Page 213 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

Basic HTML Version

SZEINTUCH / YITZHAK KATZENELSON
205
which preceded it and which, in my view, represents the essence
o f his work and one o f its high points. His
Song
perforce supple­
ments his
Diary,
but cannot stand alone without it.
The title
Vittel Diary
was not originally given by the author but
was provided by the editors o f the first edition o f his
Last Writings
(1947). It is clear both from the text and the manuscript that
while the work does not seem to have a definite and planned
structure, it represents the thoughts o f a distraught person who,
driven by creative tension, gives vent to his feelings. Still, this
stream o f thoughts and emotions is not without its own strict
form which imparts to it thematic wholeness and unity.
In his
Vittel Diary
Katzenelson describes mainly events dealing
with the Warsaw ghetto and expresses the general mood as well
as his own thoughts during that time. However, the main thrust
o f the
Diary
is in the recording o f reminiscences with an aim to
settling accounts with a murderous people. It should be stressed
that the events are not recalled for the purposes o f historical
documentation, but rather in order to present an intense Jewish
reaction to the Holocaust by revealing the guilt o f the world and
demanding revenge for the horror visited upon his people.
In recording the Nazi horrors, which he contrasts with theJew­
ish spirit, Katzenelson discerns one aspect o f revenge. His call for
revenge derives from a despairing demand for the exacting o f
justice. He feels that this could help combat the effort to deny the
Nazi misdeeds, on the one hand, and the lack o f response by the
©ations o f the world, on the other. For Katzenelson the
Vittel D i­
ary
was in some measure part o f the struggle o f Jews and Judaism
against the Nazis.
M A IN THEMES
Four central thematic units make up the text o f the
Diary.
They
are based on an unyielding stand regarding the principles o f Zi­
onist ideology, whose roots are biblical, and offer a broad histor­
ical perspective on events. The four units are:
a) Description o f what happened to the Jews o f Europe and his
reaction to it, as a rhetorical problem o f reconstructing the hor­
ror and giving expression to sorrow and wrath.
b) Internal Jewish condemnation o f the leadership o f non-
Zionist Jewish ideologies (the Bund, the Agudah) which wielded