As experts in the study of literature and culture, the scholars in this collection examine the shifting cultural contexts for Holocaust representation and reveal how writersùwhether they write as witnesses to the Holocaust or at an imaginative distance from the Nazi genocideùarticulate the shadowy borderline between fact and fiction, between event and expression, and between the condition of life endured in atrocity and the hope of a meaningful existence. What imaginative literature brings to the study of the Holocaust is an ability to test the limits of language and its conventions. After Representation? moves beyond the suspicion of representation and explores the changing meaning of the Holocaust for different generations, audiences, and contexts.
This narrative history surveying one thousand years of Jewish life integrates the Jewish experience into the context of the overall culture and society of medieval Europe. It presents a new picture of the interaction between Christians and Jews in this tumultuous era.Alienated Minority shows us what it meant to be a Jew in Europe in the Middle Ages. The story begins in the fifth century, when autonomous Jewish rule in Palestine came to a close, and when the papacy, led by Gregory the Great, established enduring principles regarding Christian policy toward Jews. Kenneth Stow examines the structures of self-government in the European Jewish community and the centrality of emerging concepts of representation. He studies economic enterprise, especially banking; constructs a clear image of the medieval Jewish family; and portrays in detail the very rich Jewish intellectual life.Analyzing policies of church and state in the Middle Ages, Stow argues that a firmly defined legal and constitutional position of the Jewish minority in the earlier period gave way to a legal status created expressly for Jews, who in the later period were seen as inimical to the common good. It was this special status that paved the way for the royal expulsions of Jews that began at the end of the thirteenth century.
In May 1941, Gertrude van Tijn arrived in Lisbon on a mission of mercy from German-occupied Amsterdam. She came with Nazi approval to the capital of neutral Portugal to negotiate the departure from Hitler’s Europe of thousands of German and Dutch Jews. Was this middle-aged Jewish woman, burdened with such a terrible responsibility, merely a pawn of the Nazis, or was her journey a genuine opportunity to save large numbers of Jews from the gas chambers? In such impossible circumstances, what is just action, and what is complicity?A moving account of courage and of all-too-human failings in the face of extraordinary moral challenges, The Ambiguity of Virtue tells the story of Van Tijn’s work on behalf of her fellow Jews as the avenues that might save them were closed off. Between 1933 and 1940 Van Tijn helped organize Jewish emigration from Germany. After the Germans occupied Holland, she worked for the Nazi‐appointed Jewish Council in Amsterdam and enabled many Jews to escape. Some later called her a heroine for the choices she made; others denounced her as a collaborator.Bernard Wasserstein’s haunting narrative draws readers into the twilight world of wartime Europe, to expose the wrenching dilemmas that confronted Jews under Nazi occupation. Gertrude van Tijn’s experience raises crucial questions about German policy toward the Jews, about the role of the Jewish Council, and about Dutch, American, and British responses to the persecution and mass murder of Jews on an unimaginable scale.
Lyrically enacting the cognitive dissonance and embodied contradictions of our contemporary age, Hadara Bar-Nadav’s The Animal Is Chemical collects innovative poems that straddle the frontiers of language and scientific knowledge. She brilliantly draws on her own experience as a medical editor and her family’s history of Holocaust survival to write into the hybrid legacy of Western medicine: part clinical empiricism, part human fallibility and moral bankruptcy. Displaying a robust formal range, these poems move from feverish elegies to drug-pamphlet erasures, tangible articulations of Bar-Nadav’s epigenetic, cultural, and memorial inheritance as a writer navigating chronic illness and pain. In these pages, Nazi medical experiments, pharmaceutical literature, and manifestations of intergenerational trauma collide in the lyrical archive of Bar-Nadav’s latest collection, winner of the 2022 Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry. Just as she illuminates the paradox of time — that we may think of the past as something gone and yet always present in context and legacy — Bar-Nadav proves the enduring ambivalence of pharmakon, that antidote which poisons us, the medicine that kills. This febrile, fierce book casts spells and confronts illusions, ignites grief and awe, and challenges our assumptions about what it means to heal our bodies, our families, and our shared histories. Perhaps this work fulfills the specious salvation it describes in its opening pages, performing an exorcism of truth-telling that harnesses the heat of a “myth in which a god sets us / on fire and then sets us free.”
In 1898, the Dreyfus Affair plunged French society into a yearlong frenzy. In Paris and provincial villages throughout the country, angry crowds paraded through the streets, threatening to attack Jews and destroy Jewish-owned businesses. Anger about the imagined power of Jewish capital, as well as fears of treason and racial degeneration, made anti-Semitism a convenient banner behind which social and political factions could fall in line. Anti-Semitic feelings that had been simmering in France for decades came boiling to the surface.
Here Pierre Birnbaum guides readers on a tour of France during this crisis. He shows that in the midst of violence, Jewish citizens bravely and effectively defended themselves and were aided by a police force determined to maintain order. Birnbaum paints a vivid portrait of French Jewish culture at the time and explains why the French state remained strong in this time of widespread unrest.
Over the past four decades Ruth R. Wisse has been a leading scholar of Yiddish and Jewish literary studies in North America, and one of our most fearless public intellectuals on issues relating to Jewish society, culture, and politics. In this celebratory volume, edited by four of her former students, Wisse’s colleagues take as a starting point her award-winning book The Modern Jewish Canon (2000) and explore an array of topics that touch on aspects of Yiddish, Hebrew, Israeli, American, European, and Holocaust literature.Arguing the Modern Jewish Canon brings together writers both seasoned and young, from both within and beyond the academy, to reflect the diversity of Wisse’s areas of expertise and reading audiences. The volume also includes a translation of one of the first modern texts on the question of Jewish literature, penned in 1888 by Sholem Aleichem, as well as a comprehensive bibliography of Wisse’s scholarship. In its richness and heft, Arguing the Modern Jewish Canon itself constitutes an important scholarly achievement in the field of modern Jewish literature.
One of Norway’s most celebrated literary figures of the nineteenth century, Henrik Wergeland worked tirelessly for the civil rights of Jews in Norway. He used the words and structure of his poetry to enliven the ideals of truth, freedom, and equality. This translated volume, containing several of Wergeland’s most prominent poems, beautifully encapsulates the compelling force of his message, allowing its enduring influence to benefit a wider contemporary audience.
The Ascension of Authorship traces the history of the idea of the author in the ancient world, beginning with the attribution practices of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism. Jed Wyrick explores the testimony of Josephus on the succession of prophetic scribes and their superiority to Greek historiographers, and interprets the formation of the biblical canon in this light.The Ascension of Authorship also examines the Greek scholarly methodology that questioned traditional connections between names and texts, a methodology perfected by Hellenistic grammarians and inherited by early Christian scholars. Wyrick argues that the fusion of Jewish and Hellenistic approaches toward attribution helped lead to St. Augustine’s reinvention of the writer of scripture as an author whose texts were governed by both divine will and human intent.
The first account of the August Trials, in which postwar Poland confronted the betrayal of Jewish citizens under Nazi rule but ended up fashioning an alibi for the past.When six years of ferocious resistance to Nazi occupation came to an end in 1945, a devastated Poland could agree with its new Soviet rulers on little else beyond the need to punish German war criminals and their collaborators. Determined to root out the “many Cains among us,” as a Poznań newspaper editorial put it, Poland’s judicial reckoning spawned 32,000 trials and spanned more than a decade before being largely forgotten.Andrew Kornbluth reconstructs the story of the August Trials, long dismissed as a Stalinist travesty, and discovers that they were in fact a scrupulous search for the truth. But as the process of retribution began to unearth evidence of enthusiastic local participation in the Holocaust, the hated government, traumatized populace, and fiercely independent judiciary all struggled to salvage a purely heroic vision of the past that could unify a nation recovering from massive upheaval. The trials became the crucible in which the Communist state and an unyielding society forged a foundational myth of modern Poland but left a lasting open wound in Polish-Jewish relations.The August Trials draws striking parallels with incomplete postwar reckonings on both sides of the Iron Curtain, suggesting the extent to which ethnic cleansing and its abortive judicial accounting are part of a common European heritage. From Paris and The Hague to Warsaw and Kyiv, the law was made to serve many different purposes, even as it failed to secure the goal with which it is most closely associated: justice.
Few places in the world carry as heavy a burden of history as Auschwitz. Recognized and remembered as the most prominent site of Nazi crimes, Auschwitz has had tremendous symbolic weight in the postwar world.
Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration is a history of the Auschwitz memorial site in the years of the Polish People’s Republic. Since 1945, Auschwitz has functioned as a memorial and museum. Its monuments, exhibitions, and public spaces have attracted politicians, pilgrims, and countless participants in public demonstrations and commemorative events.
Jonathan Huener’s study begins with the liberation of the camp and traces the history of the State Museum at Auschwitz from its origins immediately after the war until the 1980s, analyzing the landscape, exhibitions, and public events at the site.
Based on extensive research and illustrated with archival photographs, Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration accounts for the development and durability of a Polish commemorative idiom at Auschwitz. Emphasis on Polish national “martyrdom” at Auschwitz, neglect of the Shoah as the most prominent element of the camp’s history, political instrumentalization of the grounds and exhibitions—these were some of the more controversial aspects of the camp’s postwar landscape.
Professor Huener locates these and other public manifestations of memory at Auschwitz in the broad scope of Polish history, in the specific context of postwar Polish politics and culture, and against the background of Polish-Jewish relations. Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration will be of interest to scholars, students, and general readers of the history of modern Poland and the Holocaust.
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