Page 39 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

Basic HTML Version

ALEXANDER / THE HOLOCAUST IN JEWISH NOVELS
29
for he has not yet learned how to hate. His quest therefore turns
into yet another archaeological expedition, an attempt to recon­
struct through material evidences the last years of his childhood
love, Ruth. The original purpose of the return to Germany had
been “to flee my sinking life in Jerusalem and go to Weinburg
to exact a belated vengeance and then to return to Jerusalem
strengthened and unraveled like a complex riddle that had been
solved.” But whatever catharsis he achieves comes rather from
knowledge than from action. His return to his past, which sig­
nificantly has involved a visit to Bachfeld, the native village of
his grandparents, enables him to return to Jerusalem and possess
the present. Since “he who does not go forth cannot return ,” the
Joe l who stays in Jerusalem is accidentally blown up by a Mt.
Scopus land mine left behind “from another war . . . not of
this time.”
Amichai has sought out the meaning in the well-known fact
that archaeology is v irtua lly the national pastime of Israel. Dig­
ging up the past is for an Israeli dangerous bu t also the only
way of living fu lly and honestly in the present. The Joe l who
goes to Germany in search of the Holocaust past is thereby re­
newed in the Israeli present, whereas the Joe l who chooses to
live by means of sexual passion, in forgetfulness of the past, is
destroyed by it.
Hanoch Bartov’s The Brigade also seeks to fathom the moral
and metaphysical relations between the Israeli (strictly speaking
here, the Palestinian) Jew and the Jewish victims and German
perpetrators of the Holocaust. Here, too, the hero returns from
the Land of Israel to Germany to take revenge. But here the
Israeli is epitomized not by the archaeologist, but by the soldier,
who has been defending his homeland through force o f arms
while his fellow Jews in Europe have been passive victims of
genocide.
The novel recounts the frustrations of a brigade of Palestinian
Jews entering Europe as part of the A llied army of occupation
in 1945. Officially, as their leader Tamari keeps reminding them,
they have been sent to Europe for the purpose of rescuing the
survivors and helping them to Palestine. But many o f the
soldiers prefer revenge, and want to “move in on one city and
burn it street by street, house by house, German by German.”