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Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide

Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide

by David G. Roskies, Naomi Diamant

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What is Holocaust literature? When does it begin and how is it changing? Is there an essential core that consists of diaries, eyewitness accounts of the concentration camps, and tales of individual survival? Is it the same everywhere: West and East, in Australia as in the Americas, in poetry as in prose? Is this literature sacred and separate, or can it be studied


What is Holocaust literature? When does it begin and how is it changing? Is there an essential core that consists of diaries, eyewitness accounts of the concentration camps, and tales of individual survival? Is it the same everywhere: West and East, in Australia as in the Americas, in poetry as in prose? Is this literature sacred and separate, or can it be studied alongside other responses to catastrophe? What works of Holocaust literature will be read a hundred years from now—and why?

Here, for the first time, is a historical survey of Holocaust literature in all genres, countries, and major languages. Beginning in wartime, it proceeds from the literature of mobilization and mourning in the Free World to the vast literature produced in Nazi-occupied ghettos, bunkers and places of hiding, transit and concentration camps. No less remarkable is the new memorial literature that begins to take shape within weeks and months of the liberation. Moving from Europe to Israel, the United States, and beyond, the authors situate the writings by real and proxy witnesses within three distinct postwar periods: “communal memory,” still internal and internecine; “provisional memory” in the 1960s and 1970s, when a self-conscious Holocaust genre is born; and “authorized memory,” in which we live today.

Twenty book covers—first editions in their original languages—and a guide to the “first hundred books” show the multilingual scope, historical depth, and artistic range of this extraordinary body of writing.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“What has long been needed was a guide that would be as accessible as it was comprehensive and scholarly. Now we have one, in Holocaust Literature: A History and a Guide . . . a book that offers us so much insight into how to read the literature of the Holocaust in time, and over time. Roskies and Diamant remind us of that it is not enough to preserve its memory; we must also make it available to be rediscovered by generations to come.”—JewishIdeasDaily.com

"True to the book’s subtitle, the authors follow their history with a “Guide to the First Hundred Books.” They highlight under-appreciated work from the earlier phases, and some readers may be surprised by some of their choices, such as John Hersey’s “The Wall” (1950), which the authors signal for its “value as a document of the early development of Holocaust literature in languages other than Hebrew and Yiddish,” or Binjamin Wilkomirski’s “Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood” (1995), a fraudulent account that is included, at least in part, for what it reveals about the public’s needs and expectations from Holocaust literature at a particular moment. The list’s logic is informed by the authors’ innovative definition of “Holocaust literature” itself: “Holocaust literature comprises all forms of writing, both documentary and discursive, and in any language, that have shaped the public memory of the Holocaust and been shaped by it.”

This is by no means light reading, but it is both accessible and powerful. Holocaust Literature offers something for a remarkable range of readers, from the scholarly expert for whom the repeated references to metonymy will resonate to the less experienced reader, who may simply seek to augment a reading list."—Forward

“This book should be especially useful for those trying to get an overview of the development of Holocaust literature. . . . Recommended.”—Choice

“[An] ambitious and truly useful book, a history and also a reader’s guide suitable for serious readers and scholars alike. . . . This book will be a standard reference work for years to come. Roskies and Diamant have succeeded in writing a remarkably comprehensive yet concise history of Holocaust literature, as they have defined it, which recoups its roots and branches in a multitude of languages.”—H-JUDAIC

“The author’s comprehensive research and analysis put the individual works and the body of Holocaust literature into both a historical and literary context. . . . An essential acquisition for Holocaust Centers and large Holocaust collections, the book is a valuable resource for research and book selection and is recommended for all Jewish libraries.”—Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

"Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide is a heart-wrenching encounter with an endless stream of people who emerged from the void and chose to write about what happened to them."—European Review of History

"Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide is the first major attempt to define and catalog the full range of holocaust literature in all languages and genres, from the "Memory Books" that began to appear in the first weeks after the war up through the beginning of the twenty-first century. . . . Previously unknown works will undoubtedly continue to appear, and those still to be written will have a new perspective on the ever-evolving significance of the Holocaust in our culture."—Ruth Franklin, Jewish Book World

“[An] extraordinarily rich and sophisticated discussion. . . . Roskies and Diamant’s arguments are passionate and eloquent, and their evidence is massive and convincing. Their resourceful marshaling of a wealth of materials originally written in twelve languages enables them to pursue incisive comparative analysis.”—Slavic and East European Journal

Product Details

Brandeis University Press
Publication date:
Tauber Institute Series for the Study of European Jewry
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

What People are Saying About This

Jeffrey Shandler
“Roskies and Diamant survey Holocaust literature as literature in its own right, limning its dimensions across continents, genres, and languages, tracking its dynamics from the eve of World War II to the early twenty-first century. The scope of the volume is sweeping; the analysis is provocative. The authors’ canon of key works will prompt novices and those conversant in this literature to discover unknown titles and reexamine familiar ones.”
Samuel D. Kassow
“This is a brilliant and original study of Holocaust literature and memory. Roskies and Diamant’s insights and their wide-ranging approach make this an indispensable book for anyone with a serious interest in Jewish culture and the Holocaust.”

Meet the Author

DAVID G. ROSKIES is the Sol and Evelyn Henkind Chair in Yiddish Literature and Culture at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He also holds a joint appointment in Yiddish literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Prof. Roskies was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012 for his contributions to the field of literary criticism. NAOMI DIAMANT is director of Dean’s Office Affairs, Stern School of Business, New York University.

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