Page 33 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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G
runberger
— T
h e
L
it era ture
o f
R
emorse
27
an living in a different country—and under totally different
ircumstances—to put himself so completely inside the skin of
omeone like myself.
The answer to this somewhat naive question is of course that
ex Warner possesses the faculty of imagination and sympathy
hich is the hallmark of all creative writers.
This gift, which for want of a better word I would call
mpathy, is something which the literature of remorse demands
f its German practitioners to an unparalleled degree. These
German writers are confronted with the task of extending their
imaginative range and power of human insight in two totally
ivergent directions. In the first instance they have to get inside
the skins of their Nazi compatriots—a difficulty permitting of
no easy solution; how many English novelists, for instance,
could give a valid account of the world as seen through the
yes of Colin Jordan or the mass-murderer Christie? Even more
ifficult must it be for German post-war writers to depict the
ewish victims of their compatriots authentically—since their
nowledge of Jews and things Jewish must of necessity be mainly
second-hand.
A case in point is Erwin Sylvanus, author of
Dr. Korczak and
the Children,
a play about the head of the Jewish Orphanage
at Warsaw who voluntarily entered the gas chamber ahead of
is charges although the S.S. had offered to spare him if he
ould help them mislead the orphans about their fate. Sylvanus
pent many months gaining background knowledge and estab­
ishing contact with rabbis of the small reconstituted Jewish
ommunities in Westphalia prior to writing this play (which
as, incidentally, been shown on British television).
The novelist Henning Meincke seems to have taken even more
rouble to steep himself in Jewish knowledge and religious lore
yet the end-product of his academic as well as literary labors
s hardly commensurate with the effort expended. Meincke’s
avids Harfe
(The Harp of David) seems to me to suffer from
he same distortion of focus as Hannah Arendt’s
Eichmann in
erusalem.
I t has been said of Miss Arendt that in a situation
here A puts his gun to the head of B and threatens to shoot
im unless he strangles C, she finds more fault with B for
ccepting A’s orders than with A for issuing them in the first
lace. Meincke’s novel is set in a Jewish ghetto in war-time
oland and deals mainly with the diverse personalities making
p the Judenrat, their respective nostalgias, obsessions and
ecriminations on the eve of the liquidation of the ghetto. By
verstressing the friction and antipathies existing among the
udenrat members and by focusing his readers’ attention largely
n the demoralization and disunity gripping the ghetto, Meincke
s not merely guilty of a grievously sin of omission—I would