"Writing The Holocaust After The Holocaust"

A panel of the speakers spoke this Wednesday, April 10 on “Writing The Holocaust After The Holocaust” as part of the Art and Identity symposium, a collaboration between the Gund Gallery and the Kenyon Review. 

Organized and moderated by Jessica Lieberman ‘14, the event, held in the Cheever Room of Finn House, brought together a range of academic disciplines and perspectives. Jessica, who also planned the Kenyon Review’s poetry reading for last year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, explained the focus of this year’s discussion: the panel addressed certain ethical challenges of writing about the Holocaust, rather than language’s positive potential to transmit experience. This year, the focus was not just on the benefits of narrative, but also on its consequences. 

David Lynn, Editor of the Kenyon Review and Professor of English, spoke with Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, Professor of English on the topic “Writing the Unspeakable: Literature after Auschwitz,” grappling with Theodor Adorno’s assertion that to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. 

Royal W. Rhodes, Donald L. Rogan Professor of Religious Studies, spoke on “Owning Tragedy, Sharing the Tragic,” recognizing the Holocaust as not just a Jewish problem, but a human question. 

Laurie Finke, Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies, spoke on “Stranded Objects and the Holocaust Museum”: how do objects like museum acquisitions function in cultural memory? With Holocaust objects displayed in museums as signifiers of mourning, how do we see through the aura of sacrality that has abstracted the item from its function? 

Finally, Steven Lieberman, who practices Intellectual Property and Constitutional Law, spoke on “Protecting Against the Counterfeiting of the Shoah: Likely Challenges and Possible Legal Approaches.” Lieberman spoke to the importance of remembering the Holocaust accurately, and to the danger of distorting memories and words. 

The event program offers a recommended reading list for those interested in issues of the Holocaust and cultural ownership:

  • Raoul Hilberg, The Destruction of European Jewry
  • Lucy Dawidowicz, War Against The Jews 1933-1945
  • David Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews
  • Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz
  • Elie Wiesel, Night
  • Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
  • Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Out of the Depths: The Story of a Child of Buchenwald Who Returned Home at Last
  • Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust
  • Daniel Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners; Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust
  • Emmanuel Ringelblum, Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto
  • Deborah Lipstadt, The Eichmann Trial
  • Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobobor Treblinka
  • Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf
  • Japp Polak and Insa Soep, Steal a Pencil for Me: Love Letters from Camp Bergen-Belsen and Westebork 
  • Etty Hillesum, Essential Writings
  • Alexandra Zapruder, Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust
  • Irene Opdyke, In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer
  • Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After 

—Janet Wlody ‘13

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