Page 36 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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A NOV E L S O U R C E OF J E W I S H
H I S T O R Y
B
y
J
ud ah
J . S
hapiro
I
t
is
p r o b a b l y
a combination of the intensity of the reaction
to the Nazi experience and the greater sophistication of con­
temporary Jewish historians that the Holocaust is being so wel
documented and described. The Yad Vashem Authority in Israel,
the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and numerous other re­
search organizations throughout the world have been compiling
records, eyewitness reports, and memorabilia on the years from
the rise of Hitler to the close of the Second World War, docu­
menting how the Jews were dealt with in those years. The work
of individuals enhances these sources, whether in the form of
autobiography, reporting of events, or fictionalized descriptions
of experiences under the Nazis and during the war. We shall
assuredly acquire more information and greater resources for
understanding the years from 1933 to 1945 than we possess about
previous Jewish catastrophies, expulsions and persecutions.
There is a dearth of conjectural assesments of losses other than
the measurable loss of life and property. We cannot know how
many additional manuscripts might have become available for
publication by potential writers who were lost or how many
more teachers, rabbis, and communal leaders might have been
developed to participate in the myriad tasks of Jewish continuity.
Speculation about such possibilities derives from our awareness
of a Jewish way of life characteristic of many of the areas and
populations which were destroyed from 1933 to 1945.
There can be little disagreement that the purpose of all the
preoccupation with the contemporary as history and with the
documentation of events that occurred in our times, is to compile
authoritative records for future generations. Interpreting the
character of the Jewish community and its mores usually falls
outside this process of documentation; therefore, there is a strong
likelihood that in the future we shall fail to comprehend the
cultural destruction despite our excellent records of human and
material losses. Hopefully, greater encouragement will be ac­
corded every effort to accumulate such interpretive material.
One such project is presently available in an unusual and yet
unpublished work by Berl Kagan, a writer and researcher. Mr.
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