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Speaking of the Holocaust

From Silence to Knowledge and Back Again

Keith Kahn-Harris

Albert Friedlander's work stands as a major contribution to what we might call a generational project. Those Jews who, like Albert, survived the catastrophe of the Holocaust, those Jews who escaped it, and those Jews who had long been settled

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Lia Friesem

” (@danfin). These examples should not come as a real surprise. Many scholars have directed attention to the various formal and informal ways in which Israeli culture imprints the Holocaust on Israeli sensibilities to the point where the vast majority of

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Esilda Luku

Few studies exist concerning the portrayal of the Holocaust in Albanian history textbooks. Recent studies of Albanian textbooks tend to ignore the topic. For example, the book Myth and Mythical Spaces: Conditions and Challenges for History

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Holocaust Ethics

Difficult Histories and Threatening Memories

Victor Jeleniewski Seidler

On the seventieth anniversary of the destruction of the Vilna ghetto I explore ambivalences in Holocaust memory in the Baltic states and troubling notions of a 'double genocide' while tracing train journeys of death that connected Vienna, Vilna and Tallinn and so western and eastern Europe. Exploring how memories are connected to place and investigating how family legacies of Litvak identity also travel, I show how Musar ethical traditions also journeyed as far as South Africa to influence the ethical politics of the African National Congress. Framing questions about the relationship between ethics and memory across generations I return to the painful warnings in the words of Elchanan Elkes at the destruction of the Kovno ghetto. I trace the possibilities that they help to frame a post-Shoah ethics and a vision of 'the human' that questions the rational self that informed Enlightenment thinking and that proved incapable of resisting the brutalities of Nazism.

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Sue Vice

Elie Wiesel has claimed that testimony is the generic legacy of the Holocaust. Other critics have pointed out that testimony, in the sense of first-person literary accounts of events to which the author was eye-witness, also characterized earlier historical calamities, in particular the First World War. That war produced testimony in the form of lyric poetry, in which the reader recognized the author as a witness and assumed a close fit to the poem’s speaking subject. Yet it is not poetic but prose testimony that is typical of Holocaust eyewitness, while Holocaust poetry is considered a separate and self-contained genre. In this essay, I will explore the reasons why this should be so, and whether there is a closer link than at first appears between the construction of the first-person narrator of a prose testimony, such as Wiesel’s Night (1958), and the lyric ‘I’ of some Holocaust poetry.

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Holocaust Tourism in Berlin

Global Memory, Trauma and the 'Negative Sublime'

Andrew S. Gross

This essay argues that the construction of the Jewish Museum Berlin and the Berlin Holocaust Memorial constitutes a paradigm shift in Holocaust commemoration in Germany. The structures architecturally resemble their US counterparts and particularly the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum more than they do the other memorials and museums in Berlin’s complex commemorative landscape. American responses to the European catastrophe have significantly impacted European commemorative forms. Indeed, an internationally recognizable memorial architecture seems to be emerging, one emphasizing gaps, voids, incongruities and the personal relation to what theorists and commentators have begun to call ‘negative’ or ‘evil sublime’. Contemporary memorials and museums are not designed to ‘merely’ house collections; rather, they draw attention to themselves as symbols and symptoms of traumatic memory. They act out the trauma of the Holocaust as architecture; walking through them is supposed to be a step towards working through that trauma as feeling and experience.

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Fetishizing the Holocaust

Comedy and Transatlantic Connections in Howard Jacobson's Kalooki Nights

David Brauner

The British Jewish novelist Howard Jacobson has, from the start of his career, found himself saddled with the unenviable label of 'the English Philip Roth'. For many years, Jacobson bristled at the Roth comparisons, offering the alternative label 'the Jewish Jane Austen' and insisting that he had not read Roth at all, though more recently he has put on record his admiration for Roth's comic masterpiece, Sabbath's Theater.If Jacobson's early work was certainly imbued with a Rothian Jewish humour, its cultural reference points were almost invariably English. In contrast, Kalooki Nights is saturated with allusions to American culture, in particular Jewish American culture. This article traces some of the ways in which Kalooki Nights explores and exploits these transatlantic connections in a comic novel that both participates in and satirizes what will be called here the fetishization of the Holocaust. It is concluded that Kalooki Nights is Jacobson's audacious attempt to produce a piece of Holocaust literature that exploits the tension between the desire of some Jews of his generation to know all the 'gory details', and the necessity of recognizing that their own historical situation prevents them from ever doing so. The result is to make people laugh not at the events of the Holocaust itself but at the attempt to fetishize them.

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Transmitted Holocaust Trauma

A Matter of Myth and Fairy Tales?

Philippe Codde

This essay will examine the concept of third-generation trauma after the Holocaust and the ways in which Jewish American novelists seek to access, recreate and artistically represent (or 're-present') such a traumatic past that is by definition inaccessible. A striking feature in the novels by the latest generation of Jewish American writers – notably the work of Jonathan Safran Foer and Judy Budnitz – is the almost obsessive return to mythology and fairy tales in the literary recreation of their grandparents' era. My essay will argue that this is due to a commonality of purpose that characterizes and drives both mythology and fairy tales on the one hand, and the third generation's imaginative, postmemorial approach to the past on the other hand.

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Eric Langenbacher

Over the six decades since the demise of the Nazi regime, thousands of pages have been written about the genocide of European Jews in almost every genre and intellectual forum. Eva Hoffman even concludes that "the Holocaust is the most documented event in history" (192). Nevertheless, the magnitude and complexity of the trauma and its aftereffects—on survivors, their descendents and the political cultures of many countries—left numerous lacunae and taboos that surrounded discourse and scholarship. Only relatively recently have more unconstrained questions been possible and various silences exposed. The three books examined in this review essay all contribute to the ongoing quest for comprehension, delving expertly into previously unexamined issues, while revealing how much still remains to work through the defining event of the 20th century.

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Gerhard L. Weinberg

This article covers three aspects of the Holocaust that are commonly misrepresented or ignored. First, an endlessly repeated piece of misinformation, is the description of the Holocaust as a project to kill the Jews of Europe. Most ignore the evidence that all Jews on earth were to be killed, that some outside Europe were killed, and that there were preparations for the killing of Jews in the Middle East. The second is the German expectation of winning the war, and that certain policies in implementing the Holocaust can only be understood in the context of an expectation of easier completion after victory. The third aspect is the absence from most accounts of the personal interests of those doing the killing in promotions, medals, loot, etc. in the early years and in safety from dangerous assignment to fighting at the front in the later years of the war.