Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Question: How should the literature of the Holocaust be dealt with?

Answer/Quote: The author of this article discusses the issue. I have chosen to offer these quotes:

Quote: “Aleksander Kulisiewicz, a survivor, composer, and collector of Polish camp songs, tells us of a song found toward the end of 1943 sewn into the pocket of a dead child’s coat. The poem’s author was Elzunia, a little girl murdered in Majdanek…, a death camp near Lublin. She wrote. ‘Once there was Elzunia./ She is dying all alone,/ Because her daddy is in Maidanek,/ and in Auschwitz her mommy….’  The remaining song words, Kulisiewicz tells us, were covered in blood.” P. 397.

Quote: “A graduate student in my own class, The Holocaust in Literature, expressed her intense discomfort with even discussing Holocaust texts, perceiving the classroom as ‘a sacred place of remembrance and reverence.’ In her class journal responding to Elie Wiesel’s ‘A  Plea for the Dead,’ she wrote, ‘I often feel I should only list quotations in these responses, to listen to the words of the victims and survivors without interrupting. How dare I respond? How dare I interpret? How could I have anything to add?’” p. 395.

Quote: “We can’t comfort Elzunia. We can’t hold her hand or interpose our bodies between hers and the fatal shot. We can read her song and take some time with it, coming to know Elzunia a little better by analyzing her craft of songwriting, by working to imagine her within a historical context, and by remembering the blood that obscures the lower part of her text. We read all Holocaust literature through blood. Interpretation of this sort, like the act of washing the dead and staying with them in the hours after death in the Jewish tradition, may be an act of compassion.” P. 413.

Comment: All I can do is reflect. RayS.

Title: “ ‘Once There Was Elzunia’: Approaching Affect in Holocaust Literature.” Gail Ivy Berlin. College English (May 2012), 395-416.

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