Writing the Unwritable – an Inter-disciplinary Approach to Holocaust Postmemory
Updated: Oct 24, 2021
An on-line conference, organized by Dr. Rony Alfandary and Prof. Judy Tydor Baumel-Schwartz, was held under the auspices of The Finkler Institute for Holocaust Research in partnership with the School of Social Work of the University of Haifa and the Louis & Gabi Weisfeld School of Social Work, Bar-Ilan University, on January 24th 2021.
The memory of the Holocaust continues to preoccupy and haunt millions around the world. The impact of the experience of having survived the Holocaust or being relatives of people who were alive during that time, is being transmitted from generation to generation as Postmemory. To keep this transgenerational postmemory from becoming poisonous, it metamorphoses into a positive enterprise: postmemorial work.
What is Postmemory? I suggest the following definition: The realization (always in retrospect) that one is being driven (in the Freudian sense of dual drive) by events that had taken place before one's actual sensual experience. One finds himself haunted by and repeating patterns of behavior,, forms of relationships and (obsessive) ideas and emotions which cannot be explained solely by one's own individual history and current circumstances. It is only through an in-depth creative investigation that one can uncover the unconscious roots of the repetition (i.e. repetition compulsion) he has been engaged with. Once the pattern is revealed and made conscious, it can become postmemorial work. Otherwise, if it remains unconscious, it can lead to pathological symptomatic behavior, either as an individual or as a collective (collective memory).
Follow the links below to see and hear each lecture or see the full conference here.
Greetings: Rector - Prof. Amnon Albeck
Amnon Albeck conducted postdoctoral research in the Graduate Department of Biochemistry at Brandeis University (USA) after completing his PhD (direct track) in the Department of Organic Chemistry at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and his BSc degree in Chemistry from Bar-Ilan University. He joined the Department of Chemistry at BIU as a faculty member and recipient of the Alon Fellowship for young investigators in 1990. He is currently a professor of chemistry, head of the Julius Spokojny Bioorganic Chemistry Laboratory, and a member of the Marcus Center for Medicinal Chemistry at Bar-Ilan University. Since 2014, he served as the BIU Vice Rector and in 2020, he was appointed the Rector to succeed Prof. Miriam Faust.
Opening Remarks: Conference Chairman - Dr. Rony Alfandary
Rony Alfandary is a clinical social worker. He is a senior lecturer at the School of Social Work at the University of Haifa and is the Assistant Director of the Post-Graduate programme of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy at Bar-Ilan University. He is the Editor of the book section of the Society and Welfare periodical. As well as practising psychoanalytic psychotherapy, Rony writes and publishes poetry, prose and non-fiction. Among his recent publications is Seeking Psychic Space: Fundamentals of Psychodynamic Social Work, and Exile and Return: A Psychoanalytic Study of Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet. Rony’s research interests are multi-disciplinary and include photography, hermeneutics, psychoanalysis, the relations between language, creativity and the sense of self and belonging, and the impact of the Holocaust upon 2nd and 3rd generations.
Post- Trauma in History, Psychology and Memory
Moderator: Prof. Atina Grossmann (unfortunately was unable to moderate but was present)
Atina Grossmann is Professor of History at the Cooper Union in New York City. Relevant publications include Jews, Germans, and Allies: Close Encounters in Occupied Germany ; Wege in der Fremde: Deutsch-jüdische Begegnungsgeschichte zwischen New York, Berlin, und Teheran (2012); and co-editor, Shelter from the Holocaust: Rethinking Jewish Survival in the Soviet Union (with M.Edele and S. Fitzpatrick 2017), The JDC at 100: A Century of Humanitarianism (with A.Patt, L.Levi, M. Mandel, 2019), and Our Courage/Unser Mut: Jews in Europe after 1945 (with K. Bohus 2020). She has held fellowships from the Davis Center at Princeton University, Mandel Center of USHMM, American Academy in Berlin, German Marshall Fund, ACLS, and NEH as well as guest professorships at Jena, Humboldt University Berlin, and University of Haifa. Her current research focuses on “Trauma, Privilege, and Adventure: Jewish Refugees in the “Orient” as well as the entanglements of family memoir and historical scholarship.
Bella Sagi, PhD - "Lounging in memories that were never mine": Bibliotherapeutic processes in the "Creating Memory" venture
For many years, Holocaust survivors and their testimonies have been central to the study of the Holocaust and its national memory, especially in Israel. At present, a great deal of Holocaust narrative research deals with the types of testimonies that have been heard, and sometimes could not be heard, and with the devastating quality of trauma (Felman & Laub, 2008), and the ways that traumatic memory can be represented through language, which sometimes seems impossible (Amir, 2019). The testimonies created a national memory through narratives that form the "chosen" narrative, one that includes Holocaust and Rebirth ("Shoha Ve Tkuma"), away from contact with the actual pain of trauma (Santner,1992). This narrative served as a dissociative defense mechanism that created some protection from a direct encounter with the trauma, but at the cost of disconnection and alienation. Instead of processing the pain and mourning, it created "fetishistic" fixation of the single story, and ultimately created a pathological process that can be understood in Freud's terms as "melancholy " (Ball, 2006), Unfortunately, that is what we live after us to the second, third, and soon-to-be fourth generation (Caruth, 1996; Lacapra, 2001). The challenge we face today is to wake mourning that have already been frozen and to offer an alternative to the consensus story, which has become "sacred". We are concerned with how to turn the story of the survivors from something that happened "In a land far far away" ("Eretz Sham") as David Grossman's hero Momik calls in "See Under: Love" (1986), to here and now, but without generating intergenerational transmission of the trauma. In the lecture I will review a new Israeli venture, called "Creating Memory" (Bigman & Herskovitz, 2019). It includes a program that encourages expressive writing after reading Holocaust testimonies and personal stories which are part of the national memory. Thus, in bibliotherapeutic tools, "there and then" becomes "here and now". The therapeutic power of creativity and writing promotes the processes of mourning, which connects with the pain but also allows life in this way. The venture research includes narrative analysis of written texts written during the workshops, through a combination of methodological tools from the qualitative research field (Lieblich, Tuval- Mashiach & Silver, 2010) and literary interpretation (Greensfeld and Elkad-Lehman, 2008). The theoretical contribution of the research to understanding the value of this venture will sharpen the role of such ventures on the future of Holocaust memory, while deepening the understanding of the role of bibliotherapeutic processes as a means of renewed emotional personal connection to the historical and national memory.
Bella Sagi is a bibliotherapist, Lecturer at David Yellin Academic College of Education and in the psychotherapy program in the psychological service for students at the Hebrew University. Ph.D. in gender studies program, Bar-Ilan university. She has been working for years as a therapist in the field of trauma, specializing in the treatment of sexual trauma. She is one of the founders of the Community Therapy Center next to David Yellin Academic College of education in Jerusalem.
Prof. Laura Hobson Faure - The Historian, the Survivor and Family Narrative: A
The historiography has questioned the role of the witness in the Holocaust, and how this role has challenged the traditional role of the historian (Wieviorka). Likewise, the distinct methodological issues associated with the Holocaust, as well as its relative proximity to the present, have created a strong reliance on oral history and survivor-produced materials (Browning). The Holocaust, one could argue, has pushed historian’s thinking on sources to a new, more reflexive level, as seen in the burgeoning subfield of testimony studies (Waxman). If we have thus questioned the place of the witness in the production of the Holocaust master narrative, here I would like to question the role of historians in the construction, destruction, and production of the family narratives of Holocaust survivors. Unlike anthropologists and psychologists, historians tend to refrain from situating the “I” and its impact. What role do we (as historians) play, what damage do we do? How do our historical narratives collide and co-exist with the family narratives of those we study? What happens when we show our research to these individuals? This paper will discuss several case studies, including that of my own grandmother’s family, who were not Holocaust survivors but Jewish refugees from WWI onwards, who made it to the United States in 1928. Thinking about my own, incomplete family narrative will help me discuss my interactions with survivors as I researched my second manuscript, on Jewish refugee children in France and the United States, Becoming Refugees. In addition to mining existing archival sources, I conducted interviews with about 40 of the now elderly child refugees who escaped Central Europe to France and from France to the United States during the Holocaust. I took the risk of showing my manuscript to certain individuals, and then listened to what they told me in response. While I did this for ethical reasons, I was surprised to find that my research at times led to an unpredictable incorporation into an existing family narrative, at times to the destruction of previous narratives, and of course the creation of new narratives. If we reverse the power dynamic between historians and survivors, we can ask not what historians teach us about the Holocaust, but how paying attention to survivors’ reactions to our research can push historians closer to new understandings.
Laura Hobson Faure is professor of Modern Jewish history at the Panthéon-Sorbonne University-Paris 1 and member of the Center for Social History (UMR 8058). Her research focuses on the intersections between French and American Jewish life, during and after the Holocaust. She is the author of Un « Plan Marshall Juif »: la présence juive américaine en France après la Shoah (2013 ; 2018, forthcoming in English, The Modern Jewish Experience, Indiana University Press, 2021) and co-editor of L’Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants et les populations juives au XXème siècle. Prévenir et Guérir dans un siècle de violences (Armand Colin, 2014). She is writing a two-volume study on Jewish child refugees in France and the United States, during and after the Holocaust, exploring the connection between wartime experiences and later activism as Holocaust survivors and has recently completed the first volume, Becoming Refugees: the Migrations of Central European Jewish children through France to the United States, 1938-42.
Holli Levitsky, PhD - ‘Every Family Saved a Jew’: and Other Challenges to Polish Post-
In 2001, I arrived at the University of Warsaw as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Literature to teach courses in the Philological Institute. As an Americanist of Jewish ancestry, I offered the first ever course on Holocaust literature at the University of Warsaw. The experience of teaching Holocaust literature to Polish university students was eye opening; students shared their family war stories - in every one of which it seemed at least one family member saved a Jew - and they taught me their version of the Polish national narrative. These Polish micro-and macro-narratives were in profound contrast to the American narrative I was teaching them, and provided countless opportunities for critical discussion of deeply held beliefs. One text in particular stands out for the way in which it helped me shape our class discussions, deconstruct the different national narratives, and address the challenges of Post-memory in Poland. Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer-prize winning graphic novel, Maus I, would be read by my students in the original English. But the text had just been translated into Polish, and the ferocity of public resistance to its Polish publication, and the reasons why the book was delayed translation into Polish for a decade, presented itself as a parallel, disruptive subject for our discussions. The associated project required students to interview a grandparent of other member about their experience with Jews during the war. The interview would become the basis for a story they would tell through a creative platform. Through this process, students grew a personal connection to a Jewish story as well as their Polish family story. Told through diary entries, scrapbook, musical score, love story, and more, the final creative projects highlighted the tension between memory and Post-memory in the face of each student’s family inheritance. Yet more profoundly, as bearers of testimony, the students and their expressive projects acquired the status of commemoration.
Holli Levitsky holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English Language and Literature from the university of Michigan, an M.A. in Comparative Literature and a Ph.D. in English and American literature from the University of California, Irvine. Founder and director of the Jewish Studies Program and Professor of English at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, she has been a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum, a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Literature in Poland, a Schusterman Fellow at the Summer Institute for Israel Studies, a Florida International University Exile Studies Scholar-in-Residence, and co-directs the annual Jewish American and Holocaust Literature Symposium. She works primarily in the areas of Jewish American literature, Holocaust studies and Exile studies, and has published articles, book chapters, and essays in these areas. Most recently, she is the co-editor of several volumes, New Directions in Jewish American and Holocaust Literature: Reading and Teaching (2018); The Literature of Exile and Displacement: American Identity in a Time of Crisis (2016) and Summer Haven: The Catskills, the Holocaust and the Literary Imagination (2015).
Yael Shalom-Zedak, MA - “Betwe en Language and Silence” - A Psychoanalytical Perspective
Much has been written and questioned about the feasibility of verbally conceptualizing trauma. To understand the process of the collapse of language in the wake of a massive trauma, I will use examples from the poetic and theoretical writing about the Holocaust (such as: Ameri, Celan, Levi, Laub, Felman). I will use the term “poetic holding” as a prism for understanding how the individual employs language in coping with trauma, in which I will distinguish between three levels - each indicative of its underlying mental construct: 1. Pre-language: an initial stage at which the individual holds onto language as a substantive rescue object and not as symbolic representation. 2. Language discourse: at which the individual uses language to communicate their experienced trauma to another, but at the same time relinquishes their uniqueness as a subject. 3. Language mourning: the most developed level where the individual uses language both as means for discourse with their selves and with others in a manner that enables reflexive thinking—while acknowledging the inevitable loss involved in the transition from the real to the representational world. These levels will be demonstrated through a close reading of Yael Naaman’s story Once There Was a Woman (2018), which deals with the ways second generation survivors mentally cope with their parents’ Holocaust trauma, a trauma which was expressed mainly by their silence. In order to testify, the survivor has to find a way to “silence” the traumatic event, writes Yochai Ataria (2014). Through this prism I will show how writing from within total emptiness can preserve the silence which stands at the core of the unspeakable trauma, and enables the heroine to erase her being by words. Finally, I will discuss how the choice of silence and mental erasure not only constitutes an additional testimony to the traumatic event, but requires therapists or addressees of the trauma to formulate an ethical position based on “breaking the silence” or “erasing the erasure.”
Yael Shalom - Zedak is a PhD candidate in psychoanalysis and hermeneutics at Bar Ilan University. Her doctoral dissertation is supervised by Dr. Dorit Lemberger and deals with the connection between language and mental processes from psychoanalytical, philosophical, and literary perspectives. She is a Lecturer in the master's degree program in art therapy at the University of Haifa and a psychotherapist with a psychoanalytical orientation. She works at Amcha – a NPO that provides mental healthcare to Holocaust survivors, Bnei-zion Hospital and also treats adults and adolescents in her private clinic.
Adelheid Schmitz - History and Holocaust Education on a Campus
The campus of Hochschule Düsseldorf/University of Applied Sciences was built on a historic site, which brings with it responsibility for remembering the history of the place. Put into operation in 1899, the municipal abattoir of the City of Düsseldorf on Rather Straße became a crime scene during the Nazi Rule. Almost six thousand Jewish men, women and children from the Düsseldorf administrative district were assembled in the large cattle market hall for a total of seven transports. They were registred, robbed and imprisoned before being deported from the nearby Derendorf freight station to ghettos in occupied Eastern Europe. The ghettos were often only stopovers on the way to concentration and extermination camps. Only few survived in the Shoah. Unused and exposed to decay for decades, the large cattle market hall and the only other remaining building, the horse slaughterhouse, have been listed as protected buildings since 1999. After the decision of using the place for the new campus of Hochschule Düsseldorf (HSD), the University of Applied Sciences started in 2010 to make it a priority not only to adapt the buildings to University needs, but also to finally honour the memory of those, who have suffered here. The university library and the campus-IT have found their place in the elaborately restored and converted large livestock hall. In the entrance area of the library, where cattle used to be driven down a ramp into the basement, the Memorial Centre Alter Schlachthof urges visitors to remember the terrible crimes commited there during World War Second. The Memorial Centre reconstructs and documents these crimes. A permanent exhibition portrays people, whose lives and family stories are linked to this place. Another important element of the exhibition is the digital archive, which was developed and realized by students from the Faculty of Media at HSD. It is being continuously expanded and aims to gradually give face to all the victims. A historical and political education program with guided tours, informative events, workshops, readings and lectures completes the exhibition. The memorial is not meant to be the only reminder for the past crimes, but also strives to educate on the aftereffects of Nazi Rule in society until today. After all, many of the social phenomena and negative dispositions associated with those times are still very present today: Racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, denial or relativization of the holocaust and modified structures of exclusion.
Adelheid Schmitz holds a Diploma in Social Pedagogy since 1984. She is an Academic assistant at Hochschule Düsseldorf/University of Applied Sciences, faculty of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies since 1987. Co-founder of the Unit to research right wing extremism, founded in 1987 and established as a research focus at the University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf. Participation in one of the first sessions of Holocaust education organized by Yad Vashem in 1994. Engaged in Holocaust education at the Memorial Site “Erinnerungsort Alter Schlachthof”, founded 2016 on the campus. Her thematic focus is on educational work to raise awareness on racism, discrimination and social exclusion, holding seminars and workshops to strengthen democratic awareness and commitment, holocaust education at the Memorial Site “Erinnerungsort Alter Schlachthof” and advice and further training for multipliers and teachers.
Mooli Brog, PhD - The Yellow Star of Valor: The IDF and Holocaust Memory
For over 4 decades much of the IDF efforts had been dedicated to police style routine security missions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and to anti-terror actions executed by civilians who live there, Arabs and Jews alike. All of the above highlighted the military actions against the Palestinians as a byproduct of governmental political agenda rather than part of a national security strategy. Therefore, a controversial interpretation developed over the moral status and the patriotic symbol of the IDF fallen soldiers. The late 1980's global socio-economic changes contributed to the rapidly growing brain drain from the IDF to the civil business world. As a counteraction, from the 1990’s until now, Holocaust Death Camps in Europe were introduced to elite IDF commanders, going on Edim BeMadim delegations, as an alternative landscape of national fight for survival over the battle-fields in Israel. Such reality suggests (or bring into mined) some kind of similarity between the Nazis and the Arabs as symbols of existential threat to the Jewish people and state, and helped creating a powerful moral lesson aimed to strengthen IDF soldiers' faith in their military missions at home. In part, it's the neo-militaristic character of the IDF that supports the above transition in meaning of the Zionist ethos of heroism and its patriotic death. The long time secular-liberal elites of the IDF were replaced by other groups of a more religious-traditional character, representing a support in the ethno-nationalism interpretation of the security situation of the state. This pilgrimage of senior IDF leadership to the new hallowed ground in Europa enabled the exchange of Holocaust victims with military victors as the ultimate price for Israel’s independence. Hence, legitimized a patriotic discourse in which the victors – the fallen soldiers - once heroes who sacrificed their life in the defense of their country, have become victims who killed on Kidush Hashem in a sacred war to secure their Promised Land.
Mooli Brog, a graduate of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and holds a PhD in Sociology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research focuses on issues of collective memory and cultural interpretation of sacred spaces, with an emphasis on sites whose story in Zionism is linked to the myth of heroism, such as The Maccabees tombs, Masada and Tel Hai. His book "Who Should Be Remembered? The Struggle for Commemorative Recognition at Yad Vashem" was published by Carmel and Bar Ilan University (2019).
Post-Trauma in Literature, Art, and Representation
Moderator: Prof. Phyllis Lassner
Phyllis Lassner is Professor Emerita at Northwestern University. She has published books and articles on Holocaust literature and film and women writers of the 1930s -1970, including British Women Writers of World War II, Colonial Strangers: Women Writing the End of the British Empire, and Anglo-Jewish Women Writing the Holocaust. Among her co-edited volumes are Antisemitism and Philosemitism in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries and The Palgrave Handbook of Holocaust Literature and Culture (2020). Her most recent book is Espionage and Exile: Fascism and Anti-Fascism in British Spy Fiction and Film. She also co-edited the new edition of Gisella Perl’s memoir, I Was a Doctor in Auschwitz. Her current essays examine Polish post-Holocaust film, Boyhood in Holocaust fiction and film, and films about intermarriage under the Third Reich. She was the recipient of the International Diamond Jubilee Fellowship at Southampton University, UK. and serves on the Education and Exhibition Committees of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
Prof. Sara Horowitz - Zayde In the Archives
Several years ago, by fluke, I found some photos of my maternal grandfather – my Zayde – in a digital archive. I was searching several collections of digitized documents connected with shtetls in eastern Europe for a research project, and before logging out, I tried – but failed – to find some family traces in lists of Jewish business, births, conscriptions, and so forth. Reconciled to settling for some image of the world of my grandparents, I searched for photos of common spaces in the town they came from, Kamenets-Litovsk, located in the present Belarus. Up came a photo from the early 1920s of four men standing in front of the shtetl’s wooden synagogue, bearing the caption “Orthodox men in front of synagogue.” And there, on the youngest, was my zayde’s face. I sent the photo around to my cousins. Each of us read our own lives and choices into that sepia image of our shared grandfather.
Although I am a scholar and researcher of the Shoah, I am not a descendant of the Nazi genocide. Soon after the photograph was taken, my zayde took his young bride and departed for New York. Their siblings soon followed. That photograph, and indeed, familial memory more broadly, has a different charge and different dynamics than family photos of Holocaust survivors and victims. From that perspective, and using the serendipity of the archival photo as a starting point, I propose to discuss different paradigms for relating to the chronotype (the space/time) of familial memory, and to interrogate the models of postmemory and the postmemorial. How do descendants “write” their family stories? How do they write themselves into it? Does Holocaust memory remain a distinct thread, or does it morph down the generations, and if so, how?
Sara R. Horowitz is Professor of Comparative Literature and Humanities and former Director of the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University in Toronto. She is the author of Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction, which received the Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Book, and served as the senior founding editor of the Azrieli Series of Holocaust Memoirs - Canada (Series 1 and 2). She is the editor of Lessons and Legacies of the Holocaust Volume X : Back to the Sources (2012), and co-editor of the forthcoming Shadows on the City of Lights: Jewish Post-War French Writing, of Hans Günther Adler: Life, Literature, Legacy (2016) which received the Canadian Jewish Literary Award, and of Encounter with Appelfeld, and other books. In addition, she is founding co-editor of the journal KEREM: A Journal of Creative Explorations in Judaism. She served as editor for Literature for The Cambridge Dictionary of Judaism and Jewish Culture (ed. Judith Baskin). She publishes extensively on contemporary Holocaust literature, gender and Holocaust memory survivors, and Jewish North American fiction. She served as president of the Association for Jewish Studies, sits on the Academic Advisory Committee of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Academic Advisory Council of the Holocaust Education Foundation. Currently, she is completing a book called “Gender, Genocide, and Jewish Memory.”
Prof. Victoria Aaron s - The Intergenerational Transfer of Memory and Trauma in Holocaust
Art Spiegelman’s groundbreaking Maus established the genre of the graphic novel as a legitimate and meaningful form of Holocaust representation, providing subsequent graphic novelists and illustrators a kind of literary license, as graphic artist Miriam Katin put it, “permission” to enter the space of Holocaust history and memory and tell their individual family stories of survival and devastating loss. With memory as the controlling trope, these graphic writers and cartoonists extend the narrative of the Holocaust into the present. Especially in the years following the turn of the twenty-first century, the graphic novel has shown itself to be an innovative stage upon which to enact the participatory engagement of storyteller and reader in bringing to life the increasingly remote and inaccessible events of the Holocaust at an important time in history, one that will witness the end of direct survivor testimony. Through a largely psychoanalytic lens, I will examine those graphic narratives that demonstrate diverse perspectives on inherited and mediated memory in the intergenerational transmission of memory: one by a child survivor, one by a second-generation writer, and another by a third-generation graphic memoirist. The generational approach reflects the labyrinthine ways in which the traumatic memory of the Shoah is transferred through time and imprinted on subsequent post-Holocaust generations. As these narratives open up to history and to generations, we find a widening of the lens of perspective, a multi-directional, polyphonic chorus of voices and positions from which the past is unfastened, retrieved and negotiated. Through a discussion of the contrasting yet overlapping generational perspectives through which memory is shaped and re-evoked, I will explore the ways in which a new genre for Holocaust expression has opened new ways of bearing witness to the Holocaust and its haunting aftermath for generations extending beyond that history.
Victoria Aarons holds the position of O.R. and Eva Mitchell Distinguished Professor of Literature at Trinity University, San Antonio, TX, where she teaches courses on American Jewish and Holocaust literatures. In addition to over 70 scholarly articles and book chapters, she is author or editor of eleven books, including most recently Third-Generation Holocaust Narratives: Memory in Memoir and Fiction (2019); The New Jewish American Literary Studies (2019); Holocaust Graphic Narratives: Generation, Trauma, and Memory (2020); and, co-edited with Phyllis Lassner, The Palgrave Handbook of Holocaust Literature and Culture (2020).
Erga Heller, PhD - Let the Monster in? Illustrations of Autobiographical Memories and the Question of Historical Accuracy in Contemporary Holocaust Hebrew Children’s Literature
Representations of traumatic experiences from the Holocaust is a controversial issue among educators and publishers, and it is found at the heart of a controversy regarding about two dozens of Hebrew children’s books for 3 to 8 years old. This lecture focuses on the visual interpretation of Hebrew children’s books illustrations of Holocaust narratives, including autobiographical narratives (such as the illustrations of Alona Frankel, a Holocaust survivor, to her picture book Why Naphtali is called Naphtali, 2009, or the 3rd generation Kinneret Gildar’s illustrations of Kaleidoscope by the Holocaust survivor Chava Nissimov, 2015). It aims at demonstrating the degree of mediation that is offered to the readers by the contents and colour scale of the illustrations of the traumatic memory. Since illustrations can form another reading channel of a written text, as well as suggesting an alternative narrative to the literary narrative, their conceptualization is highly significant in building the young reader's emotional experience and historical knowledge. Although in most cases, the illustrators are unrelated to the narrative – e.g. they are not part of the autobiographical narrative nor the author’s family nor the historical study of the plot - their status as mediators of narrative, and their contribution to the reader’s experience is of importance, and their visual interpretations to the literary text defines the reading atmosphere, whether it will be comfortable or intimidating. The comparative analysis of the illustrations shows that most of the visual narratives present a protective relationship that stands in contrast of the protagonist’s loneliness (which is often presented as a hug by an adult or hugging a puppet) regardless of the literal meaning, the reconstructed reality and/or the historical accuracy. Another finding suggests that illustrations that are made by 3rd generation artists tend to be much darker and terrifying than the original illustrations of the survivors themselves.
Erga Heller is a senior lecturer at Kaye Academic College of Education, Beer Sheva, Israel. She is the head of Hebrew literature and children’s literature department, and the editor-in-chief of Lexi-Kaye, a peer reviewed journal of education, teaching and teachers education.
Nitsa Dori, PhD - Games and Toys of the Holocaust period as reflected in five Children Books
The lecture will discuss games and toys connected to transmitting the legacy of the Shoah, as reflected in five Hebrew stories: Hadubi shel Fred [Bear and Fred: A World War II Story] by Iris Argaman, Grandpa's Third Drawer: Unlocking Holocaust Memories by Judy Tal Kopelman, Bubah me’erets aheret [A Doll from Another Country] by Ofra Galbert Avni, Hasodot shel savtah [Grandma’s secrets] by Ayana Friedman-Wirtheim, and Kaleidoscope by Hava Nissimov. The lecture will depict the toys found in the books as exhibits for transmitting the legacy of the Shoah, as visual symbols that are also sociocultural objects, as a means of survival for children during the Shoah period, and as relators of a narrative that is passed on from one generation to the next. The article will also discuss the illustrations that accompany the text as contributors to their visual symbolic language.
Nitsa Dori, Head of the Department of Early Childhood, Shaanan Academic College, Haifa, Israel. Researcher of Hebrew literature, children's literature and Ladino literature, author of children's books
Na'ama Reshef, P hD - From Silent Memory to Emotional Memory in Nava Semel's book 'And the Rat Laughed'
Traumatic memory is often silent memory. The trauma victim is subjected to numerous internal and external pressures that prevent her/him from verbally representing the memory. The traumatic story is encrypted in the memory as a psychological crypt that silences the memory, while, simultaneously, conserving its emotional and reverberant vitality and power.
The author Nava Semel, one of the first to write about the influence of the Holocaust's trauma on the members of the second generation, was conscious of the negative force of silent memory. However, she asserted that the narrative, integrative and coherent memory does not have the power to carry the burden of the memory and to replace the silence. Semel points to an alternative – Emotional Memory – “which is beyond the facts and the events themselves”. In her book And the Rat Laughed, she indicates the main realm through which the silent memory permeates the second and third generations and is transformed into emotional memory: the work of art. The intense emotional-physical impressions that are at the heart of the trauma, transcends the bounds of imagination and understanding and therefore cannot be condense into the recognized language and accepted representation. In the aesthetic-fictional realm, the traumatic memory translates into Semiotic - Poetic language that dismantles the organized, arranged, and disciplinary structure of the symbolic language, reveling the emotional- physical core of the trauma and giving the silent memory a resounding voice. In my lecture, I will examine the transition from symbolic to semiotic language in Semel's book and how it allows the traumatic memory to permeates future generations while generating an uncanny experience of “desired horror”.
Na'ama Reshef is a lecturer in literature and education at the Kay Academic College of Education and the editor-in-chief of the academic journal 'Kolot'. She is currently researching the concepts of Identity and Memory in holocaust literature.
Oshri Bar-Gil, PhD candidate - Never Forget - The Net Will Remember
My grandmother, “Savta Hannah”, was a Holocaust survivor. Although we did not discuss about it much, I heard from her some of the shocking stories about selection, trains and a baby who was split in half while he was alive. The subject came up occasionally and I even visited Poland and eastern Europe twice. But my grandmother's death took me and my family to a new path of Holocaust memory and immersion in the story of her life. A handwritten note, between shopping lists and phone numbers, which she left behind and concisely summarized the transit places she was gave us a glimpse into the possibility of experiencing her tumultuous story of survival journey during World War II in a new way. The aerospace factory, as she called it, is re-taking its place through online archives that have uploaded its images to the web and allowed us to see it for the first time. Following it, other stations on the journey have also been identified and documented over the years. With the rise of databases and search engines, they allowed us to reveal what in previous generations was very difficult to reach and know. That's how we, the third generation, with Big-Data's help discovered names, faces, places and records that our parents didn't have and uncovered new sides of the journey. The new revelations and crossings, made possible by the new network technologies, have also allowed us to discover disappearing relatives, but also to find that the evidence given to Yad Vashem is inconsistent. What could not be known without the digitization and AI capabilities that have evolved in the databases in recent years. Through my personal story of the revelation of my grandmother's story at the third generation, a story is revealed about how algorithms and databases of the “connective” memory shape our personal memory in a new way.
Oshri Bar-Gil is a Phd candidate at the psychoanalysis, culture and hermeneutics post-graduate program at Bar-Ilan university. His dissertation explores the ways in which the technological platforms mediate our self perception. He is a social psychologist and working at the IDF's applied behavioral science institute as director of technology and digital research. Fascinated by the way people, organizations and technologies open new horizons for each other.
Closing Remarks: Prof. Judy Tydor Baumel-Schwartz
Prof. Judy Baumel-Schwartz is the Director of the Arnold and Leona Finkler Institute of Holocaust Research, the Abraham and Edita Spiegel Family Professor in Holocaust Research, the Rabbi Pynchas Brener Professor in Research on the Holocaust of European Jewry, and Professor of Modern Jewish History in the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, Bar-Ilan University. She has written and edited numerous books and articles about religious life during and after the Holocaust, gender and the Holocaust, Holocaust commemoration and public memory in the State of Israel.
Prof. Judy Tydor Baumel-Schwartz, The Finkler Institute for Holocaust Research, Bar-Ilan University
Prof. Laura Hobson Faure, Professor of Modern Jewish History, Université Sorbonne Panthéon-Paris 1
Prof. Atina Grossmann, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York
Prof. Anat Freund, School of Social Work, the University of Haifa
Dr. Itzik Pass, (Scientific Committee Co-ordinator), The Finkler Institute for Holocaust Research, Bar-Ilan University
Dr. Rony Alfandary (Chairman), Bar-Ilan University and The University of Haifa.