Page 163 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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SZEINTUCH / CHAIM GRADE AS POET OF THE HOLOCAUST
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prose is beyond the scope o f this article. We can only point
ou t that his en tire literary oeuvre following the war is permeated
by his confrontation as a writer with the Holocaust. As for al­
most every Jewish survivor, there is also for Grade both national
and personal aspects to the tragedy. In G rade’s writings, as in
those o f Itzchak Katzenelson composed in Vittel, the personal
tragedy o f loss o f family is an integral part o f his work. The
Holocaust in G rade’s post-war creativity serves as a focal point
for feelings and thoughts concerning an irretrievable total loss.
G rade’s reaction to this situation was his artistic endeavor to
reconstruct as far as possible a vanished life and to perpetuate
the memory o f his loved ones; his mo ther and first wife were
killed by the Germans. In fulfilling this task, Grade raised basic
questions about the meaning o f the Holocaust and its implica­
tions for fu tu re generations. His main effo rt in this regard is
found in the th ird section o f his prose work,
Der Mames Shabosim
(My Mother’s Sabbath Days),31 entitled “Di Zibn Geslekh” (The
Seven Little Alleys), which deserves a detailed analysis in itself.
In conclusion, we want to suggest a fu r th e r line o f inquiry
into G rade’s writings on the Holocaust. Perhaps the reason why
Grade could say that he and his generation could
foreshadow
the oncoming catastrophe bu t could not
foresee
it, is to be sought
in the body o f his prose works. For here he analyzed in dep th
the mentality and spiritual excellence o f those who went
silently
to their p rem a tu re deaths.32 A recu rren t theme in “Di Sibn
Geslekh” is the “inability” to believe o r understand how it was
possible for man to do what he did to man.
This “inability” o f the victim to grasp the motivations o f the
German m u rd e re r is for Grade a quintessential expression o f
the Jewish spirit.33
31. Chaim Grade,
My Mother’s Sabbath Days,
pp. 333-389.
32.
Der Mames Shabosim
(Chicago, IL, L.M. Stein, 1955), pp. 454-455;
My Moth­
er’s Sabbath Days,
pp. 373-374.
33. Cf.
Der Mames Shabosim,
pp. 421, 446-447, 546;
My Mother’s Sabbath Days,
pp. 345-346, 367, 374-375.