In this pathbreaking study of responses to the Holocaust in wartime and postwar Polish literature, Rachel Feldhay Brenner explores seven writers’ compulsive need to share their traumatic experience of witness with the world. The Holocaust put the ideological convictions of Kornel Filipowicz, Józef Mackiewicz, Tadeusz Borowski, Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, Leopold Buczkowski, Jerzy Andrzejewski, and Stefan Otwinowski to the ultimate test. Tragically, witnessing the horror of the Holocaust implied complicity with the perpetrator and produced an existential crisis that these writers, who were all exempted from the genocide thanks to their non-Jewish identities, struggled to resolve in literary form.
Polish Literature and the Holocaust: Eyewitness Testimonies,1942–1947 is a particularly timely book in view of the continuing debate about the attitudes of Poles toward the Jews during the war. The literary voices from the past that Brenner examines posit questions that are as pertinent now as they were then. And so, while this book speaks to readers who are interested in literary responses to the Holocaust, it also illuminates the universal issue of the responsibility of witnesses toward the victims of any atrocity.
1. The Holocaust in Polish Consciousness: Early Literary Representations 2. The Moral Failure of the Enlightened Witness of the Holocaust: Kornel Filipowicz, Józef Mackiewicz, and Tadeusz Borowski 3. Re-thinking Christian theology in the Time of the Holocaust: Zofia Kossak–Szczucka 4. The Humanistic Crisis of a Godless World: Leopold Buczkowski 5. Catholic Existentialism in Face of the Occupation and the Holocaust: Jerzy Andrzejewski 6. The Holocaust and a Vision of Polish-Jewish Kinship: Stefan Otwinowski Epilogue Notes Index
RACHEL FELDHAY BRENNER is the Max and Frieda Weinstein-Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies at the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of The Ethics of Witnessing: The Holocaust in Polish Writers’ Diaries from Warsaw, 1939–1945 (Northwestern, 2014).
"Sensitive and persuasively argued, Polish Literature and the Holocaust is both incisive literary analysis and a sober refutation of Poland’s present nationalist leaders’ attempt to rewrite history as a myth of Polish national innocence. Brenner’s study of seven literary works composed during and immediately after the Holocaust by authors struggling to comprehend and represent the morally dubious responses of Poles like themselves to the slaughter of the Polish Jews is essential reading." —Madeline G. Levine
“This moving and timely book gives a detailed and coherent account of the response of a number of leading Polish writers to the mass murder of the Jews on Polish lands. It is essential reading for all interested in the moral problems raised by the Holocaust.” —Antony Polonsky, author of The Jews in Poland and Russia: A Short History
"In this invaluable and groundbreaking contribution to Holocaust studies, Polish literary studies, trauma and memory studies, and ethics, Brenner (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) looks at the literary response of non-Jewish Poles to their experiences during Nazi occupation and to the genocide of Polish Jews who were often their neighbors . . . Meticulously researched and written, this book delves into a subject that heretofore has received little attention." —E. R. Baer, Gustavus Adolphus College, CHOICE (Reprinted with permission from CHOICE http://www.choicereviews.org, copyright by the American Library Association.)
“This is an important addition to a rather limited body of works in English on Polish Holocaust literature.” —Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska, Yad Vashem
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