust in her work Resilience and Courage: Women, Men and the Holocaust (2003). The study of the role of women has moved from the orthodoxies of gender studies to the use of those studies to enhance our understanding of the Holocaust and the fate of women, where it paralleled the experience of Jewish men and, more importantly, where it differed. Jewish women were victimized as Jews: the form that their victimization took, however, was often directly related to their gender.
Several studies have recently appeared on Pope Pius xii, who presided over the Vatican during the war years, and the Jews. Some studies are defensive; most are critical, some highly so. Included among them are John Cornwell's Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius xii (1999); Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair (2002); Susan Zuccotti's Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy (2000); David I. Kertzer's The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism (2001); and the volume edited by Rittner and Roth, Pope Pius xii and the Holocaust (2002).
Among the most important theological works are Zachary Braiterman's (God) After Auschwitz: Tradition and Change in Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought (1998) and David R. Blumenthal's uncompromising works Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest (1993) and The Banality of Good and Evil: Moral Lessons from the Shoah and Jewish Tradition (1999). Readers of English now have access to original religious teachings, including Rabbi Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira's Sacred Fire: Torah from the Years of Fury 1939–1942 (2000) and Yissakhar Shlomo Teichthal's Em Habanim Semeḥah: Restoration of Zion as a Response during the Holocaust, edited, translated, and annotated by Pesach Schindler (1999).
Lawrence Langer, the literary critic, has been writing some of the most important theological work in his interpretation of Samuel Bak's paintings. Readers should consider Langer and Bak's In a Different Light: The Book of Genesis in the Art of Samuel Bak (2001).
Yehuda Bauer, the dean of Israeli historians, published an important study of the attempts at rescue and the indifference of the West, titled Jews for Sale? Nazi-Jewish Negotiations, 1933–1945 (1994). His Rethinking the Holocaust (2001) is a collection of essays that touch all the major issues of Holocaust historiography.
Regarding the neutral powers and nongovernmental organizations, Jean-Claude Favez's The Red Cross and the Holocaust (1999) is an English-language discussion of the controversial and failed role of the Red Cross.
Several works have appeared relating to *Holocaust denial and especially the defeat of David Irving in the London trial in 2000 that branded him a racist and antisemite who distorted and misrepresented historical documents in pursuit of an agenda to exonerate Hitler and to minimize the killing of Jews (he had sued the American historian Deborah Lipstadt for libel after she had referred to him as a Holocaust denier). Among the most important are D.D. Guttenplan's The Holocaust on Trial (2002) and Richard J. Evans's Lying about Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial (2002), Lipstadt's own account, History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving (2005), and the book that gave rise to the trial, Lipstadt's Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (1993).
Steven T. Katz published The Holocaust in Historical Context (Vol. 1: The Holocaust and Mass Death before the Modern Age, 1994), the first of a projected three-volume study of the uniqueness of the Holocaust. Alan S. Rosenbaum has represented all sides of the debate in his edited work, Is the Holocaust Unique? Perspectives on Comparative Genocide (1998).
There is now an entire field of study regarding the representation of the Holocaust, including work by James *Young, whose The Art of Memory: Holocaust Memorials in History (1994), The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (1993), and At Memory's Edge: After Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture (2000). These works deal with memorialization and history, and have virtually defined the field.
Edward Linenthal's Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America's Holocaust Museum (1995) describes the tension among history, contemporary politics and perceptions, and memorial making. Tim Cole's Selling the Holocaust: From Auschwitz to Schindler: How History is Bought, Packaged and Sold (1999) is a critical view of the processes of memorialization throughout the world. A decade earlier Judith Miller was less critical in One, By One, By One (1990). Gabriel Rosenfeld, in The World Hitler Never Built (2005) has written on counter-history, demonstrating that portrayals of what did not happen reflects the ongoing struggle to confront what did happen.
Peter Novick critically explored The Holocaust in American Life (1999) and Tom Segev equally critically and with far greater controversy explored the Holocaust in Israeli life in his work The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust (1993).
Finally, over the past generations survivors have offered their testimonies (see above), some in great works of literature – classics that have endured the test of time and speak to subsequent generations – and others in the simple, ineloquent but nevertheless powerful voices of the victims. They offered entry into the darkness and reflections on its implications.
[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]
The short entry on Holocaust studies in the first Decennial Volume of the Encyclopedia Judaica stated that "significant development" had occurred in the field. The entry attributed this advance to the rise of Holocaust denial and the associated response of the *Anti-Defamation League, as well as the airing of the television series Holocaust. A snapshot of seven events in 1978 was used to support this claim, including the appointment by U.S. President Jimmy Carter of a 24-member Commission on the Holocaust, which was to explore the establishment of a national Holocaust memorial in Washington, d.c. (realized in 1993 with the opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum); the dedication in Israel of the Max and Rita Haber Chair on Contemporary Jewry-Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University; the founding of the Institute for Holocaust Studies at Bar-Ilan University; and the establishment of a journal on the Holocaust.
If these events connoted significant development, the growth of the field of Holocaust studies since that time is nothing short of remarkable. The field took definitive form in the 1980s, with the main development perhaps being the solidification and expansion of three distinct schools of research in Germany, Israel, and the United States. Each of these countries has produced scholars and developed academic programs and institutions to study the Holocaust but with very different approaches and focuses. There were significant scholarly contributions prior to the 1980s in the pioneering studies of Raul Hilberg, Philip Friedman, Isaiah Trunk, Gerald Reitlinger, Max Weinreich, Hans Adler, and Hermann Langbein, among others. However, these were singular works that dealt with distinctly different topics about the perpetrators and victims, and were historiographically disconnected and often highly politicized. Philosophers such as Theodor W. Adorno also grappled with this human catastrophe by posing provocative existential questions that made the Holocaust an iconic representation of a general post-World War ii malaise and an implicit critique of progress and modernity, but did not inspire the kind of interdisciplinary research and in-depth microhistories of victims, bystanders, and perpetrators that are common today.
Holocaust studies in Germany have generally focused on the perpetrators of the mass murder of European Jewry in an attempt to understand how such a scientifically and culturally advanced European nation could have committed this atrocity. It seems natural that German scholars should have taken this approach. First, researchers in this field were born or began their academic careers after the war and sought to understand how their communities – perhaps even their own relatives – could have perpetrated this unfathomable crime. German studies have thus focused on such issues as when the decision to go to the Final Solution was made; how Nazi, Axis, and occupied countries conducted the almost complete extermination of European Jewry; and how much and when the local populations actually knew about the murders. A second reason that German scholarship has focused on perpetrator studies is that the original Jewish communities in Germany were almost entirely destroyed. As a result, the German-Jewish victims and vanished communities were mere shadows, with only artifacts to remind people of their existence. The consequences are twofold: first, the depleted German-Jewish population has resulted in a dearth of German research focusing on Jews before, during, and after the Holocaust; and second, Jews tend to be treated simply as victims without power who had no option other than to comply with the perpetrators' orders. Many young German scholars have begun to move away from Berlin-centered, structural and intentionalist studies of the origins of the Final Solution. Researchers such as Dieter Pohl and Christian Gerlach are conducting regional studies, especially of territories in the East, that encompass a broader social spectrum of perpetrators beyond the role of Hitler and his associates.
The major research centers in Germany include the Fritz Bauer Institute, Study and Documentation Center on the Holocaust and the Impact of the Holocaust (Studien- und Dokumentationszentrum zur Geschichte und Wirkung des Holocaust), Frankfurt am Main; the Center for Research on Antisemitism (Zentrum fuer Antisemitismusforschung) of the Technical University of Berlin (Technischen Universitaet Berlin); the Institute for Contemporary History (Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte [IfZ]), Munich; the Research Unit Ludwigsburg (Forschungsstelle Ludwigsburg) of the University of Stuttgart; the Hamburg Institute for Social Research (Hamburger Institut fuer Sozialforschung); the Topography of Terror (Topographie des Terrors), Berlin; the House of the Wannsee Conference (Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz), Berlin; and the memorial sites (Gedenkstaetten) at Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and Ravensbrueck.
The focus in Israel is almost diametrically opposed to that of Germany, which is not surprising. The field was established by survivors, such as Israel *Gutman and Yitzhak *Arad, who were driven to commemorate their destroyed communities and families, honor Jewish resistance, and dispel notions of Jewish passivity in the face of the Holocaust. This approach was codified with the establishment of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, in 1953 by an act of the Israeli Knesset. Israeli research therefore focuses on studying the lost communities; documenting life and resistance in the forests, ghettos, and camps as well as broadening the meaning of resistance to reach beyond physical or armed struggle; and detailing the aftermath of the Holocaust, including life in dp camps and the founding of the State of Israel. While some Israeli scholars, such as Yehuda Bauer, have indeed engaged in scholarly debates about the perpetration of the Holocaust, Israeli studies have generally focused on Jewish agency rather than the German perpetrators. This approach has been shaped not only by the scholars' own histories but also by a deep and real concern that trying to understand (and thereby humanizing) the perpetrators as individuals might cause the evil that was committed to be marginalized or mitigated in some manner.
The major research center in Israel is Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research and its associated archives. Other institutions include the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry and the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; the Strochlitz Institute of Holocaust Studies, Haifa University; the Arnold and Leona Finkler Institute of Holocaust Research, Bar Ilan University; the Ghetto Fighters' House, on the grounds of the Ghetto Fighters' Kibbutz; and Beit Terezin (Theresienstadt) at Kibbutz Tel Yiẓḥak.
The studies in the United States incorporate trends in both Israeli and German scholarship while also forging ahead in new disciplines. Near the end of World War ii, the U.S. military seized millions of pages of German war documentation, which provided the foundation for the study of the Holocaust in the United States. These records presented a wealth of insight into the history of the Nazi regime, and early studies therefore had a distinct perpetrator focus. The prime example of such scholarship is Raul Hilberg's 1961 groundbreaking work, The Destruction of the European Jews. As one of the two major destinations for Holocaust survivors, however, the United States is also the site of research on the annihilated Jewish communities by such survivor-scholars as Saul Friedlaender. The most significant difference between Holocaust studies in the United States and that in Germany and Israel, though, is that in the U.S. it is not strictly confined to the traditional fields of history and political science. For example, the Holocaust is taught in literature departments nearly as much as in history departments. There is a variety of reasons for this development, including the trend toward multidisciplinary cultural studies in general (e.g., African-American studies, Latino studies, gender studies), as well as, perhaps, a lack of personal connection to the Holocaust or familiarity with the languages of the original documents. Moreover, researchers are now examining the Holocaust in such diverse contexts as philosophy, memorialization, sociology, psychology, religion, and gender. While these new approaches often generate controversy, they also cast new light on the catastrophe.
The main research institution in the United States is the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which was inaugurated in 1998 on the foundation built by its predecessor, the Holocaust Research Institute. It occupies a unique position because of its support of both American and international scholarship and its extensive, on-site archives and research programs. Otherwise, Holocaust studies are predominantly conducted at an ever growing number of colleges and universities, with an ever growing number of endowed professorships in Holocaust studies. In addition, there is a multitude of smaller academic centers and organizations devoted to Holocaust and genocide studies. Some of the academic centers include Clark University's Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Worcester, Massachusetts, which offers a Ph.D. program in Holocaust history and genocide studies; the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies of the University of Minnesota; and the Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. The organizations include the Holocaust Educational Foundation, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance, and over thirty regional museums.
western, central and eastern europe
Most West European countries also have significant Holocaust studies programs, although these are generally smaller. In France, the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine (cdjc; Contemporary Jewish Documentation Center), founded clandestinely in Grenoble in 1943 and moved to Paris after Liberation in 1944, was the first institution in the world dedicated to the history of the Holocaust. Although many of these institutions in Western Europe subscribed to the tenet that the Nazi regime was solely responsible for the Holocaust in their countries, they have made significant progress in dispelling these myths and facing the true extent of local collaboration and assistance in the expropriation and murder of their Jewish communities. These research organizations include the Research Centre for the Holocaust and Twentieth-Century History, Royal Holloway, University of London, and the Wiener Library of the Institute of Contemporary History, London; the Documentation Center of the Association of Jewish Victims of the Nazi Regime, Vienna; the Foundation Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation (Fondazione Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea), Milan; the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam; the Department for Holocaust and Genocide Studies of the Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen; the Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities in Norway, Oslo; and the Uppsala Programme for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden.
It was only with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the possibility of admission to the European Union that many countries of Central and Eastern Europe began to face the truth of the Holocaust on their soil and the role that their own governments and populations had played. The governments of Poland, Romania, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, and others have therefore established scholarly commissions to investigate the Holocaust and instituted national Holocaust remembrance days, erected memorials, and founded museums and research institutions. They have yielded serious research on the Holocaust and undeniable evidence regarding local and governmental collaboration with the Nazis. Moreover, they have put in place strong foundations for future research. Some examples of Central and East European programs are the Jewish Historical Institute (Żydowski Instytut Historyczny), Warsaw, which is the only Jewish studies institution in Eastern Europe to have had collection and research programs throughout the postwar years; the Polish Center for Holocaust Research of the Polish Academy of Science's Institute of Philosophy, Warsaw; the Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center, which was the first government-funded Holocaust Memorial in Central Europe and serves as both a museum and research center; the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies, and the Institute for Political and Ethnic Studies, both in Kiev; the Terezin Initiative Institute and the Terezin Memorial in Prague; and the House of Memory in Vilnius, Lithuania.
trends in the field
The field of Holocaust studies has been dominated since its inception by certain large themes, debates, and controversies. Debates in the 1980s focused on the dual theories of intentionalism and functionalism. Proponents of the intentionalist school posited that Hitler and the Nazi regime intended from the beginning to murder every Jew in Europe, while advocates of functionalism saw the implementation of the Final Solution as a radicalization of Nazi doctrine over the course of the war. This debate no longer generates the controversy it once did, as many scholars now accept that the Holocaust resulted from many decisions made over time and taken from both above and below. Another related major debate has been over the motivation of the perpetrators, which began with Hannah Arendt's analysis of Eichmann and the premise of the "banality of evil" and culminated in the debate in the 1990s started by Daniel Goldhagen, who asserted that Germans were "willing executioners" motivated by a distinctly German brand of "eliminationist antisemitism." Goldhagen's thesis was roundly dismissed by most scholars. Since Goldhagen relied on the same group of sources used by the noted historian Christopher Browning, who had reached dramatically different conclusions, what began as a theoretical debate was quickly transformed into a very concrete and important discussion about the use of primary sources. More recently, two trends have developed. The first concerns the complex role of the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches and clergy during the Holocaust, in some instances either openly or tacitly complicit and in others righteous and heroic, as well as the impact of the Shoah on Western theology, liturgy, and ethics from the postwar years until today. The second trend is the study of the economic component and motivation of the Holocaust and the complicated issue of the expropriation of Jewish property. The economic aspects of the Holocaust were largely neglected areas of research until the filing of the class action lawsuit against Swiss banks for their dealings during the Holocaust, the establishment of the U.S. Presidential Commission for Holocaust Era Assets, the pursuit of various other litigation related to forced labor under the Nazis, and the question of how to award restitution and make reparations to Holocaust survivors.
In addition to these scholarly developments, there is another key factor in the growth of the field: the proliferation of academic conferences and scholarly journals devoted to Holocaust studies. Research and theoretical findings are now more widely disseminated than ever before. The most notable program is currently the Holocaust Educational Foundation's biennial conference, Lessons and Legacies. Others include the University of Michigan's 26-year-old Conference on the Holocaust; Millersville University's 25-year-old annual Holocaust Conference; Middle Tennessee State University's biennial Holocaust Studies Conference; and the annual Scholars' Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches, which was founded in 1970. The two major journals in the field are the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Holocaust and Genocide Studies, published by Oxford University Press, which began publication in 1986 and was affiliated with the museum in the early 1990s; and Yad Vashem Studies, which has been published annually since 1957.
What the future holds for Holocaust studies is open to debate. In terms of research, one clear trend is toward localized studies of the execution of the Holocaust at the town, city, and municipality levels in order to determine differences between the planning in Berlin, about which a great deal is known, and its actual implementation at the periphery, which is less understood. These research programs are currently possible only because of the opening of previously closed archives in Europe and because of the rediscovery and renewed interest in the extant records of the Jewish communities that were destroyed. The bigger question, however, concerns the core of the field. Modern European history has been the foundation on which Holocaust studies has been built. Although this discipline must always be central to Holocaust studies, other disciplines may become increasingly important as larger societal questions in Holocaust and genocide studies are investigated. A very real question, for example, is the future role of Jewish studies. Many Jewish studies departments and scholars avoid the study of the Holocaust out of concern that it may quickly become the defining moment in Jewish history and turn Jewish studies from the study of a rich, enduring, and diverse culture to the study of victimization and destruction. The field of Jewish studies is extremely important to the study of the Holocaust, however, and the reactions and responses of the Jewish communities confronted by the Holocaust need to be placed within the context of Jewish history as a whole. Additionally, the continuing and vigorous collection activities of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem and their institutional cooperation means that more Holocaust documentation from all over the world is becoming accessible to researchers on an almost daily basis. The next encyclopedia entry on Holocaust studies may look as dramatically different from this one as this one does from its predecessor.
[Robert M. Ehrenreich and
Tracy L. Brown (2nd ed.)]
In the late 1970s Irving Greenberg suggested that new institutions be created in local communities to respond through education, documentation, and commemoration to what he considered the revelatory nature of the Holocaust. The first such institution established in the United States was in St. Louis, where as part of the Jewish Federation a program of Holocaust-related activities was initiated that ultimately resulted in the creation of a museum within the federation's building. Over the next three decades, more than 120 such institutions, whose primary task is Holocaust education, were established in the United States and scores elsewhere, in countries as diverse as Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, Japan, Israel, Russia, South Africa. Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. Some are under religious auspices, others secular Jewish auspices; some are nonsectarian and others Christian. Several of these documentation centers have evolved over the years into full-fledged museums and memorial institutions, large and small, and they predated the opening of the major museums in Washington, Los Angeles, and New York, often by a decade or more.
These documentation centers share in common an active program of educational outreach primarily to secondary school teachers and through them to students in the classroom. Most provide survivors as speakers and many maintain libraries and teacher resource centers, whether modest or grand, to serve those teaching the Holocaust. The Association of Holocaust Organizations serves to give voice to their concerns, to sponsor an annual conference, and to provide for the free exchange of ideas and programming for these institutions.
There is also a second set of Holocaust documentation centers that are more scholarly in their orientation and that collect, preserve, catalogue, and make documents accessible to the public. They serve scholars and interested laypersons more than ordinary classroom teachers.
It should be recalled that the first effort at documenting the Holocaust began within the ghettos and the concentration camps themselves, with the collection of documents and material compiled by the Oneg Shabbat group organized by Emanuel Ringelblum in Warsaw, and with ghetto and camp diarists and artists. Jews believed that even if they did not survive, the memory of what happened would survive, a belief that has been vindicated with time.
The Jews kept their records. So did the Germans, who were also careful record keepers, and therefore the documentation is vast.
The records are many. They are to be found in state and local archives throughout the countries that Germany and its allies occupied during World War ii and in the countries in which Jews found refuge. Major holdings are in the possession of the Allies who defeated the Germans, as well as in German archives and at the sites of many of the concentration camps that have active memorials. At the beginning of the twenty-first century there were 682 such institutions, excluding those archives that are in private hands. In the 1990s and the early twenty-first century an effort has been made to copy many archival records and to deposit them in Jerusalem at Yad Vashem and in Washington at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Institutional funds, governmental funds, private grants, and support from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against the German Nation have enabled these copying activities to progress at a rapid pace.
Holocaust documentation centers include the archives at Yad Vashem, Israel's national memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Centre de documentation de Juive in Paris. The Wiener Library in London and the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland were also early sites where records were gathered, and they remain important resources.
in the united states
New York's Center for Jewish History brings under one roof in separate but joined institutions the holdings of the yivo Institute for Jewish Research, with its intense study of East European Jewry; the Leo Baeck Institute, with its significant collection of records of German Jewry; the American Sephardi Federation and its collection of material on Sephardi Jewry; and the American Jewish Historical Society and its collection of material on American Jewry and its role during the Shoah and in its aftermath.
yivo archives contain 22,000,000 documents, photographs, sound recordings, films, and manuscripts in four main areas: Yiddish language, literature, and culture; European history, with the focus on East European history; the Holocaust and its aftermath; and Jewish life in the United States with the emphasis on immigration. yivo estimates that its Holocaust collection amounts to 1.2 million pages, with another 9 million pages relating to the destroyed Jewish communities. Much of its collection is archived in Yiddish and it is an ongoing process to make it accessible to English-speaking researchers.
The Leo Baeck Institute contains some 5 million pages of original records, including some 40,000 photographs relating to German-Jewish life. It also contains case files from the United Restitution Organization and the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (jdc) as well as the Reichsbund juedischer Frontsoldaten and the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbuerger juedischen Glaubens. Its holdings are copied and shared with the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany.
The American Jewish Historical Society possesses documents, photographs, and objects from the period 1925–90, including much material on the Jewish American reaction to and involvement in World War ii and its aftermath. Collections reflecting Jewish American military and communal service in World War ii are to be found at the National Jewish Welfare Board. In addition, there are collections at the Council of Jewish Federations, Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, Cecilia Razovsky Papers, Raphael Lemkin Papers, Lucy Dawidowicz Papers, and the Rabbi Joseph Shubow Papers.
The American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, which for decades was under the leadership of Jacob Rader Marcus, has the Holocaust collections of the World Jewish Congress, including the important material sent by Gerhard Riegner, who warned of the Final Solution and of gassing with Zyklon b in August 1942, months after the death camps became operational. The American Jewish Archives has over 100 separately cataloged holdings of Holocaust-related materials. These include oral histories, papers and documents of survivors; records of relief and rescue organizations; recent scholarship; and other Holocaust-era and Holocaust-related records into the twenty-first century.
Most of the records at the American Jewish Archives reflect and pertain to the American Jewish community's reaction and responses to this event and to the lives of those survivors who came to the U.S. after the war. The Archives' largest single collection of records is from the New York Office of the World Jewish Congress. Except for these records, which contain information from Europe, almost all of its materials are from the United States.
The archives of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in New York detail the assistance given the besieged communities for as long as such assistance was possible, and for the rescue attempts facilitated in the United States and Switzerland, as well as the organization's contacts with those on the ground.
The University of Southern California (usc) Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education was founded in 1994 as the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation by the American Jewish filmmaker Steven *Spielberg. It now contains the videotaped testimonies and pre-interview questionnaires of 52,000 survivors and other victim groups and/or witnesses. The testimonies were taken in 56 countries and in 32 languages. The foundation interviewed Jewish survivors, homosexual survivors, Jehovah's Witness survivors, liberators and liberation witnesses, political prisoners, rescuers and aid providers, Roma and Sinti survivors, survivors of eugenics policies, and war crimes trials participants. Almost half of the archive's testimonies were collected in English – most of them in the United States. Among the 31 other languages, over 7,000 are in Russian and over 6,300 in Hebrew. There are approximately 1,000 Dutch interviews, 1,800 French, 1,300 Hungarian, 1,400 Polish, and 1,300 Spanish interviews. The following languages are represented with approximately 500 to 1,000 testimonies each: Bulgarian (600), Czech (500), German (900), Portuguese (500), Slovak (500), and Yiddish (500).
Testimonies collected usually include discussions of the interview subject's prewar (20 percent), wartime (60 percent), and postwar (20 percent) experience. But this depends on the subject's age and experience as well. Interviews were collected from 1994 to 1999.
About 51,000 pre-interview questionnaires, or some two million pages of documents, provide information regarding survivors and their prewar and wartime experience. The material is now catalogued and was transferred in 2006 to usc, which will be responsible for its dissemination.
The *Fortunoff Video Archives for Holocaust Testimonies, housed at Yale University, was the pioneer in video testimony. It now contains some 4,000 testimonies along with many transcripts. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum also has a collection of more than 4,000 testimonies, some of them undertaken jointly with Fortunoff, and includes copies of the collections of other regional holdings such as the Holocaust Documentation and Educational Center in North Miami Beach, Florida. Yad Vashem contains oral histories and video histories that span six decades after the Holocaust and will enable researchers and scholars to explore the difference between testimony given soon after the events and that given many years later. Some collections of oral history are specific; the Fred Crawford Collection at Emory University deals with liberators alone. Most are more general and include survivors and liberators, as well as rescuers and other actors. Few testimonies encompass the perpetrators.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum contains an archive of 21 million pages, of which some 3.5 million are original and 17 million are copies of material that exists elsewhere. It has an ambitious program of copying Holocaust-related material from throughout the world and bringing copies to Washington. Given its U.S. government imprimatur and the professionalism of its staff as well as the scope of its support, this program has been enormously successful. The museum also contains a photo archive, the Steven Spielberg Film Archive, and an Oral History Collection. Access to much material is available on the Web. In addition, given the presence of the massive collections of the U.S. National Archives and its many scholarly programs, Washington has become an essential stopping point for Holocaust researchers.
The National Center for Jewish Film, now situated on the campus of Brandeis University, has a wide-ranging and important collection of Holocaust films, and also a collection of prewar Yiddish films that depict the world before the Holocaust.
The Bundesarchiv, which now includes former East German as well as West German records, remains an important source of data relating to the German government's policies and programs. The Berlin Documentation Center, which was originally under American control and is now an integral part of the Bundesarchiv, maintains the records of the ss.
The major research centers in Germany, as noted in "Holocaust Studies" above, include the Fritz Bauer Institute, Study and Documentation Center on the Holocaust and the Impact of the Holocaust, Frankfurt; the Center for Research on Antisemitism of the Technical University of Berlin; the Institute for Contemporary History, Munich; the Research Unit Ludwigsburg of the University of Stuttgart; the Hamburg Institute for Social Research; the Topography of Terror Foundation, Berlin; the House of the Wannsee Conference, Berlin; and the memorial sites (Gedenkstaetten) at Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and Ravensbrueck.
Many of the memorial sites also contain their own, modest archival holdings. The Bergen-Belsen Memorial has a collection of photographs, artifacts, audio and video interviews, and 1,000 pages of paper documents, as well as original diaries. It holds video testimony that is also available at the Fortunoff Archive.
kz-Gedenkstaette Neuengamme has established a new databank together with registry offices and cemetery archives. Its main task consists of giving information to relatives of former prisoners of this concentration camp (konzentrationslager). Neuengamme works together with other archives to enhance its collection, primarily to get a complete listing of names of people who were imprisoned there.
kz-Gedenkstaette Flossenbuerg deals with the history of the Flossenbuerg concentration camp (1938–45) and sub-camps, which were situated in northern Bavaria, Saxony, and northern Bohemia, and death marches from other camps (Buchenwald, Gross-Rosen) to Flossenbuerg and from Flossenbuerg towards Dachau. It also includes the postwar history (trials, memorials, cemeteries) of the region around Flossenbuerg (the Upper Palatinate) and the files of the ig Farben trial at Nuremberg.
kz-Gedenkstaette Mittelbau-Dora contains the files of war crimes trials against the staff of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, reports of former inmates, files of the camp administration, documents concerning the ss staff, documents concerning the displaced persons (dp) camp in Nord hausen, and files of the Nazi administration in general, including the Reich Central Security Office (Reichssicherheithauptamt, rsha) and the ss Central Economic Administration Office (ss-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptsamt, ss-wvha) concerning the camp. There are some 150,000 pages of documents.
kz-Gedenkstaette Dachau contains a collection of publications, reports, documents, photographs, videos, tapes, plan drawings, and objects concerning Dachau and other concentration camps, National Socialism and the Nazi Party, and resistance, and further material concerning Jews and other persecuted groups, making up altogether 37,000 files of material and 15,000 books, with documents of former prisoners of Dachau (1933–45), about 150 documents of Jews arrested during the November 1938 pogrom known as *Kristallnacht, and about 500 documents of other Jews incarcerated at Dachau. It also contains a collection of publications, reports, documents, photographs, and objects concerning the persecution of Jews in Munich, Bavaria, southern Germany, and Austria; a collection of books about Holocaust and Jewish culture; and about 200,000 pages of archival records, including about 15,000 pages concerning persecution of Jews.
In addition, the Central Archives for Research on the History of Jews in Germany (Zentralarchiv zur Erforschung der Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland), founded in 1987 at Heidelberg by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, contains the records of Jewish communities, federations, and organizations in Germany after 1945, as well as the papers of many families and individuals. Current holdings are 350,000 pages.
The major Holocaust research center in Israel is Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research and its associated archives. Yad Vashem has some 5 million pages of original records and 55 million pages of records that were microfilmed elsewhere, and is in the process of digitizing the material. There is an exchange program with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum of microfilmed material, which upon completion will make much of the material available in both institutions. Most importantly, the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names is now accessible on line and is on view in the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem.
In northern Israel, the Ghetto Fighters' House, on the grounds of Kibbutz Loḥamei ha-Getta'ot (the Ghetto Fighters' Kibbutz), contains close to a million paper items, including journals and diaries, testimonies, memoirs, maps, manuscripts, and books. Cataloging is uniform for all departments and the system of indexing is similar to that of the Jewish National Library in Jerusalem and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
The Massuah Institute for the Study of the Holocaust at Kibbutz Tel Yiẓḥak contains the archives of the No'ar ha-Ẓiyyoni and Akiva youth movement in the pre- and immediate post Holocaust period; it contains letters mailed during the Holocaust and videotaped Holocaust testimonies of survivors. It also holds a collection of thousands of hours of Holocaust survivors' testimonies on videotape.
Among its more than 2,000,000 pages are 17 personal diaries and original notebooks of poetry from the Holocaust and the She'arit ha-Peleitah era. It also has a collection of material related to the Schindler affair – from the personal archives of Dr. Moshe Bejski, a Schindler Jew who was chairman of Yad Vashem's process of certifying rescuers as Righteous Among the Nations. It also contains the personal archives of the Hannah Szenes family.
Moreshet: The Mordechai Anielewicz Memorial Holocaust Studies and Research Center in Israel contains material donated by survivors: testimonies and memoirs, written, audio, and video; unpublished manuscripts; contemporaneous newspapers and art that were created in situ as well as afterwards. Access is difficult because of the condition of some of this material.
The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem does not usually collect material relating solely to the Holocaust. Its Holocaust-related materials are generally organic portions of larger collections, such as the archives of the Viennese Jewish community, whose documents date from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. The only collections whose entire contents are Holocaust-related are those of the successor organizations, the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization, the Jewish Trust Council and the United Restitution Organization. Yet, in a broader sense the Central Archives' collections are all Holocaust-related; they document Jewish communities and populations annihilated in the Holocaust.
The Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem contains (1) the archives of the various offices of the *Jewish Agency (ja), the World Zionist Organization (wzo), and worldwide Zionist Federations; (2) archives of the various offices of the *World Jewish Congress (wjc); and (3) personal papers of people in Palestine/Israel and those active in Zionist affairs overseas.
Among the topics covered are emigration of Jews from Europe prior to World War ii; absorption of immigrants in Palestine; the situation of the Jews in the various countries before, during, and after the war, from the 1930s to the 1950s; diplomatic efforts of the Jewish Agency and the World Jewish Congress on behalf of the Jews of Europe; rescue activities of the Jewish Agency during the Holocaust; activities of the Jews of Palestine during World War ii; enlistment in the British Army's Jewish Brigade; situation of dps and refugees after World War ii; Youth Aliyah's activities in Europe after World War ii; immigration to Palestine/Israel and absorption of refugees; and the location of the whereabouts of survivors and relatives. There are also a photograph collection, a poster collection, and a newspaper and periodical collection.
The Israel State Archives contains documents relating to the Holocaust, restitution claims and the Reparations Agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany, memory, the situation of European Jewry after the war, and immigration of Jews to Palestine during and after the war. Among its most significant collections is that of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (rg 130, 93): The Reparations Agreement. A large amount of material including full documentation on the agreement can be found in files on relations between Israel and the Federal Republic, and between Israel and the nations of Western Europe. There is material on individual claims in the legal department, although most of the economic material is in the records of other ministries. It also includes material on relations between Israel and the Democratic Republic of Germany, dealing with the claim for restitution, and material on the Purchasing Delegation headed by F. Shinnar, which dealt with implementation of the agreement, mainly correspondence and reports.
The volume of Documents on the Foreign Policy of Israel for 1960 includes material on the capture of Adolf Eichmann, mostly from the telegrams series, and on the prime minister's office. A small number of files deals with commemoration of the Holocaust and the establishment of the Yad Vashem Authority, reports on the Jewish communities in Europe after the Holocaust, and commemoration of fallen soldiers from the Jewish Brigade.
The 1961 Eichmann trial material is also found in Record Group 06 of the Israel Police Force and in the court records. The isa has also published the court proceedings in book form and produced excerpts on a video cassette. The Archives holds the diary written by Eichmann in prison and exhibits produced during the trial. It also contains material on the Demjanjuk trial of 1987–88.
Other important records include those of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, including lists of immigrants (1919–74), lists of names by date of arrival and lists of ships arriving during and after World War ii; of the Ministry of Health (1998–99), including material of the Public Committee for Mental Patients who are Holocaust survivors; of the Justice Ministry, including files from the ministry's bureau of restitution from East Germany, as well as documents relating to claims from Germany and its allies and to the Association of Holocaust Survivors; of the Finance Ministry, including material on reparations from Germany, on claims made against insurance policies from the Holocaust period, on compensation to persons who became invalids as a result of Nazi persecution, and on Jewish property confiscated during the Holocaust; of the Education Ministry, including records dealing with the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust: commemorative activities in schools, curriculum development, visits by youth delegations to Poland; of the Chief Rabbinate (rg 140), including material on immigration of rabbis and others from Europe during the Holocaust period, and on property in Palestine owned by Jews who perished during the Holocaust; of the Palestine Mandatory government, Migration Department (rg 11), including personal files of applicants for Palestinian citizenship, many of them refugees from Germany during the 1930s, and reflecting the persecution of Jews in Europe. The archive also includes data on admission of immigrants and statistical data on immigration and absorption. It contains the Mandatory government's deportation orders of illegal immigrants arranged according to ship, 1938–46.
In Bnei Berak, the Institute for Documentation, Research and Commemoration (the Ginzach Kiddush Hashem) was founded in 1964 and was the first institution in the religious community to collect and classify documents relating to the Shoah, with a focus on spiritual bravery. The archive contains thousands of documents and pictures. It serves the ultra-Orthodox community but documents the experience of all religious groups.
The Jewish community of Vienna (ikg Vienna) is reconstructing its historical archives. Because of the Holocaust, the rediscovered records are of a more varied origin and scope than is usual for an institutional archive. Still, the overall focus of the future archives will be the organizational records of the Jewish community of Vienna. Until March 1938 the Jewish community of Vienna was a rather decentralized, relatively small organization (most holdings are deposited at the Central Archives of the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem), while the Jewish community of Vienna from March 1938 to April 1945 was a large, centralized Nazi-approved organization whose task was to liquidate the wealth of Jewish organizations in Vienna as well as of Jewish communities elsewhere in Austria and to organize emigration, social welfare, and deportation of Austria's Jewish population. Documents were rediscovered in the early 2000s. Together with the material at the Central Archives in Jerusalem, this material probably represents the most comprehensive record of a Jewish community under Nazi rule available today.
The Jewish community of Vienna from the end of World War ii was a small, centralized religious organization also responsible for returning newly settled members, for Holocaust survivors abroad, and for restitution issues (restitution of assets of former Jewish organizations, its own assets, and those claimed by individuals). A portion of the Holocaust-related postwar material, like survivor lists and card indexes as well as material related to restitution claims from the 1940s and 1950s, has been processed and is being microfilmed at the Anlaufstelle.
The memorial institutions at the sites of destruction in Austria also contain records relevant to those sites.
The Contemporary Jewish Documentation Center (Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine), has some four million pages of original records and some two million pages of microfilm material. It is involved in an exchange program with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem and in a joint project with the Holocaust Museum in the French Departmental Archives. Its system of indexing is based on a thesaurus of 3,000 terms. The holdings relate to the Jewish communities in Europe at the beginning of the century (pogroms, ghettos, etc.); antisemitic propaganda; the way of life of the Jewish communities in Europe, 1933–45; antisemitic legislation in all European countries; Aryanization and plunder of Jewish property; arrest and internment of the Jews; creation of the ghettos and concentration camps; the destruction of European Jewry; the operation of the camps; the return of the deportees, the dp camps and the rebuilding of the Jewish community; reparations and war trials; and the memory of the Shoah (commemoration, survivors' associations, hidden children, testimonies). The fate of the Jews in France from 1920 to 1950 is especially well documented.
The Jewish Historical Institute (Żydowski Instytut Historyczny) in Warsaw contains 700,000 pages of original records, including the records of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Poland in 1939–41, the Jewish self-help organizations, and a collection of diaries, memoirs, and testimonies. Among its most prized collections are the Ringelblum Warsaw ghetto archives, the catalogue of which has now been translated into English. Duplicates are in the possession of Yad Vashem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The memorial museums at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek also contain important archives relating to those camps and have staffs of historians and archivists. The former grapple with the material itself in a new post-Communist atmosphere of freedom; the latter assist scholars and nonscholars in reviewing the extensive records.
The Wiener Library in London contains 900,000 pages of original records and 1.5 million microfilmed records from elsewhere. It too has an exchange program with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Directed by the respected Holocaust scholar Peter Longreich is the Research Centre for the Holocaust and Twentieth-Century History, based in Royal Holloway's German Department. It promotes Holocaust research in an international forum, bringing together researchers from various disciplines "to examine the extent to which genocide, war and dictatorship can be understood as defining elements" of the twentieth century.
in the czech republic
The memorial at Terezin (Theresienstadt) contains material on the persecution of Jews in the former Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, especially the history of the Terezin "model" ghetto. It contains 44,000 pages of original records and a similar number of pages from other archives. Cataloging and indexing are in Czech. The Jewish Museum in Prague has an incomparable collection of Judaica from Central Europe and important documentation relating to the Czechoslovak Jewish community.
[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]
The number of memorials dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust has never been counted. Certainly there are hundreds if not thousands, if small memorials in synagogues and even churches are included. The first memorials were established by the survivors themselves in concentration camps, such as the temporary memorial of May 1945 in Buchenwald that lasted less than month because of the need for wood, or the memorials often hastily put together from the remnants of broken tombstones from desecrated cemeteries. More serious memorialization in the form of permanent monuments in places came after the war, in Europe, Palestine/Israel, and later wherever survivors found a new home. The urge to commemorate this negative event was arguably driven by the lack of graves for the victims of mass murder. Hence, postwar memorials were built to be commemorative places as well as sites with pedagogical value.
To understand the importance of, and reasons for, such an intensive monument building process (which continues), a typology of monuments may be useful. Having memorials in public spaces, often at sites of the atrocities, is a confirmation of the Holocaust as a public event with meaning not only for the victims but for the entire post-Holocaust community, Jews and gentiles. However, a fundamental question connected with memorials was and continues to be how one may connect the story it represents with the larger narrative of oppression of the Jews, World War ii and the era of National Socialism, and with post-1945 narratives about freedom and democracy as well as the confirmation of the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state.
Holocaust monuments are probably in a special class, as they commemorate an event that represents absolute evil (as a moral, theological, practical term). For artists and architects involved in the construction of memorials, an essential question is the tension between independent aesthetics and the need for the form of the monument to represent an accessible meaning in an easily legible way. Survivors have generally supported the idea of the memorial as an object, while artists have often proposed concepts based on the idea of discursive space. Postmodern forms of memorialization, based on abstraction or a concept of absence, often do not find receptive audiences among those who seek some positive affirmation or meaning from a monument.
Monuments in countries outside Europe or Israel seem to face the issue of authenticity and durability. For Europeans, memorials also represent complicity by the state and people of the country. For monuments erected in Israel, a tension developed over issues like victimization vs. heroism, and the meaning of the Holocaust for a Jewish state. Many academic writers, especially James Young, have argued that public debates over the forms of memorials are more important than the finished memorials. Young was an important member of the commission that ultimately chose Peter Eisenman's design for the Berlin Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, which opened in April 2005. He argued that his ideal for the memorial was a hundred-year debate and no memorial structure at the end of the process. A critical question, then, is whether the completion of a monument is an invitation for the public to forget.
Memorial spaces have often been integrated with Holocaust museums (see below) or Jewish museums. Thus Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Remembrance Authority, sees itself as "the Jewish people's memorial to the murdered Six Million and symbolizes the ongoing confrontation with the rupture engendered by the Holocaust." Its function, therefore, is memorialization and the creation of monuments, as well as the maintenance of an extensive museum with research and educational facilities that has an impact on Holocaust education around the world. The most recognizable memorial at Yad Vashem is Moshe *Safdie's Children's Memorial, an underground interior space that attempts to conceptualize the loss of 1.5 million children by the use of a single candle, mirrors, and recorded voices.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is regarded foremost as a museum, but the visitor's travel through the museum space ends with a memorial, conceived by the museum's architect, James Ingo *Freed. Even more complex is Daniel *Libeskind's addition to Berlin's Jewish Museum. This was designed as an annex to an existing space, but because of the Holocaust and its impact on the history of German Jewry, its design, which speaks of rupture and voids, has become one of Berlin's many memorials to the Holocaust.
The construction of memorials also has engendered debates about utilization of space and place, especially when the forms of a monument may disturb what is in essence a cemetery. This question has been raised at all the sites of death camps. The construction of the Belzec Memorial, opened in 2004, was held up by a survivor's lawsuit over the disturbing of the bones of the victims at the site. It also raised halakhic questions as to how one could dig on the site of a death camp.
Memorial sites can also open debates about contested spaces where many groups were victims of the Nazis, or where concentration camps had continued in use after the end of World War ii. The concentration camp at Buchenwald, for example, served beyond the Nazi period as a concentration camp for anti-Communist prisoners under the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). A similar problem has erupted over memorial spaces at Auschwitz, most notably because of the Polish Communist state's suppression of the history of Jewish victimization, the presence of Polish political prisoners in the camp's history, and post-Communist political issues, expressed in the erection of crosses at the camp site as a symbol of Polish national possession of memory. That Auschwitz was part of the German Reich during the Holocaust and is now (back) in Poland raised questions about Germans and Poles, as well as victim groups, and hence problems of commemorating the horrors confronted by each. There were three camps at Auschwitz: Auschwitz I, the prison camp where Polish non-Jews were incarcerated; Auschwitz ii-Birkenau, the killing center, where more than a million Jews were murdered; and Auschwitz iii–Buna-Monowitz, but the public does not distinguish among them and their diverse victim populations.
Early monuments largely were in figurative sculptural form. The best example is Nathan Rapoport's Warsaw Ghetto Monument. Rapoport designed this memorial in 1943, while in exile in the Soviet Union. It was dedicated in April 1948, on the fifth anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The monument memorializes the heroism of the Jews on one side as well as their victimization on the other. The commanding figure of Mordechai *Anielewicz and other fighters of the ghetto dominates the side symbolizing heroism, while a line of Jews on the reverse symbolizes the enormity of victimization as "the last road." Since the ghetto was destroyed in its entirety, Rapoport's monument is sited in the center of a postwar housing project. The monument, nevertheless, has been regarded as accessible in terms of its narrative and artistic style, and was reproduced during the late 1980s at Yad Vashem in what is called Warsaw Ghetto Square.
Memorial sites at the death camps themselves are particularly meaningful because of the sites and the power of many monuments. The Polish sculptors Adam Haupt and Franciszek Dusenko completed the Treblinka Monument in 1964. It was built by public subscription and commemorates a place where 800,000 Jews were murdered. The installation is successful because of its monumentality and abstraction. The site contains 17,000 jagged rocks, many of which contain the names of destroyed Jewish communities. In the center is a large 22-foot-high monument where the gas chambers stood. The fissure (in the stone) symbolizes the broken Jewish life in Poland as a result of the Holocaust. Other parts of the memorial remind visitors of the railroad spur and ramp into the camp as well as the burning pits. Abstract and incomplete, the Treblinka memorial seems to be dominated by broken forms.
The concept of memorial is more complex at Auschwitz and Birkenau (Oswiecim and Brzezinka, in Polish). The camps themselves are designated as a museum and memorial. Thus the entire space serves memorial purposes. In Auschwitz i, the Wall of Death between Blocks 10 and 11 has taken on special memorial meaning for Poles, while in Birkenau, the destroyed gas chambers are often adorned with flags, flowers, and notes by visitors. In 1958, an international competition was held for a memorial at Birkenau. It failed to find an acceptable design, despite more than 400 entries from artists representing 36 countries. The design that received the most votes, submitted by Oskar and Zofia Hansen, Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz, and Julian Palka, was not favored by survivors because of its abstractness. In 1967, the Polish memorial committee hired a team headed by Pietro Cascella and Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz to complete a "compromise monument." The monument had further problems with specifying the numbers of victims murdered in the camp. The original figure on the monument indicated "4 million." However, the numbers were taken off in 1990 shortly after the fall of Communism and not replaced with the more accurate figure of 1.25 million (the best estimates are 1.1–1.3 million). Nevertheless, Auschwitz remains contested space because the camp is in Poland, a country with a small Jewish population.
The memorial at the Belzec death camp opened only in 2004 after many competitions for designs for the site. Designed by Andrzej Solyga, Zdzislaw Pidek, and Marcin Roszczyk, the memorial covers the entire site of the death camp and provides a vista of total devastation, almost like a field of lava and stones, with piles of railroad ties capped with rails as a suggestive entrance, and a memorial space with names of towns and a wall of Jewish names. A museum on the death camp grounds tells the story of what happened at Belzec and thus the memorial does not bear sole responsibility for telling the story of the site of the murder of 500,000 Jews during 1942.
One of the most controversial monuments in the former Soviet Union is at Babi Yar in Kiev, in Ukraine. The first project at this Einsatzgruppen killing site was a small memorial stone by Aleksandr V. Vlasov, chief architect of Kiev, installed in 1946. It contained the inscription: "On this site there will be a monument for the victims of fascism during the German occupation of Kiev, 1941–1943." The issue of Jewish victimization at the site was raised through a poem written by Yevgeny Yevtushenko in 1961. The result was a monumental sculpture by the Soviet architect M. Lysenko, built in 1976, which continued to ignore the Jewish victimization. The plaque, in three languages, says: "Here in 1941–1943 more than one hundred thousand people from Kiev and the military were killed by German Fascists." In 1991, a specifically Jewish monument, Menorah (in the form of a menorah), designed by Yury Paskevich, was erected. Plans to enhance the site continue, including a Jewish Center at Babi Yar. Such plans led to extensive debate within the Kiev Jewish community about the need for such a center, particularly one to be built with funding from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
Other sites in the former Soviet Union, such as Panieiri (Ponary) Woods outside of Vilnius (Vilna), Lithuania, have had their symbols and narratives revised, while new monuments continue to appear, such as one in the Rumbula forest to commemorate the destruction of the Jews of Riga, Latvia.
Monuments in France have taken on complex meaning because of French collaboration with the German occupation in World War ii. The French national memorial to the deportation is the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, designed by G.H. Pingusson in 1962, sited behind Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris. It commemorates the deportation of 200,000 French citizens, but is not specific as to the fate of the Jews. The more significant monument is in Drancy, a northern Paris suburb, the site of a deportation center for Jews. The form of the memorial, built by Shlomo Selinger in 1973, evokes Rodin's Gates of Hell and also the Hebrew letter Shin, a symbol of the name of God. Ten figures (a minyan, the minimum number needed to hold a Jewish religious service) are shown in a whirlwind, representing the Holocaust; the stylized forms of the Hebrew letters lamed and vav, symbolizing the world's thirty-six righteous men of Jewish legend, are represented by the forms of two of the figures. In back of the granite memorial are tracks that lead to a preserved railroad boxcar used in the deportations. While Drancy is an appropriate place for a memorial, it is now in the center of a North African immigrant neighborhood, where the residents are still living in the apartment structure that was at the heart of the Drancy camp.
Germany probably has the most monuments, most in abstract or negative forms, defined as a mode of representing the absence of the Jews. Eisenman's Monument (Denkmal) to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Central Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate and the Tiergarten on a 4.1-acre site is probably the largest urban Holocaust memorial. It is unique as a negative monument to the Nazis' crimes against the Jews, and it is within sight of the renovated Reichstag building, home of the German parliament, the Bundestag. Appearing as a rolling cemetery with 2,700 granite stones, the metaphorical space succeeds in providing a conceptual awareness of the enormity of the crime. At the site, in certain spots of the memorial, the visitor loses sight of the city itself, suggesting how Germans lost their way with Nazism.
One of the other successful monuments in Berlin was conceived by Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock. Places of Remembrance is a series of 80 images on 40 double-sided signs displayed on light poles at a height of approximately 3 meters in the Schoeneberg district/Bayerischer Platz of Berlin. It is part of public space designed to encourage a discourse and remembrance about the past. The signs contain abstracts of the texts of Nazi laws against the Jews and the dates of enactment, some testimonies of victims, and on the reverse sides artistic images. Erected in 1993, the monument drew protests and even led to the temporary removal of some signs. It has become one of Berlin's important memorials because of its pedagogical value, as well as the fact that the signs are in many places and must be sought out, rather than assembled at a static site.
Countermonuments and negative monuments have also been erected in Germany by artists who resist conventionality. Jochen Gerz's Monument against Fascism was built in Hamburg-Harburg, Germany, in 1986. A twelve-meter-high obelisk covered with lead, it was designed to attract graffiti. Between 1986 and 1993, it was lowered somewhat on eight occasions until the vertical dimension was lost and the monument was lying on the ground. The monument invited public participation, including having visitors sign a statement against Fascism. When the monument was lowered to the ground, it was enclosed in glass. Gerz's final statement was: "In the end it is only we ourselves who can stand up against injustice."
Horst Hoheisel of Kassel has created many memorials that defy monumentality and create indirect paths of remembrance. In May 1945, a temporary obelisk was erected by the survivors of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Located near the entrance, it was quickly torn down because of the need for the wood. Hoheisel won a competition in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the camp's liberation. His design was a memorial to the destroyed memorial of 1945. He constructed a stainless steel slab approximately 2 meters on each side, with slightly hipped angles, and the names of the 51 countries of origin of the inmates of the camp in 1945 engraved on the top. The slab is almost at ground level but is permanently heated to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit to simulate body temperature. The result is that most visitors feel the need to kneel and touch the monument, creating as well a sense of touching the past. Hoheisel also was commissioned in 1985 to create the memorial to the Aschrottbrunnen Fountain in Kassel. The original fountain, given to the city by a Jewish businessman in 1908, was destroyed by the Nazis in 1939. Hoheisel's monument to the destroyed fountain, hence also to a destroyed people, featured an inverted model of the original (a "negative form") totally sunk into the earth, with the water rising to a flat surface of small canals covered partially by glass. The monumentality of the original fountain is gone, and the negative form, incomprehensible to some viewers, was seen as "a stimulant to memory, a flint to fire debate."
While the United States has many monuments, few are worthy of consideration from an aesthetic point of view. George *Segal's The Holocaust, erected in 1984, is a series of nine bronze figures painted white. It graces Legion of Honor Park in San Francisco overlooking San Francisco Bay. Based loosely on Margaret *Bourke-White's photograph of the liberation of Buchenwald of April 1945, Segal's figurative memorial places the Holocaust in a beautiful, and unexpected setting. The New England Holocaust Memorial, designed by architect Stanley Saitowitz, dedicated on Boston's Freedom Trail in 1995, features six luminous glass towers, each 54 feet high. The towers are lit internally to gleam at night. Smoke rises from the bottom of each tower, suggesting the six death camps, while six million numbers are etched on the glass. Nathan Rapoport's bronze monument to the Holocaust in Philadelphia dates to 1964 and takes the form of an abstract burning bush incorporating people, a Torah scroll, and flames. Miami Beach, the home of many Holocaust survivors, has a monument created by architect Kenneth Triester and dedicated in 1990, the centerpiece of which is an outstretched arm tattooed with numbers. It is part of a site that includes a Garden of Meditation, a Memorial Wall, and an Arbor of History, with historic photographs of the Holocaust etched into black granite.
While other monuments and memorials exist in the United States and other countries outside Europe and Israel, they too often make use of repetitive symbolism of the Holocaust and may be interpreted as an invitation to forget rather than remember the event.
Der Wettbewerb für das "Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas": Eine Streitschrift (Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, 1995); R. Koshar, From Monuments to Traces: Artifacts of German Memory, 1870–1990 (2000); S. Milton and I. Nowinski, In Fitting Memory: the Art and Politics of Holocaust Memorials (1991); C. Wiedmer, The Claims of Memory: Representations of the Holocaust in Contemporary Germany and France (1999); J. Young, At Memory's Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture (2002); idem, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (1994); J. Young (ed.), Holocaust Memorials in History: The Art of Memory (1994).
[Stephen C. Feinstein (2nd ed.)]
Although the Holocaust was perpetrated by Germany, all of the death camps were in German-occupied Poland, and Israel perceives itself as the direct heir of the victims, it is in the United States where the "master narrative" of the Holocaust has been shaped. Tim Cole, who has written critically of Holocaust museums, commented that "if you want the 'Holocaust' in the 1990s, then America is a better place to go looking for it than either Europe or Israel."
That was not always the case. In the aftermath of World War ii, the Holocaust was not a significant part of American consciousness, even of American Jewish consciousness. In a 1954 report written for the World Jewish Congress, Dr. Issac I. Schwarzbart expressed deep concern that memories of the Holocaust will "slowly lapse into oblivion" and that observances will be held "only once in every 5 or 10 years and… only in the principal Jewish communities." It was not until 1972–73 that the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council of the Jewish Federations put the Holocaust on its agenda and only in the following year did it suggest, for the first time, that local Jewish communities create visual memorials such as exhibits, monuments, plaques, and signs, and that they develop their own local archives.
The first Holocaust exhibition was created in 1979 by survivors in Los Angeles, and the first Holocaust museums were opened in 1984 in Dallas and Detroit on the property of their local Jewish community centers. There now are 37 museums and more than 180 organizations in North America. The largest, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, has been visited by some 23 million people since it opened in 1993, and is one of the most popular attractions in the nation's capital. Other major museums are in Los Angeles, New York, suburban Detroit, Montreal, Houston, and St. Petersburg (see below for a complete list), and plans are under way for the construction of stand-alone museums in Chicago, Toronto, and Dallas as well as in Mexico City.
This phenomenally rapid increase in organizations dedicated to commemorating, educating, and presenting the Holocaust to public audiences should be seen in the context of the growing popularity of museums in general. Museum attendance in America is estimated to have increased from 200 million individual visits in 1965, to 400 million in 1984, 600 million in the early 1990s, and 865 million by 1997. Edward Able, executive director of the American Association of Museums, claims that "museum-going is rapidly becoming the single most popular, out-of-home family activity in America." Within museums, historical topics dominate. A survey of over 8,000 museums completed in October 2000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities noted that 65 percent chose "history" as the primary or secondary descriptor for their institutions and that more than 80 percent of them chose "history" as the topic of most interest for their temporary exhibitions.
Museums are regarded more favorably by the public than other institutions that preserve and present history (such as archives, libraries, schools, universities, publishing houses, and film studios). Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen, sociologists who interviewed nearly 1,500 Americans, report that when asked to rate the "trustworthiness" of different sources of information about the past on a 10-point scale, museums topped the list – ahead of grandparents' stories, eyewitness testimony, college history professors, and high school teachers. Trustworthiness raises the expectation in the eyes of the public that museums will "reflect accepted truth, not … search for it… Museums, then, were treated not as places where knowledge was disputed or contested, but as sanctuaries where it was secure. For many… [truth] was what a museum contained. Entry and exhibition were credentialing," Rosenzweig and Thelen said. The historian Michael Kammen adds that the average museum visitor looks to museums for certainties and "does not wish to know that multiple interpretations of an object, a phenomenon, or an event are possible. Such knowledge would only be perplexing, or even seriously discomforting."
In striving to shape three-dimensional museum displays that are intelligible, attractive, and engaging to audiences, there is a multiplicity of ways and means that might be chosen.
the "where" dimension
In line with the popular adage that the three most importance aspects of real estate are location, location, and location, this dimension may be the most significant in distinguishing among Holocaust Museums. "Where" a museum is located influences what can or cannot be presented in it and the meanings and messages that are created and understood. For example, in 1989 the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum accepted nine kilograms of shorn human hair from German death camps in Poland, where it had been on public display for decades. The attempt to show hair in a museum in Washington, d.c., however, raised a bitter controversy. Some museum organizers were so appalled and disgusted that the display case that was built to house the hair remains empty to this day, while the hair itself sits in storage, out of sight.
Commenting on this controversy in which people opposed displaying something in one museum what is shown without incident in another, Alvin Rosenfeld, a literary scholar, posits that "what is acceptable in the abnormal atmosphere of a death camp – the site of the murders – is not acceptable in the antiseptic atmosphere of the Nation's Capital.… Many visitors, myself among them – and I am totally non-religious – will consider such displays sacrilegious, a desecration." In his book Thinking about the Holocaust After Half a Century, Rosenfeld ponders why visitors express such very different feelings
upon leaving the remains of the Nazi camps in Germany or Poland or upon concluding a visit to Yad Vashem in Israel… [than are] evoked at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum? The answer probably lies less in what is shown in the one place and not in the other than in the site itself and the democratic ideals that America's capital exemplifies.
This situation is not unique, as other exhibitions might also be perceived differently by audiences in different locations, and what might be perfectly legitimate in one setting could be seen as an affront in another.
Focus groups, surveys, and interviews done prior to the opening of the United States museum were used to inform curators of the distinctive features of locating in the nation's capital.
(F)or Americans, a visit to Washington is unlike a typical visit to almost any other place. What makes Washington different is the multiplicity of motivations and expectations with which people come to the nation's capital. They come to be educated, to see government in action, to get in touch with our country's history, to see firsthand the monuments and emblems of our nation, and to share in that 'red, white, and blue' feeling… (T)he capital's attractions are mind-expanding, historically significant, and steeped in symbolism.
Therefore the choice to place the museum in Washington rather than New York or some other location was a conscious one whose significance was articulated right from the outset. The President's Commission on the Holocaust, which recommended the establishment of the museum, started to build the museum's "case statement" in its first official document, the 1979 Report to the President. It connected location with content, values, and message. The report noted that the Holocaust
affects all Americans, raising fundamental questions about government, the abuses of unbridled power, the fragility of social institutions, the need for national unity, and the functioning of government. By reminding us of the potential for violence in human society, the museum can contribute to a strengthening of the democratic process.
the report to the president
Written by the commission's deputy director, Michael *Berenbaum, and signed by 23 of the 24 members of the Commission, The Report to the President argued that placing the Holocaust museum on the National Mall would balance themes extolled in the Smithsonian museums such as the "triumphant achievements of human history and creativity… increasing human control over the environment… the aesthetic genius of the human imagination… (and) the use of technology."
When asked in an interview to comment on the importance of location to the shaping of memory, Berenbaum, a theologian and Holocaust historian who directed the creation of the museum, referred to the biblical tradition that the memory of the destroyed city of Jerusalem was affected when the location in which it was pined for was by the waters of Babylon. He argued that a Holocaust museum in Washington, d.c., inevitably "tells a governmental story" whereas a New York Holocaust Museum "tells the story of a victimized community." Regarding the heavy use of interactive multimedia, tv screens, narrated scripts, and hands-on experiential environments in the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, Berenbaum responded that "(h)ad we done that in Washington, we would have been shouted [down], because that would not be considered appropriate to the environment of Washington. It is appropriate in Los Angeles and it works in Los Angeles." Then, comparing the national Holocaust museum in Washington to the one in Jerusalem, he added:
We also had a problem different from Yad Vashem in terms of presenting it in Washington, which is: we had to discharge people on to the National Mall. Yad Vashem had the greatest ending of all, which is that you come through darkness into light and you see Jerusalem, reborn in the living State of Israel… And that's the answer. [That ending is still the ending in the new Yad Vashem which opened in 2004.]
Again, we're not in Jerusalem, therefore it cannot be the answer here. We have to discharge people with at least a way to come back in to the Washington Mall.
In exploring the "where" dimension, there are six different types of Holocaust organizations based on their location and activities:
(a) Museums on actual Holocaust sites, such as former camps and ghettos or places of deportation and murder;
(b) Museums prominently placed in national capitals and enjoying significant government support;
(c) Major facilities in highly visible, stand-alone buildings that are devoted to presenting the Holocaust;
(d) Minor facilities that occupy small parts of "Jewish" buildings or complexes that are primarily devoted to other purposes;
(e) Research, resource and teaching centers, often affiliated with colleges or universities and, as a rule, located on their campuses; and
(f) Personal "backyard" operations that are created, shaped, and run by a single champion or a very small group of dedicated individuals with limited involvement from outsiders.
(a) Museums on actual Holocaust sites such as former camps and ghettos or places of deportation and murder. It is rather obvious that being located on sacred ground has a powerful effect on shaping historical presentation and also on the ways that visitors perceive what took place there. In addition, museums of this type are unavoidably engaged with identity issues that are of no relevance to the other five locations. (Of course no Holocaust museum in North America is on a Holocaust site.)
Site issues from another time and place may prove enlightening. Restricting the exhibition of the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas, to the period during which it was a fort (1835–6) presents a white Anglo story of Protestant Texans resisting foreign invaders. On the other hand, broadening the scope to cover its 250 years as a Mexican Catholic mission, similar to others in the same area above and below the Rio Grande (and before there was an international border), and its importance to local Tejanos (Mexican-Texans), some of whom also fought and died there, would necessitate telling a very different story. Terezin (Theresienstadt) and Auschwitz had both been military bases before the Holocaust, but to what extent are these "prehistories" relevant or even of interest to visitors?
More than a dozen liberated Nazi camps (including Buchenwald and Majdanek) had "posthistories" as Soviet punishment centers where more than 130,000 Nazi sympathizers and anti-Communists were imprisoned. To what extent, if any, should they and the estimated 50,000 victims who died there by shooting, hunger, disease, and neglect after 1945 be presented in historical museums located on those sites, or would that only distract and detract from the main messages?
Michael Ignatieff, author of Blood and Belonging. Journeys into the New Nationalism (1993), reminds us of the Orwellian dictum that he who controls the past controls the future. A death camp was located in Jasenovac, Croatia, in World War ii where approximately 600,000 Serbs, Jews, gypsies, and Communists were murdered. After it was bulldozed in 1945 in "the hope that Serbs and Croats might forget," a museum and memorial center was opened in the 1960s in order to play a prominent educational role in teaching tolerance, warning of the dangers of hanging on to old hatreds, promoting the acceptance of differences, and fostering ethnic understanding within Tito's new Yugoslavia. In 1991, Croatian troops stationed in Jasenovac systematically destroyed the whole museum. Ignatieff wrote:
Every book in the library had been ripped up and tossed onto the floor. Every glass exhibit case has been smashed. Every photograph has been defaced. Every file has been pulled out of every drawer, every table and chair has been upended, all the curtains have been cut to ribbons, all the windows have been smashed, and all the walls have been daubed with excrement and slogans. Some quite amazing hatred of the past has taken hold of the people who did this: as if by destroying the museum, they hoped to destroy the memory of what was done here.
(b) Museums prominently placed in national capitals and enjoying significant government support. The Imperial War Museum in London has a large, permanent gallery devoted to the Holocaust and the subject warrants considerable attention in the Jewish Museum in Berlin despite the deliberate attempt not to make it a Holocaust museum. Both are located in national capitals and enjoy considerable governmental support, but both museums extend their concerns beyond the Holocaust itself. Therefore, the two best examples of this type of museum are the two largest in the world: the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Heroes' and Martyrs' Remembrance Authority, in Jerusalem. Each is located in a capital city, on a large campus, and attracts more than a million and as many as two million visitors a year or more. Yad Vashem, located in a country that has a Jewish majority and that sees itself as the heir of the six million, gives its major attention to the Jewish story and looks at the event from the perspective of the victims, while the American museum, on the National Mall, tells an American story from the point of view of bystanders and liberators. (More of these differences will be highlighted in the discussion of the "what" dimension.)
(c) Major facilities in highly visible, stand-alone buildings that are devoted to presenting the Holocaust. Examples are the Museum of Jewish Heritage–A Living Memorial to the Holocaust at the tip of lower Manhattan in New York City; the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, California; the Michigan Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, a suburb of Detroit; the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg; and the Holocaust Museum Houston, in Texas. While these museums are all smaller than those of type "b," they are each tens of thousands of square feet in size, employ dozens of staff, have annual operating budgets in excess of several million dollars, are situated prominently in museum districts or are close to other major attractions, and are visited by more than 100,000 people a year. New York's and Detroit's have expanded (Detroit moved to a new independent facility) and Houston's and St. Petersburg's are planning major expansions.
(d) Minor facilities that occupy small parts of "Jewish" buildings or complexes that are primarily devoted to other purposes. Museums in this category are considerably smaller in size than the previous types and attract fewer visitors (tens of thousands), mostly schoolchildren who are brought in an organized fashion. Examples of this type are the Lillian and A.J. Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education, inside the Jewish Federation building in Atlanta, Georgia; the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, on the campus of the Jewish Community Center in Orlando; the Holocaust Education and Memorial Centre of Toronto, beside the Jewish Federation Building; and the Vancouver Holocaust Centre for Education and Remembrance, in the lower level of the Jewish Community Centre building.
Over time these centers are being given over to professional educators and museum directors as the role of the small group of local organizers (often Holocaust survivors) diminishes. Still, in conformity with the pattern common in "historical houses," the original vision and mission of the museum remains quite resilient. Steeped as they were in European Jewish culture, victimized solely because they were Jews, traumatized by the loss of their loved ones and of the old Jewish world, it is not surprising that the perspective most often taken in the museums located inside Jewish spaces is that of the Jewish victims. Many installations, especially those done before 1993, were modeled after the most dramatic example that they knew – Yad Vashem. To the extent that they could, they tried to copy the Israeli original in their smaller spaces, and they offered local residents, Jews and non-Jews alike, most of whom had not been to Israel, the opportunity to confront the Holocaust through honoring the memories of the Jewish victims and preserving the experiences of those who survived.
(e) Research, resource and teaching centers, often affiliated with colleges or universities and, as a rule, located on their campuses. These centers on university campuses are generally directed by academics who hold regular teaching appointments, such as the Fred R. Crawford Witness to the Holocaust Project at Emory University in Atlanta, headed by Professor Deborah Lipstadt, holder of the Dorot Chair in Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies; or the University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, directed by Dr. Stephen Feinstein. Arguably the easiest and least expensive to establish and maintain, they are the most numerous of the six categories. These organizations have temporary exhibitions but do not maintain permanent ones. With their mission of research, teaching, and providing resources to educators, their focus, as a rule, is broader than just the Holocaust; they are usually also centers of the study of genocide and violations of human rights.
(f) Personal "backyard" operations that are created, shaped, and run by a single champion or a very small group of dedicated individuals with limited involvement from outsiders. The Smith family is devoutly Christian. In 1978, the Smiths bought a farmhouse in rural Nottinghamshire, in the middle of Sherwood Forest, with the intention of creating Britain's first Holocaust center. Beth Shalom is a place of retreat "where people could come to study, to learn, or to be quiet and reflect." The family lives on the site, is devoted to every aspect of its operation, and the mother is the center's only paid employee, serving as manager and administrative coordinator. As many as 500 people visit each week.
An even smaller organization is the Western Association of Holocaust Survivor-Families and Friends, established in Vancouver in 1989 by Renia Perel. She is the founder, president, and, since her husband's death, the main champion. What exists of this association is located in file cabinets and on storage shelves in the basement of her home. Active for several years, the association became virtually moribund during the four-year period that Perel's husband was terminally ill. The intensity of the association's efforts has always been proportionate to the Perels' level of energy, just as its activities were determined by the Perels' interests and predilections.
the "what" and "how" dimensions
Despite (or perhaps because) this subject matter is vast (there are more than 100,000 books on aspects of the Holocaust), there is no consensus as to what are the essential topics and materials that must be presented. Historians of the period typically identify three distinct groups of actors in the Holocaust: the perpetrators (the murderers and their accomplices), the victims, and the bystanders (a less clearly delineated group that runs the gamut from compliant observers to resisters and rescuers). It is unlikely that a Holocaust museum will give exclusive attention to just one of these three perspectives and leave the other two wholly ignored, but at the same time it is not possible to give predominance to more than one focus at the same time and in the same gallery space.
The United States museum chooses to focus the thrust of its educational message on the dangers of being a bystander. Its website proclaims: "The Museum's primary mission is … to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy." Says its executive director, Sara Bloomfield:
Ultimately to me I think the museum isn't about eradicating evil, because evil can't be eradicated.… We know that not just because of the last century, but for thousands of years people have done horrific things to one another and I don't think we're going to be changing human nature any day soon. Certainly a museum cannot do that.
So, the museum's goal is not to make evil people good, because that's simply impossible, but my goal, in the trite cliché of the Holocaust is to transform bystanders into rescuers. That's what our goal is, and the most important player in that exhibit, in many ways, is the bystander.… There's an implicit, I wish it were more explicit in some ways, challenge to encourage the visitor to say: "Well here, in the safety and freedom of America, can I do more? What is my moral obligation to another human being?" So, anyway … for me, this is a story about bystanders and the consequences of standing by.
Placing the Holocaust in the context of American citizenship and values is what Michael Berenbaum means by the term "Americanization of the Holocaust." He explained:
The place from which you remember an event shapes what you remember. So … in Jerusalem the answer is Israeli values. What are Israeli values? An army and a State, a proud, independent people, etc. We tell that story also but the perpetration of the crime is the violation of the American ethos: That all human beings are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights such as freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, habeas corpus, etc. "To bigotry no sanctions, to persecution no assistance." [Citing Washington's quote that hangs prominently in the 15th Street building entrance.] This becomes the Americanization.
And in another place, he adds:
This museum is in dialogue with "the Great American Myth"… in dialogue with the Smithsonian and standing at the juncture of "Museum Washington" and "Monumental Washington," celebrating the power and triumph of government, the human imagination, spirit, creativity, etc., etc. We are about what happens when all of those forces are unleashed without regard to the values, "the Great American Values" of "all men, now people, are created equal," they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights that the State cannot take away, protections, freedoms… This involvement, if anything, has made me more deeply and more profoundly patriotic. And more respectful of the best of American values, not of the American experience, and I think that one of the reasons why this Museum works in its location is that it very subtly is in dialogue with place and space.
In sharp contrast, the planners of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City took a different emphasis right from the start. They wanted to tell a Jewish story, in three layers, focused on the victims.
Built on four millennia of memories and experience, Jewish Heritage is a rich symphony of themes and motifs, of counterpoint and, sadly, of dissonant chords. To capture the essence of this complex creation, we will divide the story into three chapters, corresponding to the three floors of the Museum: The Jewish World in the Early 20th Century (first floor); The War against the Jews (second floor); and Jewish Renewal (third floor).
When asked to compare the Jewish Heritage to other Holocaust museums, Ivy Barsky, deputy director for programs, pointed out that the
major difference is that we have decided to tell the story as much as possible through the eyes of those who survived it. And you know, honoring the memory of those who perished. And not necessarily really flushing out the story of the perpetrators and others. And, even though we are primarily talking about Jews, talking less about what happened to Jews and more about what Jews did… more about Jews as subjects than as objects.
The special activities that it offers are more typical of a Jewish community center or a synagogue than a Holocaust museum.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles focuses less on bystanders or victims, and more on the third group of actors, the perpetrators: what the Nazis did, what the like-minded are still doing, and what might be the dangerous face of intolerance in the future if we do not fight back and fail to prevent its spread. Drawing upon a singularly Southern Californian metaphor, dean and founder Rabbi Marvin Hier summarizes the basic point:
The message of the museum is simple. The highway of hate is one highway. Once you're on it, you have two choices: exit early and avoid a catastrophe, or keep on the highway of hate and drive straight to Auschwitz. The message is, if a society doesn't take cognizance of hate, thinks little of it, and is not willing to do something about it by getting off that highway and condemning it, it could condemn itself to ride straight to Auschwitz.
In an article for the Los Angeles Times, Hier explained
The Holocaust's central lesson – that a civilized society voluntarily turned themselves (sic) into an evil one; that lawyers and judges lied and cheated; that teachers distinguished between Aryan and non-Aryans, teaching their students that even God's "thou shalt not kill" did not apply to society's untermenschen, the so-called sub-cultures, a name Nazis used to describe Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and other undesirables.
Therefore the Tolerance museum includes material on the African-American struggle for civil rights in America, discrimination against women in Afghanistan, teen-age drinking, child pornography, sexual exploitation of women and children in Belarus, and hate sites on the Internet. "Hatred did not die in the bunker with Hitler," says Hier. "They are not dinosaurs that you can walk away from (like) at the Museum of Natural History, and then forget about. The haters are still among us."
But the museum's major innovation is in the area of "how," i.e., the methodology of presentation, specifically the extensive use of technology: computers, films, and interactive experiences. Rabbi Hier intended to create something very different from other Holocaust museums:
The Museum of Tolerance was never set up to duplicate or to be another Yad Vashem or … Washington.… It was designed for middle and high school students. If you want to reach young people, you have to make history "come alive" to them. You can't teach them history from text and pictures on the wall, and from seminars or monologues that are going to be given by … historians.
Condemning the museum as the "collusion of Hollywood and the Holocaust" (or the more sarcastic: "Disney does Dachau"), critics Nicola A. Lisus and Richard V. Ericson, authors of Misplacing Memory: the Effect of Television Format on Holocaust Remembrance (1995), charge:
Competing, as it certainly seems to be, with other L.A. entertainment giants for an audience grown accustomed to viewing reality through a Hollywood filter, the Wiesenthal Center relies on its state-of-the-art electronic media approach and the kind of advertising more normally associated with Hollywood theme parks to attract visitors…
The Tolerancenter (sic) relies on short sound bytes, slogans, and continuous audio and visual stimulation, giving the impression that this section is based more upon the principles of advertising than those of education. A cacophony of over-dramatized voices emanating from computer characters bombards the visitor with all the superficial urgency of local news broadcast. Like the local news, this gallery offers the visitor a high-impact and, in my opinion, low-content experience.
In Los Angeles, "the city of illusions," some argue the Holocaust Museum has become a place where
creeping surrealism is well underfoot. Here the unreal, the recreated and the voice-over form the yardstick by which we measure the real. Fantasy becomes the baseline for measuring truth. Drama overpowers reality. Characters of history become character actresses and voices from the past become voiceovers of the present. (Lisus and Ericson)
Linking "where" and "how" dimensions, Hier admits:
If we were Auschwitz, it might be a sin for us to take all this modern technology to the bunks, where the actual slaughter and gassing took place… There, one has to be very careful, because if you change Auschwitz, if you make Auschwitz into a highly sophisticated and technologically oriented museum I would be afraid. So I would be much more cautious that that [Auschwitz] should be preserved as it is.
A useful framework for understanding the "how" dimension of museums is offered by Michael Ettema in History Museums and the Culture of Materialism (1987), a continuum from the "formalistic" to the "analytical" perspectives. The formalistic perspective perceives history as factual learning, best accomplished by accumulating discrete pieces of information. In the museum context, this means that information is mastered through familiarity with the specific details of an object: its origin; who made it, where, and how; what were its functions; and the extent to which its stylistic and technical features can be correlated with other groups of selected objects. In pedagogical terms, this approach is often called the "discovery" or the "inquiry" method. A museum whose presentation reflects a formalistic perspective would be anchored in genuine artifacts (no replicas, models, dioramas, or multimedia gimmicks). Since its collection likely would be incomplete, its curators would have to be satisfied with telling only a partial story. Aspects of the story, regardless of how important they might be, that cannot be told through artifacts in the museum's possession, would necessarily be absent. At its core, such a museum sees itself as being about "collecting, documenting, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting material evidence and associated information."
On the other hand, the analytical perspective looks beyond "what happened" and "when" to ask "how" and "why" things are the way they are. Its focus is on the narrative being told, with the artifacts serving merely as hooks or illustrations to be set out like theater props. The analytical perspective takes abstract explanations that are situated in ideas, values, and social circumstances. History, in this understanding, is the posing and answering of questions about trends, changes, processes and systems in which physical objects are not the messages themselves but rather are displayed to support the unfolding drama. Artifacts not in the possession of a museum, but on which important aspects of the narrative rely, may be manufactured, copied, or projected.
Curators employing an analytical perspective attempt to tell a complete story (albeit only one of the possible stories about the subject), while those at the other, formalistic, end of this continuum essentially highlight fragments of stories by looking at specific artifacts, but cannot present a complete one because of all that is missing.
The distinction can be illustrated in the Dallas Holocaust Museum. From 1984 until 2004 (when the museum was located in the basement of the Jewish Community Center) it had an essentially formalistic display. A collection of artifacts – what the museum happened to possess – was shown along with photographs and wall texts that presented some ("fragments") of the major events that took place between 1933 and 1945, omitting and ignoring the rest. There was no clear or coherent story.
In contrast, the relocated museum in the center of the city has housed a new display since March 2005, titled "One Day in the Holocaust." It focuses on a complete story, one of many that might be told. In line with the analytical perspective, the story is the key. The display examines reactions to the same events (the explosion of killings that took place in 1942 and the mass deportations of victims in boxcars) by three different sets of actors in three different locations on a single day, April 19, 1943. On that day, powerless victims were heroically but futilely fighting back (the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising). Three young men decided to take independent action and heroically saved the lives of 231 deportees on their way to Auschwitz (stopping a train from the Mechlen transit camp in Belgium); and officials of powerful governments were discussing the plight of the European Jews, carefully taking no meaningful action to rescue them (the Bermuda Conference). The bottom-line message is that we need not be defined by what happens to us when we have the will to choose how we wish to respond, and that we are responsible for our decisions and their consequences. If this is true even during the difficult period of the Holocaust, how much more should we be conscious of the choices that we make in the less difficult circumstances of our daily lives?
Other important aspects of the "how" dimension are revealed by what is inside the museums and by the architecture. The museums in Washington and Los Angeles are each housed in a striking building; Yad Vashem's museum impales the ground, stabbing through the bedrock of Israel with a foreign object (a concrete structure) and causing a wound that can never be healed. To get to the display in Washington, visitors ascend in an elevator to the fourth floor and begin their tour by looking at the way things were before the rise of the Nazi regime ("normal" life). Then, as the narrative progresses and Nazism begins, visitors descend, sinking deeper and deeper into the depths of the windowless building, falling further and further into the abyss. After initial attempts to keep the museum open to the American symbols that surround it failed because the western sun was too hot to keep the building cooled adequately, James Ingo Freed, the museum's architect, chose to block out views of the nation's capital as a way to keep "American space from contaminating memorial space."
In contrast, visitors to the museums in Jerusalem and in New York City (both focused on the Jewish story) move physically and symbolically upwards – from depths to heights and from darkness to light – emerging at a "higher" level to set up the visitor for a final, uplifting experience. At Yad Vashem, the last view looks out over the dynamic, lively, rebuilt, and reunited city of Jerusalem. At the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the final vista is of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, symbols of safety from oppression, welcome and compassion for the downtrodden refugees.
After surveying Holocaust memorials and museums in Germany, Austria, Poland, Israel, and the United States, James Young concludes that "(i)n every nation's memorials and museums, a different Holocaust is remembered, often to conflicting political and religious ends.… Memory is never shaped in a vacuum, the motives of memory are never pure."
However, this situation is not fundamentally different from that of other history museums. In Dream Spaces: Memory and the Museum, Gaynor Kavanagh asserts that meaning-making "springs not from objects, (or the) collections of the institution, but from people and how the past is remembered within the present." As long as different people in different places are remembering the past, they will shape different presentations of it.
|Argentina||Buenos Aires||Fundacion Memoria del Holocausto|
|Australia||Melbourne||Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre|
|Australia||Sydney||Sydney Jewish Museum – History of the Holocaust section|
|Austria||Vienna||Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service (Gedenkdienst)|
|Austria||Vienna||Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial|
|Belgium||Mechelen||Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance|
|Canada||Montreal||Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre|
|Toronto||Holocaust Education and Memorial Centre of Toronto|
|Vancouver||Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre|
|Winnipeg||Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada|
|Croatia||Jasenovac||Vatican's Holocaust – Holocaust Archive Pictures at Croatia Jasenovac Memorial Site and Memorial Museum|
|Czech Rep.||Terezin||Terezin Memorial|
|France||Izieu||Memorial Museum for Children of Izieu|
|Paris||Memorial de la Shoah|
|Germany||Berlin||Topography of Terror Foundation|
|Dachau||Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site|
|Furstenberg||Ravensbruck Women's Concentration Camp Memorial Museum|
|Oranienburg||Sachsenhausen Memorial Site|
|Papenburg||Document and Information Center of Emsland Camps|
|Wannsee||House of the Wannsee Conference|
|Hungary||Budapest||Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center|
|Israel||Ghetto||Ghetto Fighters' House–|
|Fighters'||Holocaust and Jewish Resistance|
|Jerusalem||Chambers of the Holocaust|
|Jerusalem||Yad Vashem – Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Remembrance Memorial|
|Kibbutz Tel-Yitzhak||Massuah Institute for the Study of the Holocaust|
|Kibbutz Givat Chaim||Beit Theresienstadt|
|Kibbutz Yad Mordechai||Museum in honor of Mordechai Anielewicz|
|Japan||Fukuyama City||Holocaust Education Center|
|Tokyo||Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center|
|Netherlands||Amsterdam||Anne Frank House|
|Haarlem||Corrie ten Boom Museum, "The Hiding Place"|
|Poland||Lublin||State Museum at Majdanek Concentration Camp|
|Oswiecim||Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation|
|Oswiecim||Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum|
|Belzec||Belzec Memorial and Museum|
|Russia||Moscow||Russian Holocaust Foundation|
|South Africa||Cape Town||Cape Town Holocaust Centre|
|United||Laxton, Newark||Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre|
|Kingdom||London||Imperial War Museum's Holocaust Exhibition|
|London||Holocaust and Anti-Racist Department at the London Jewish Cultural Centre|
|United States||Albuquerque, NM||New Mexico Holocaust and Intolerance Museum|
|Atlanta, GA||The Lillian and A.J. Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Center|
|Baltimore, MD||Baltimore Jewish Council|
|Brooklyn (New York City), NY||Kingsborough Community College Holocaust Resource Center|
|Buffalo, NY||Holocaust Resource Center|
|Cincinnati, OH||The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education|
|Dallas, TX||Dallas Holocaust Museum|
|El Paso, TX||El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center|
|Farmington Hills, MI||Holocaust Memorial Center|
|Hollywood, FL||Holocaust Documentation and Education Center|
|Houston, TX||Holocaust Museum Houston|
|Los Angeles, CA||Holocaust Monument|
|Los Angeles, CA||Museum of the Holocaust|
|Los Angeles, CA||Simon Wiesenthal Center|
|Los Angeles, CA||USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education|
|Maitland, FL||Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center|
|Manhasset, NY||Holocaust Resource Center,|
|Miami Beach, FL||Temple Judea of Manhasset Holocaust Memorial|
|Naples, FL||Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida|
|New Haven, CT||Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies|
|New York, NY||Anne Frank Center|
|New York, NY||Ioannina Greece Holocaust Victims|
|New York, NY||Museum of Jewish Heritage–Living Memorial to the Holocaust|
|Pittsburgh, PA||Holocaust Center of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh|
|Providence, RI||Rhode Island Holocaust Memorial Museum|
|Richmond, VA||Virginia Holocaust Museum|
|San Antonio, TX||Holocaust Memorial of San Antonio|
|San Francisco, CA||Holocaust Center of Northern California|
|Skokie, IL||Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois|
|Springfield, MA||Hatikvah Holocaust Education and Resource Center|
|Spring Valley, NY||Holocaust Museum and Study Center|
|St. Louis, MO||Holocaust Museum and Learning Center|
|St. Petersburg, FL||Florida Holocaust Museum|
|Tulsa, OK||Sherwin Miller Museum|
|Washington, DC||United States Holocaust Memorial Museum|
[Elliott Dlin (2nd ed.)]
Both opponents and supporters of Hitler employed film as a medium, either to warn the world about the danger his regime posed to European Jewry, or to warn about the mortal threat "World Jewry" allegedly posed to the Aryan race. During the 1930s, Hollywood tended to avoid overt criticism of the Third Reich, bowing to pressure from its voluntary censorship board, the State Department, and isolationist politicians who anticipated that anti-Nazi movies would provoke a German boycott of American films, damage German-American relations, or plunge the United States into an unwanted European war. Self-interest was at stake, as Germany was an important source of revenue for American films. Weekly newsreels, however, featured stories about the plight of German Jews under Nazi rule. A 1938 edition of the March of Time denounced German persecution of the Jews as "brutal" and "pitiless." In 1940 Charlie Chaplin, the brilliant clown of the silent era, pilloried Hitler in The Great Dictator, which portrayed the Phooey, Chaplin's facetious synonym for Fuehrer, as a megalomaniac intent on invading neighboring countries and incarcerating Jews. Chaplin had financed his own movie. He was incorrectly suspected of being Jewish.
Preparing public opinion for harsher antisemitic measures, the Nazi propaganda "documentary" The Eternal Jew (1940) depicted the unassimilated Jews of defeated Poland as vermin conspiring with their acculturated coreligionists in the West to undermine the Aryan race. The German feature film Jew Suess distorted the true story of an eighteenth-century court Jew who served as the chief adviser to the Duke of Wurttemberg into a cautionary tale about how the Jewish parvenu exploited his influence to profit from his position, oppress German gentiles, and rape a virtuous Aryan woman. The Eternal Jew ends with a clip of Hitler's Reichstag speech threatening to destroy European Jewry if Germany was drawn into a war; Jew Suess implies a similar fate by hanging the Jew after his royal patron died.
Allied wartime movies painted a sinister picture of the Third Reich's regimentation of its own citizenry, oppression of conquered countries, and ruthless persecution of those it deemed "antisocial," inferior, or subversive. Jews appeared in some of these as one among various groups targeted by the Nazis. Loosely based on the internment of theologian Martin Niemoller, the British film Pastor Hall (1940) confines its protagonist in a concentration camp modeled on Dachau, where dissidents, Jews, and ordinary criminals endure corporal punishment, hard labor, overcrowding, and random executions. The American film None Shall Escape (1944) foreshadowed Allied war crimes trials of high-ranking Germans. Its story revolves around the testimony of three witnesses who accuse an ss officer of raping a Polish girl, sending her brother to a concentration camp, starving Polish workers, rounding up Jews for deportation, and massacring them when they are on the verge of rebellion. The Soviet film Unconquered (1945) similarly mixes the theme of the repression of Russians with a grim reenactment of the mass executions of Jews at Babi Yar.
When the victorious Allied troops entered the gates of German concentration, extermination, and labor camps in 1945, they were overwhelmed by the stench and sight of corpses scattered where they had died or been stacked before they could be burned, evidence that prisoners had been the subjects of medical experiments and torture, and the emaciated survivors, many of whom were so sick and weakened that they died after their liberation. Newsreels, newspapers, and magazines initially disseminated these appalling images. The prosecution team at the Nuremberg Trials presented a compilation of this footage to prove that Germany had committed crimes against humanity. The gaunt survivors, crematoria chimneys, electrified barbed-wire fences, gas chambers, mass graves, railway cars, ss insignia, Star of David armbands, striped prisoner uniforms, swastikas, warehouses stuffed with confiscated valuables and human hair, and Zyklon-b canisters became the icons of Nazi genocide.
Clips of the American and Soviet Nuremberg movies, both of which bore the title Nazi Concentration Camps, appeared in feature films about tracking down war criminals (Orson Welles' The Stranger, 1946) and the postwar trials (Kurt Maetzig's Council of the Gods, 1950, and the television and film versions of Judgment at Nuremberg, 1959 and 1961), and cautioning the next generation of Germans from joining neo-Nazi gangs (Samuel Fuller's Verboten!, 1959). In the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, American television documentaries about World War ii and the Third Reich included segments from Nazi Concentration Camps as part of their broader indictments of Nazi militarism and totalitarianism.
Alain Resnais's documentary Night and Fog (1955) deserves its reputation as the most important of these early documentaries. It opens with colored shots of the serene surroundings of the vacant Auschwitz juxtaposed with black and white scenes from Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda masterpiece, Triumph of the Will (1935), illustrating Hitler's prewar popularity. The pomp of this period segues into footage and photos of the deportation, internment, and liquidation of the people Hitler perceived as Germany's mortal enemies. Although the narrator never specifically mentions that Jews were slated for extinction, the clothing and Jewish stars worn by most of the people being "relocated" visually indicates the scope of Hitler's crusade. The film ends with shocking scenes of the remnants of Nazi barbarity that the Allied troops found in the camps.
In the immediate postwar period, the Soviet Union permitted Eastern European filmmakers to recall the brutality of the German occupation in the region, including the ordeal of the Jews. In doing so, the USSR legitimated its rule as the power that had delivered the region from Nazi despotism and curried the favor of the Zionist movement, which it temporarily supported to undermine British dominance in the Middle East. In this window of opportunity between 1945 and 1949, the states of the Communist bloc produced a spate of motion pictures about the decimation of East European Jewry.
The director Wanda Jakubowska and screenwriter Gerda Schneider had been inmates at Auschwitz. In The Last Stop (1947), they depicted the tribulations of female prisoners at Auschwitz. Shot on location and cast primarily with concentration camp survivors, the film ultimately glorified the Communist resistance to Nazism in the character of a Jewish translator who joins the camp underground and martyrs herself rather than betray her comrades. In Border Street (1948), Aleksander Ford envisioned the chronic brutality, epidemics, and starvation that ravaged the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. He originally intended to make Polish antisemitism a key plot element, but yielded to political pressure to present instances of Polish solidarity with the Jews.
Alfred Radok's Distant Journey (1949) chronicled the arrest and separation of a Jewish wife from her gentile husband and her subsequent internment at Theresienstadt, the Czech ghetto/camp Hitler had spruced up for a propaganda film on how well Jews were treated. Radok knew this was a lie because his father had died in captivity there. Thus, he accurately portrayed Theresienstadt as a place where a steady flow of new internees replaced the dwindling ranks of predecessors who had succumbed to disease, malnutrition, physical punishments, and strenuous labor or vanished on trains bound for Auschwitz. Ford and Radok soon fell into disfavor with the postwar Communist regimes.
Most German filmmakers in the early postwar era avoided offending audiences by dredging up their nation's guilt in the Final Solution. The movies produced in the Allied occupation zones typically were set in the rubble of bombed cities to elicit sympathy for Germans coping with the devastation of their nation. Wolfgang Staudte's The Murderers Are among Us (1946) constituted a notable exception. Its title refers to a former Nazi officer who had executed the women and children of a Polish village, but who prospers as an industrialist after the war. Two survivors represent opposite responses by survivors: a man who seeks to avenge the deaths of the Poles by assassinating the industrialist and a woman whose wartime imprisonment prompts her to prevent the murder as a miscarriage of justice. A newspaper headline that reads "2,000,000 People Gassed" is the sole clue of the magnitude of Nazi genocide, but not of the identity of its primary victims.
American movies on the subject between 1945 and 1960 were characterized by their focus on the postwar repercussions of Germany's genocidal policies: (1) the hunt for German war criminals, as seen in The Stranger (1946); (2) the trials of Nazis, as shown in Sealed Verdict (1948); (3) the foiling of neo-Nazi conspiracies to return to power, as in Berlin Express (1948); (4) the creation of Israel as a homeland for Holocaust survivors, as dramatized in Sword in the Desert (1949); and (5) the rehabilitation of traumatized displaced persons and Jewish immigrants to Israel or the United States, as occurs in The Search (1948), The Juggler (1953), and Singing in the Dark (1956).
In feature films released during the 1950s, the Holocaust usually looms in the background as an ominous fate awaiting Jewish characters if they are arrested or deported, as in the Jewish-gentile love stories in Springtime in Budapest (1956), Sweet Light in a Dark Room (1959), and Stars (1959). The Holocaust also serves as a test of faith for gentiles who are asked to save Jews, like the captain of a ship searching for a safe port for Jewish passengers in Skipper after God (1951) or the nuns smuggling Jewish orphans out of a detention center in the American television production Conspiracy of Hearts (1956). Only the Italian movie Kapo (1959) dealt exclusively with survival in a death camp.
Of all the Holocaust movies produced during the 1950s, The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) was the most successful at overcoming the disparity between the personal security Americans took for granted and the constant vulnerability European Jews felt under German rule. The American public could identify with Anne's adolescent problems, idealism, and interactions with her family and friends in hiding, if not with their precarious predicament. The film, like the Broadway play (1955) on which it was based, emphasized Anne's spiritual resilience and optimism.
Director George Stevens obtained the movie rights for the diary in 1956. As an officer in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, he had supervised the filming of the liberated Nazi concentration and prison camps. Stevens carefully recreated the Franks' secret annex as the claustrophobic setting for the film and revisited Dachau to remind himself of the gruesome sights he had photographed there. The Holocaust enters into his film obliquely through Otto Frank's recollections of his return from Auschwitz, Anne's narration about why her family was forced to flee Germany and go into hiding in Amsterdam, Dussel's report of the roundups of Jews, and Anne's nightmare about a friend standing among other women prisoners during a concentration camp roll call.
Critics charge that these ominous moments are eclipsed by Anne's bickering with her mother and sister, her romantic attraction to Pete, and her comments that Jews are just one of many groups who have suffered in history and that "people are really good at heart." Her faith in humanity is affirmed in the concluding voiceover, which is preceded by Gestapo members breaking in through the concealed entrance. The last image of the diary itself belies any happy outcome as the wind flips its pages from written sections to blank ones.
The Diary of Anne Frank began the process of globalizing public awareness of the Holocaust. Versions of it have been produced by British, Dutch, French, Irish, Japanese, and Yugoslav studios. American remakes of Anne's story increasingly have accentuated her Jewish identity. The television miniseries Anne Frank: The Whole Story (2001) lives up to its title by beginning with Anne's life before her family went into hiding and ending with an hour-long segment of her confinement in Auschwitz and death in Bergen-Belsen.
The most famous American Holocaust films of the 1960s continued the universalizing narrative strategies of their predecessors. Released in the year Israel put Adolf Eichmann on trial for crimes against the Jewish people, Stanley Kramer's Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) centers around the courtroom parrying between defense and prosecution lawyers to represent the American and German perspectives on personal guilt for abetting Hitler's racist policies. The American attorney demonstrates that the rulings of the indicted judges sanctioned the execution of a Jewish man accused of molesting an Aryan girl and the sterilization of a feebleminded man. The extermination of "two thirds of the Jews of Europe" is mentioned only when the atrocity footage of the camps is screened – the film within the film. The German lawyer widens the burden of guilt more by observing that the Soviet Union and Vatican signed treaties with the Third Reich, Churchill admired Hitler's early accomplishments, and the United States practiced eugenic sterilization and dropped atomic bombs on Japan. Though the American judges convict the defendants, the epilogue reveals how quickly these sentences were commuted for the sake of Cold War diplomacy.
The Pawnbroker (1965) dared to reenact a Holocaust survivor's tormented memories of being in a deportation train and concentration camp. The scenes from the train and camp initially appear and disappear as barely perceptible jump cuts that progressively last longer and preoccupy the thoughts of Sol Nazerman. Director Sidney Lumet never disguises that Sol Nazerman is Jewish. Yet the portrait of Nazerman as an unfeeling figure who loathes his impoverished customers in Harlem perpetuates the traditional antisemitic stereotype of the Jew as an avaricious usurer. Nazerman's repressed memories resurface when he rides a subway, witnesses a mugging, and is propositioned by a prostitute.
The viewer comes away believing that survivors are emotional cripples and that their persecution under Nazi rule was analogous to the plight of racial minorities in the United States. When his ambitious Puerto Rican assistant (the significantly named Jesús) sacrifices himself to shield Nazerman from a bullet, Nazerman impales his hand on a spindle, but cannot cry. The alternatives to Nazerman's icy indifference are the companionship offered to him by a lonely social worker and the protectiveness Jesús feels toward him. The Pawnbroker deserves its reputation as a cinematic classic on the basis of Rod Steiger's riveting performance as Nazerman, Lumet's vision of personal anguish and collective poverty, and Quincy Jones' evocative jazz score.
The Holocaust films from the Eastern Bloc countries in the 1960s construct more convincing parallels between the existential dilemmas of individuals coping explicitly with wartime German domination and implicitly with postwar Soviet rule. The sharp increase in the numbers of such movies over the decade indicates that these motion pictures functioned as contemporary political protests as well as historical period pieces. Collaboration with, or resistance to, the German occupation could be construed subversively as symbolizing accommodation or opposition to Soviet puppet regimes. To pay attention to the plight of the Jews challenged the Marxist shibboleth that religious identity represented a reactionary consciousness, and clashed with the official Soviet opposition to Zionism that emerged when the U.S.S.R. tilted towards support of the Arab countries against Israel from the 1950s on. By dealing with how their countries treated the Jews during World War ii, directors in Soviet satellite countries reclaimed their national histories from the Soviet interpretation of the war as a struggle between Communism and monopoly capitalism.
The Shop on Main Street (1965) received more recognition than any other film produced by a Soviet bloc country in the 1960s. Its co-directors, Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos, originally supported the nationalization of the Czech film industry, but became disillusioned with Communist rule when their movies were censored and the U.S.S.R. quashed the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. When Kadár and Klos made a film about the persecution of Jews in fascist Slovakia during World War ii, they traced how the otherwise decent Tono cannot resist the temptation to raise his social status by assuming ownership of an expropriated Jewish shop. Since the store's proprietor, Rosalie, is an elderly widow who has difficulty hearing and seeing, she considers Tono her assistant. As the Jews assemble in the town square for deportation, Tono has qualms about whether he should save or betray Rosalie. He pushes her into a closet, accidentally killing her. As Kadár succinctly put it, The Shop on Main Street was not about "the Six Million, but the one." Kadár saw the film as "a monument to all victims of persecution." Until Czech officials criticized it as pro-Zionist in 1967, Kadár failed to recognize how deeply rooted antisemitism was in his homeland. After the Soviet suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968, he fled to the United States, where Hollywood studios were eager to engage him, because The Shop on Main Street won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1965.
The political and social activism of the 1960s in Europe and the United States fostered an atmosphere conducive to discrediting the official histories of countries that prided themselves on their opposition to the Third Reich. Moreover, the Eichmann and Auschwitz guard trials, the controversy over Rolf *Hochhuth's play The Deputy (1963), which accused Pope Pius xii of abdicating his moral responsibility to condemn the extermination of the Jews, the growing readership for survivor memoirs, and the publication of major scholarly studies on the Holocaust, provided the raw material and enhanced audience receptivity for more probing films about the Holocaust.
In France Marcel Ophuls' remarkable documentary The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) shattered the myth of widespread French resistance to the German occupation by revealing how extensive support of or indifference to Vichy France's antisemitic policies and cooperation in the deportations of Jews had been. French feature films like Les Violons du Bal (1973), Black Thursday (1974), Lacombe, Lucien (1974), Special Section (1975), and Mr. Klein (1975) exposed the antisemitic, authoritarian, and xenophobic currents in French society that the postwar consensus had dismissed as ideologies imported from Germany. The Academy Award-winning Madame Rosa (1977) drew attention to the traumatic memories that still haunted French Holocaust survivors.
During the 1970s, Italian films like Visconti's The Damned (1969) and Bertolucci's The Conformist (1971) attributed the susceptibility to obey powerful leaders and inflict violence on dissidents and minorities to a psychological need to shore up a declining social status or conceal a shameful sexual deviancy. Vittorio De Sica's Oscar-winning The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970) utilizes the aloofness and refinement of an upper-class Italian Jewish family to explain why its members remained oblivious to the threat antisemitism posed to their equality as Italian citizens. The Finzi-Continis regard less affluent Jews as their peers only when they are confined with them in a schoolroom where they await deportation. The closing scene evokes their fate with images of their villa's withered garden, overgrown grass tennis court, and locked front gate, and the recitation of the Jewish mourning prayer and names of Nazi death camps.
From 1945 until 1979, only about a quarter of the films dealing with Holocaust themes were based on memoirs or historical accounts for their stories. Cabaret (1972) demonstrated how theatrical even real occurrences became when reworked for the stage and screen. Christopher Isherwood's autobiographical Berlin Stories inspired John van Druten's play (1951) and movie (1955) I Am a Camera in the 1950s. Bob Fosse elaborated upon both to create the musical play (1966) and the film. The songs and dances of Cabaret function as projections of the antisemitism, cultural backlash, militarism, and political polarization that would sweep Hitler into office in 1933.
Capitalizing on the success of Roots (1977), the television docudrama miniseries about slavery, nbc broadcast the nine-and-a-half-hour mini-series *Holocaust over four consecutive nights in April 1978. Covering a time span from 1935 until 1945, the program frames the lives of a middle-class German Jewish family, their gentile relatives through intermarriage, and a key official in the ss Department of Jewish Affairs, within the context of the evolution of the Final Solution. The movie opens with the Weiss family celebrating the marriage of their eldest son Karl to a Catholic woman, Inga Helms. The men of the Helms family worry about a proposed ban against mixed marriages. The die is cast. Nazi antisemitism obviously will separate Karl and Inga and strain the ties between the Weiss and Helms families. When Karl is imprisoned in Buchenwald, Inga's family pressures her to get divorced, but instead she shelters Karl's mother and sister, prostitutes herself to get letters to him, and orchestrates her own arrest so she can be near him in Theresienstadt.
Rudi Weiss, Karl's younger brother, knows little about Judaism, but flees Berlin, marries an ardent Zionist, joins a Jewish partisan band, and participates in the uprising at the death camp Sobibor. The Germans deport Josef Weiss to the Warsaw Ghetto and then to Auschwitz. His brother Moses reprises the liberating role of his biblical namesake by joining the revolt in the Warsaw ghetto. By the end of the miniseries, Rudi is the sole survivor of his family and fulfills his wife's Zionist dream of emigrating to Palestine.
One sign of the high public profile of the Holocaust was the strident debate over whether the miniseries exploited the event to raise network ratings. Critics accused nbc of trivializing the Holocaust with a trite Romeo-and-Juliet story, committing factual errors and disrupting the narrative flow with commercials. The defenders of Holocaust praised the program for reaching an audience estimated at 120 million Americans. The results of a poll indicated that three quarters of those queried believed the series provided "an accurate picture of Nazi antisemitic policies." The response to Holocaust set the climate in which President Carter established a commission that eventually decided to build the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In West Germany, the airing of Holocaust in 1979 culminated in a revival of interest in Hitler and his militaristic and racist policies. In 1969 Willy *Brandt became the first Social Democrat to hold the office of chancellor in West Germany. At a time when Hitler was imprisoning Communists and socialists, Brandt fled to Norway, where he distinguished himself as an anti-Nazi journalist. As chancellor in 1970 he recognized Poland's postwar borders and made a pilgrimage to the Warsaw Uprising monument, where he knelt in atonement and laid a wreath. During the decade, the German student movement justified its protests against the educational and political systems on the grounds that the former had produced Hitler's followers and the latter still harbored officials whose records were tainted by their service to the Third Reich. In 1978, Helmut Schmidt, Brandt's successor, stressed that the reason for commemorating the 40th anniversary of Kristallnacht was "to learn how people ought to behave towards one another and how they ought not to behave." The broadcast of Holocaust reversed West German public opinion that had been running in opposition to the abolition of the statute of limitations on murder. The ensuing passage of this legislation authorized future prosecutions of Nazi war criminals. As a result the legislation abolishing the statute of limitations was passed.
Simultaneously, German directors confronted the Nazi past more frankly. Hans-Juergen Syberberg's Our Hitler: A Film from Germany (1977) consisted of an inventive pastiche, with different actors mouthing Hitler's opinions and puppets symbolizing the myriad of personas Germans projected onto him: the common man, the military genius, the Wagnerian hero, the tragic prince, Chaplin's great dictator, the purifier of the race, and the omnipotent emperor. These images appear before a backdrop of documentary footage, photographs, and Nazi regalia with a soundtrack of excerpts from Hitler's speeches and interludes from Wagner's operas. Syberberg implied that Hitler's policies reflected the aspirations of the German people rather than his own fanaticism. Volker Schloendorff's The Tin Drum (1979), based on the novel by Guenter Grass, likened the German mentality that catapulted Hitler to power to a rebellious child who refuses to grow up and drowns out dissenting voices with glass-shattering screams. The diminutive Oskar is saddened when the Jewish toy store owner who sold him his tin drums is killed by the "gasman." The Tin Drum was the first West German film to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. In 1980 Dieter Hildebrandt's The Yellow Star: The Persecution of the Jews in Europe, 1933–1945 was nominated in the documentary category.
Over 40 percent of the Holocaust feature films produced since 1980 were based on memoirs and historical accounts rather than original screenplays. The success of Roots and Holocaust spun off a wave of Holocaust television docudramas and miniseries like Playing for Time (1980), The Wall (1981), Escape from Sobibor (1987), War and Remembrance (1988), and Murderers among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story (1989). The influence of the docudrama style is apparent in the real-time reenactment of the meeting that formalized the Final Solution, The Wannsee Conference (1984).
The most acclaimed films of the 1980s focus on how individuals responded to or remembered the amoral universe Germany designed to degrade and kill the Jews and engender the complicity or passivity of others. Like The Pawnbroker, Alan Pakula's Sophie's Choice (1982), based on William Styron's novel, explores the psychological scars borne by a Polish woman plagued by her shame for her father's support for exterminating Jews and her guilt for having chosen, under coercion in Auschwitz, which of her children would live and which would die. She manifests her trauma by allowing herself to be dominated by a schizophrenic Jewish man obsessed with the Holocaust and nurturing a naive writer who becomes fascinated with her story. The present is filmed in color and the dark past in black and white. That Sophie is a more sympathetic character than Sol Nazerman reflects the respect accorded to survivors after their memoirs were widely published, and their coping skills and postwar lives were studied by scholars like Terrence Des Pres and journalists like Dorothy Rabinowitz.
Louis Malle's Goodbye, Children (1987) seems like a classic buddy movie about a gentile boy who befriends a newcomer to his Catholic boarding school. He discovers his new classmate is really a Jew being hidden by the head priest. To prevent his fellow citizens from evading their responsibility for abetting Nazi/Vichy policies, Malle presents French collaborators in a more negative light than their German superiors. Under the occupation, petty incidents have fatal consequences. When the kitchen assistant is fired for stealing food, he retaliates by betraying the Jewish boy. As the Jewish youngster and the priest are marched away by the Gestapo, Malle's voiceover relates that his friend died in Auschwitz and the priest in Mauthausen. Then he poignantly confesses, "I will remember every second of that January morning until I die!"
Claude Lanzmann's documentary Shoah (1985) countered the trend towards fictionalized depictions of real events. Lanzmann rejected the idea that the horrors of the Holocaust could be conveyed by a feature film. He distrusted footage of Jews taken by the Nazis when they were in power or the Allies when they liberated the camps. The former portrayed Jews maliciously to justify their elimination; the latter depicted them only as pitiful victims. Lanzmann interweaves interviews of German perpetrators, Polish bystanders, Jewish survivors, the Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg, and members of the Polish and Jewish resistance with innocuous images of the deteriorating camps, the bustling cities where his interviewees currently reside, and the trains and tracks that carried the Jews like cattle to the human equivalent of slaughterhouses. His camera dwells on the empty spaces once teeming with the doomed, their executioners, and passive onlookers. Long periods of silence and multiple translations of testimony from German, Hebrew, Polish, and Yiddish into French and then English provide pauses for reflection and illustrate the multinational scope of Germany's genocidal enterprise. Many scholars consider Shoah, over nine hours long, the greatest Holocaust documentary ever made.
Andrzej Wajda, Poland's most accomplished postwar director, chose Janusz Korczak as the protagonist of the biographical Korczak "to reconcile Poles and Jews by demonstrating their compatibility in one character." His decision was a response to the bitter recriminations the two groups had tossed at each other since the end of World War ii. Poles often accuse Jews of passively complying with German orders and colluding with the Soviets between 1939 and 1941 and from 1945 on. Polish Jews remember the ferocity of prewar Polish antisemitism, Polish indifference towards their plight, and instances when Poles informed on Jewish fugitives or killed Jewish partisans. The pilgrimage to Auschwitz made by the Polish-born Pope John Paul ii in 1979 and his campaign to expunge antisemitic doctrines from Catholicism augured the dawning of a new era in Polish-Jewish relations. So did the emergence of the Solidarity movement out of the shipyard strikes in Gdansk in 1980. The incriminating interviews of Poles that Lanzmann featured in Shoah and the explosive dispute over the founding of a convent at Auschwitz in 1984 poured new salt on old wounds. After the collapse of Communism, Wajda hoped to cultivate pluralistic tolerance in Poland with his movie.
Korczak, whose real name was Henryk Goldszmit, remains one of the few figures revered by Polish gentiles and Jews alike. To the former, he achieved international fame as an educator, and enjoyed a national following for his prewar radio show The Old Doctor. To the latter, he had contemplated emigrating to Palestine, sheltered 200 Jewish orphans in the Warsaw Ghetto, and sacrificed his life by accompanying them to their deaths in Treblinka rather than save himself. The film's prologue reveals that Korczak possessed multiple allegiances. In his role as the "Old Doctor," he advises his radio audience about compassionate childrearing. Upon completion of his broadcast, Korczak learns his program has been canceled because it has become too controversial to permit a Jew to have his own show. Before the outbreak of the war, Korczak escorts his orphans to the river for a swim. Former students rebuke him for promoting harmonious relations between Jews and Poles. Instead, they tell him that Poles have beaten them and smashed their windows. Korczak hoped resistance to German rule would unite Poles and Jews, but despaired over whether even this cause could bring the two groups together.
Wajda's portrayal of the ghetto's Jewish Council and black marketers incensed some critics who charged that these scenes confirmed Polish suspicions that Jews collaborated with Germany and profited from the suffering of their coreligionists. On the other hand, Wajda exhibits a genuine understanding of the terrible dilemma faced by Jewish leaders. Korczak approaches Adam Czerniakow, the chairman of Warsaw's Jewish Council, to procure rations for his orphans. Czerniakow admits that his choice of working with the Germans to gain concessions is "not one between good and evil, but of the lesser evil." Korczak denounces this strategy as a betrayal of Jewish solidarity, but accepts the extra food the Council allots to him. When one orphan censures Korczak for soliciting donations from Jewish black marketers, Korczak obstinately replies, "I will see the Devil himself to save my children. I have no dignity. I have 200 children."
The closing scene of Korczak is problematic, but not because Wajda imposes a Christian meaning on the deaths of the orphans or "wants to spare us pain," as detractors have charged. Wajda revived a Polish legend that the "Old Doctor" and his children were spared when their carriage decoupled from the train. Perhaps he was trying to honor Korczak's fervent wish that his children be granted a dignified death. This, however, is preceded by an unforgettable shot of Korczak and his orphans marching to the trains. A ponderous dirge alludes to their impending deaths. The closing caption informing viewers that Korczak and his children were gassed at Treblinka undercuts the illusion of a happy ending, as does the return of the dirge as the background music for the credits.
When Korczak had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 1990, it received a standing ovation from the audience, but a cold shoulder from several French reviewers. The latter castigated him for minimizing Korczak's Jewishness, exculpating the Poles of antisemitism, perpetuating Polish stereotypes of Jews, and glossing over the gassing of Korczak's orphans with the wishful final scene. Lanzmann declared at the end of the screening, "You do not know how evil this is!"
Korczak became the casualty of Jewish-Polish polemics, Lanzmann's vendetta against it, and the timing of its Cannes premiere, which coincided with a rash of Jewish grave desecrations in France. The movie received positive reviews in Germany and Israel, prompting the latter to mandate that it be shown as part of the country's school curriculum. The controversies surrounding the movie subsided by the late 1990s, when the American and French Academies of Motion Pictures recognized Wajda's cinematic career. In his letter nominating Wajda for a lifetime achievement Oscar, Steven Spielberg called Korczak "one of the most important European pictures about the Holocaust."
Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993) holds the distinction of being the most commercially successful Holocaust film ever made. The drama of gentiles defending Jews made this a popular plotline. Directors found rescuers inspirational heroes. The first Holocaust film to win a major award was the Swiss movie The Last Chance (1945). It idealized the moral courage of a priest who persuades Allied soldiers to shepherd refugees into Switzerland. Miep Gies in The Diary of Anne Frank embodies the goodness Anne believed everyone possessed. The American evangelist Billy Graham financed the production of evangelist Corrie ten Boom's memoir The Hiding Place (1975) to exemplify how Christians should have acted and how their faith could withstand Nazi imprisonment. Wallenberg: A Hero's Story (1985) romanticizes the exploits of the daring Swede who outsmarted the Germans only to end up a prisoner of the Soviets.
Schindler's appeal is that he is a much shadier character. The rich black, gray, and white tones of the film and the frequent use of shadows to cover the faces of the actors imbue the motion picture with a newsreel look and a film noir atmosphere. The sense of mystery provides a fitting backdrop for the enigmatic Schindler, who hatches a plan to exploit Jewish slave labor in a time of war. After procuring Jewish financing to purchase an abandoned factory, Schindler enlists Yitzhak Stern as his bookkeeper to conceal the graft necessary for securing military contracts. Schindler's transformation follows the cinematic convention of scoundrels whose mercenary motives evolve into moral ones as they become emotionally involved with people they help, like the gunslingers in The Magnificent Seven or the drunken captain in The African Queen.
Schindler's humane treatment of his Jewish workers assumes epic proportions because it occurs within a milieu where murder rules. Critics who accused Spielberg of diminishing the horrors of the Holocaust by focusing on Schindler's altruism overlook the recurring scenes of Jews being registered, selected, shot, and tormented. The film devotes over 20 minutes to the Aktion against the Jews in the Cracow ghetto. Spielberg turns his lens on the most vulnerable victims – children, women, and the elderly – who scurry to find a cranny where they can hide. A girl in a red coat epitomizes their defenselessness and innocence. Comparing the suffering and slaughter in Schindler's List to the verbal references to Jewish travails and the nightmare sequence in The Diary of Anne Frank, the cultural historian Stephen Whitfield remarks, "By 1993, the Holocaust had seeped so fully into consciousness that the context in which goodness could be shown had altered."
When Goeth exhumes and incinerates the corpses of the Jews killed under his command, the number of bodies mentioned is 10,000. Compared to the 1,100 Schindler saved, this hardly leaves the impression that the majority of Cracow's Jews survived. The ashes rising from the pyres fill the sky with a blizzard of white flakes. This image of swirling snow reappears when the women working for Schindler are sent to Auschwitz. After expecting to be gassed and showering instead, these women pass another line of Jews entering the gas chamber. The crematorium smokestack spews flames and cinders. The visual similarity of these scenes marks the technological progression from shooting and burning Jews in Plaszòw to gassing and incinerating them at Auschwitz.
The postscript informs the audience that Schindler's Jews and their descendents total over 6,000 while only 4,000 Jews still live in Poland. The film is dedicated to the memory of the 6,000,000 Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The last two scenes occur in cemeteries. The first is the procession of actors and the survivors they played to Schindler's grave in Jerusalem, where they pay homage to the flawed man who saved them in the film or real life. The credits then roll over an image of the street in Plaszòw that was paved with tombstones uprooted from a Jewish cemetery. In visual terms, the road to Israel is strewn with the bodies of the Jews who died in the Holocaust.
During the 1990s, the percentage of comedies relative to all Holocaust movies tripled (to 12 percent) compared to the prior decade. Three factors fostered this development: (1) the search for creative approaches to convey the severity of the Holocaust without driving audiences away with excessive gore; (2) the presumed familiarity of the public with the iconography of the Holocaust that enabled directors to refer to the event through symbols; (3) and the passing of a generation of filmmakers who experienced World War ii as adults to those who were minors during or born after it. Because of their greater distance from the events, and their approach to them through already assimilated cultural facts, these second-generation directors and screenwriters are able to use humor to convey the absurdity of the Nazi crusade against the Jews in terms that appeal to contemporary audiences.
Roberto Benigni brackets Life Is Beautiful (1998) between an opening and closing voiceover of the adult son who appears as the child in the movie. Benigni regarded the camps as "the symbol of our century, the negative one, the worst thing imaginable." His father had been interned in a German labor camp. Benigni recalls his father telling his children about his confinement in "an almost funny way, saying tragic, painful things" but softening these with laughter. Benigni cast himself as a lovable jokester who shields his young son from the hardships of a death camp by explaining how these adversities are part of a game to win a tank. Prisoners supposedly earn points by not being demoralized by harassment, overcrowding, and starvation. The narrative strategy of a reassuring lie to raise morale or substitute for a depressing truth has appeared in other Holocaust comedies like Jakob the Liar (1976, 1999) and Train of Life (1999).
One of the most common criticisms leveled at Life Is Beautiful is that it consists of two discordant halves. The first part is a romantic comedy about coincidences that lead to the marriage of Guido the waiter and his beautiful wife, Dora. The second is a tragedy about the family's internment in a concentration camp. Many of the early scenes, however, foreshadow the dangers lurking in the second half. The opening shot shows Guido carrying his son through a thick fog in a howling wind. Towards the end of the movie, this scene is presented in its entirety. Posing as an inspector dispatched to lecture about racial theory at the school where Dora teaches, Guido jumps onto a table, claiming that his ears and navel represent Aryan perfection. Next his uncle's horse is painted green with the words, "Attention, Jewish Horse" covering its flanks. Guido quips he didn't know the horse was Jewish, a hint that Guido might be Jewish.
As the movie flashes forward five years; Guido and Dora have a son, and their town is occupied by German troops. Seeing a sign in a pastry shop window that reads "No Jews or Dogs Allowed," Giosué asks his father what this means. Protecting his son from prejudice, Guido responds that everyone is entitled to hate certain creatures and groups of people. Since Giosué fears spiders and Guido Visigoths, they decide to bar both from the bookstore. Guido pulls the shutters down over the windows of his shop, but discovers they are covered with graffiti labeling the shop as a "jewish store." Soon the father and son are placed on a deportation transport. Dora voluntarily joins them.
Benigni films the concentration camps scenes through a bluish-grey filter. He plants many clues about the dreadful fate that awaits the captives there, but leaves the details to the viewer's imagination. Since viewers know the lethal purpose of the camp, Guido's benign translation of the commandant's orders is ludicrous to them, but not to Giosué. Later a woman in Dora's barracks whispers to her that the Germans kill old women and children in a gas chamber. Guido's uncle undresses in the anteroom before entering the chamber. Finally, Guido sees the pit filled with cadavers. When he is taken to a cul-de-sac by a guard, the audience hears two gunshots ring out in the night.
After the Germans retreat from the camp, an American tank rumbles by and gives Giosué a ride. He finds his mother and exclaims, "We won!" While he is referring to the tank; she is thinking about their reunion. The audience knows that he has lost his father and she her husband. The voiceover of Giosué's concludes: "This is the sacrifice my father made. This was his gift to me."
The extremity of the situations encountered by the bystanders, perpetrators, and victims fascinates filmmakers and audiences alike. In reunified Germany, directors have produced "heritage" films which inscribe Jews back into the nation's history to lament their loss and foster multiculturalism in the new state which was rocked by neo-Nazi riots against foreigners in its founding years. The Harmonists (1998), Aimee and Jaguar (1998), the Oscar-winning Nowhere in Africa (2001), and Rosenstrasse (2003) represent this type of movie. The economics and politics of filmmaking since 1990 have contributed to an increase in multinational productions that skirt the thorny issues of national culpability that characterized the themes of many earlier Holocaust films. Other than the food and music, there is little distinctly Hungarian in the box-office hit Gloomy Sunday (1999). Roman *Polanski's The Pianist (2002) constituted a visually stunning portrait and sensitively acted account of how a classical musician evaded the Nazis in occupied Warsaw, but it minimized Polish-Jewish animosities. It was bestowed awards from film academies and festivals in Argentina, Czechoslovakia, England, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, Spain, and the United States.
Documentaries consisting of original photos and footage, narration, and interviews with bystanders, perpetrators, or survivors have garnered a trove of Oscars and other awards. This body of work includes Genocide (1981), Ophuls' Hotel Terminus (1988), One Survivor Remembers: The Gerda Weismann Klein Story (1995), Anne Frank Remembered (1995), The Long Way Home (1997), The Last Days (1998), and Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport The quality and quantity of the documentaries and feature films about the Holocaust testify to a compelling need over 60 years later to comprehend how an advanced country could systematically murder a group of civilians who posed no military threat to it, why so many individuals and nations failed to intervene on their behalf, and how a minority of those sucked into this deadly vortex managed to survive its destructive force.
I. Avisar, Screening the Holocaust: Cinema's Images of the Unimaginable (1988); L. Baron, Projecting the Holocaust in the Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema (2005); O. Bartov, The "Jew" in Cinema: From "The Golem" to "Don't Touch My Holocaust" (2005); F. Davies, Film, History, and the Holocaust (2005); J. Doneson, The Holocaust in American Film (20022); J. Hirsch, Afterimage: Film, Trauma, and the Holocaust (2004); A. Insdorf, Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust (20033); Y. Lozshitzsky (ed.), Spielberg's Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler's List (1997); A. Mintz, Popular Culture and the Shaping of Holocaust Memory in America (2001); C.J. Picart, The Holocaust Film Sourcebook, vols. 1 and 2 (2004); J. Shandler, While America Watches: Televising the Holocaust (1999).
[Lawrence Baron (2nd ed.)]
In 1981, when the Yale Fortunoff Holocaust Survivor Video Archives presented its first conference, showing its fledgling collection of survivor interviews, Holocaust survivors reported that few people wanted to hear what they had to say, even when they finally were prepared to break their silence. In the next 20 years, a series of scholarly and popular events unfolded across the country. Many of those seemed subtly but powerfully to converge on the theme of talking versus silence, a theme that has plagued survivors from the liberation to the present. That peculiar confluence of academic and popular examination has made survivors celebrities, often perceived as nearly saintly, certainly heroic, and put them in demand to speak about their experiences. Questions have arisen about the voices, about form and content, about meaning and despair, about style and simultaneity, about trauma and catharsis.
In sharp contrast to 1981, the American public now expresses a fascination and voracious appetite for Holocaust stories. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum sustains its status as one of Washington's most popular museums; there are Holocaust oral history projects from Los Angeles to New York, from Maine to Florida, from Toronto to Dallas, from Yale to the University of Michigan-Dearborn where the Voice/Vision Holocaust Survival Oral History Archive is housed, ironically on the former estate of the anti-Jewish Henry Ford. More than 52,000 new testimonies in 32 languages and from 57 countries were completed by Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation (now the usc Shoah Foundation) as of 2006. His advocacy brought the issue of witnessing to the public and he captured the imagination of Americans, seeming to intensify the allure of the subject. Historians who had been skeptical of the validity of survivor testimonies at the Yale Conference in 1981 now request videotapes of these testimonies for their research and sit on panels about Auschwitz where former prisoners of that place join them.
The meaning of this surge of attention to the Holocaust is elusive. In 1978 or 1980 or 1981, "listening ears," as one survivor recognized, were not available. As difficult as remembering may be, communicating emerges as equally arduous, a frustrating and often maddening task. Each survivor tries to recapture memory, restructure narrative so that he or she can impart fully the confusion, rapidity, and pandemonium, the torrent of simultaneous actions, sounds, smells, emotions, thoughts. The survivor knows it will be impossible to achieve that fullness, and silence seems to contend with speaking.
For most, memories remain omnipresent, a condition that elicits comments like: "It's always with you. Try not to think about it, but it's in the back of your mind." "I don't think about it all the time; but I do think about it all the time. It's somewhere in the back of your head." "I don't want to tell you; but I do want to tell you. I can't tell you." Not finding the proper word has abetted the silence; the inability to convey the fullness of the experience, its synchronicity, has produced choked, sometimes angry, sometimes resigned silences.
Serious listeners, people who want to know as much as they can know about these testimonies and about the Holocaust, should pay careful attention to such statements as "I want to tell you. I can't tell you" and begin to ask questions about their meanings. The Israeli novelist Aharon *Appelfeld, warning readers of survivor accounts to read with caution, has commented on the significance of what is not said when survivors speak or write, "so that one sees not only what is in it, but also, and essentially, what is lacking in it."
It's "constantly with you," notes one survivor, and the intrusion of Holocaust memory remains routine, reflecting Lawrence Langer's observation that "the two worlds [the Holocaust and after] haunt each other," the one polluting the other. Testimonies often appear episodic, anecdotal, even disjointed, breaking narrative conventions, not leading anywhere, sometimes emerging in spurts, halting, with long pauses. They reflect the nature of the experiences they describe: cacophonous, simultaneous, overpowering, "beyond description" as one victim declared. As with so much about the Holocaust, whatever one may say immediately evokes the opposite viewpoint: and both are true. Perhaps no one expressed this phenomenon as well as Elie Wiesel when he spoke of how survivors evaluate their survival. The question, he wrote, "is not to be or not to be, but to be and not to be."
Scholars seem far less skeptical of the value of survivor testimonies, as historians like Christopher Browning now write histories based almost exclusively on survivor testimonies. Drawing on these interviews, Dori Laub and Shoshana Felman's Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History, as well as Langer's works, often read like literary criticism, presenting the testimonies as texts to be deciphered or explicated. The psychoanalytic tone, set by psychoanalyst Laub and Yale literary critic Geoffrey Hartman, planted Holocaust testimonies in the realm of the study of massive psychic trauma, alongside the work of such analysts as Henry Krystal and William Niederlander.
Those who examine these narratives have begun to measure pauses, hesitations, silences; count contradictions; examine the fallibility of "old" language to convey unprecedented Holocaust retellings, a phenomenon Primo Levi strove to describe in Survival in Auschwitz. Recalling the unbearable hunger and the bitter cold, Levi wrote that even though as prisoners "we say 'hunger,' we say 'tiredness,' 'fear,' 'pain,' we say 'winter'; they are different things" from the "normal" use of those words; they bear different referents. And there is no "new, harsh" language to replace it. Acutely aware of a virtual abyss between the experience of the survivor and the listener, survivors frequently assume an attitude of "Why bother? You won't understand and I am incapable of communicating the experience adequately." Such an attitude may yield stammering, miscues, repeated words, and, finally, silence.
Unanswerable questions about the inadequacies of "old" language, alleged "survivor guilt," shame, identity, and the haunting memories that split survivors' psyches will continue to plague listeners, as they have afflicted the speakers. This past, its lexicon, and its memory remain inescapable and permeate the present for survivors. Some survivors cannot see or speak about chimneys without recalling the chimneys at Auschwitz; some cannot hear a train without reliving the horrifying boxcar deportation that caused the deaths of their families and divided their own lives into before and after; some cannot think of a word like "bunk" without envisioning the boards that served as beds in the camps. "It's always with you, it's always in the back of your mind," was followed by a long pause, a silence that articulated a deep, pervasive sadness. For despite the details, the stories cannot be understood fully, can never be completed, and remain fragmentary.
D. Laub and S. Felman, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History (1992); L. Langer, Versions of Survival (1982); idem, Holocaust Testimonies (1991); H. Greenspan, On Listening to Holocaust Survivors (2001); S. Bolkosky, Searching for Meaning in the Holocaust (2002); Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive of the University of Michigan-Dearborn (http://holocaust.umd.umich.edu); Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (1986).
[Sidney Bolkosky (2nd ed.)]