Page 34 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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The Burden of Remembrance:
Second Generation Literature
e m i l
f a c k e n h e im
h a s
described the twentieth century as the
age of survival.1 In the perspective of Auschwitz survival is no
mean achievement. Auschwitz whittled down the chances of life
to near zero and changed for ever existing assumptions and
premises. To borrow George Steiner’s terms, those who live
are in a sense survivors of the Holocaust.2 They must face the
moral responsibility of the governments and organizations
which collaborated with the Final Solution by complicity or si­
lence. They must face the breakdown in codes of human be­
havior in so-called civilized society. They cannot escape the com­
plexes of living in the aftermath of the Holocaust, nor can they
escape a past which is for many not within living memory, and
which is no less problematic for Gentiles than for Jews. Remem­
bering the Holocaust inevitably invokes present-day concerns
and agendas and there is much disagreement on the desirability
and form of memorializing,3 but the actual burden of remem­
1. Emil Fackenheim,
TheJewish Return into History
(New York: Schocken, 1978).
2. George Steiner, “A Kind o f Survivor,”
Language and Silence: Essays,
(Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1969), pp. 119-135. Steiner’s
own identity is filled with the shadows o f the “Central European heritage”
not generally shared by American Jews; Gershon Shaked has probed those
shadows o f identity among German Jewish writers in his collection o f essays
The Shadows Within: Essays in Modern Jewish Writers
(Philadelphia: Jewish
Publication Society o f America, 1987). Shaked’s comments on Saul
Friedlander’s inability to come to terms with the cultural and moral situation
in Israel and his wished-for European identity may be applied also to
Steiner, who likewise writes out o f a persecution by the past.
3. Recent scholarly contributions to the debate on Holocaust remembrance
include James E. Young,
Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust: Narrative and
the Consequences o f Interpretation
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press,