Page 38 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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again” as the ex-Nazi Haffner is reconciled to his wife. But for
the Jewish characters there can be no forgetting of the past,
only a remembering which makes it possible to go on with dig­
nity, like old Grunwald, the Jewish lawyer who preserves his
pride and wisdom without illusions, even when abused and bat­
A recent collection of essays, finely edited by Berel Lang,
Writing and the Holocaust
(1988), based on a conference held
at SUNY-Albany, reflects awareness of the interdependence of
memory and knowledge in writing about the Holocaust. Elie
Wiesel and Raoul Hilberg warn of the risk of desacralizing a
sacred memory by making it into history or literature; the dis­
cussions by Aharon Appelfeld, Cynthia Ozick, Saul Friedlander
and Raoul Hilberg show considerable sensitivity to the double
bind of writing
the Holocaust — the necessity and the im­
possibility of doing so. Art betrays truth by rendering it as ar­
tifact, yet fictional representation can sometimes come closer
to truth than the history books. Of particular relevance to our
discussion of second-generation writers are Leslie Epstein’s
frank remarks on his own
King of theJews
(1979)6 and the piece
by the late Terrence Des Pres which treats Borowski’s
This Way
for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
(1948), Leslie Epstein’s
of the Jews
and Art Spiegelman’s
(1986). Art Spiegelman
is a second-generation artist who depicts himself recording his
father’s reminiscences of Nazi-occupied Europe; as Des Pres
points out, the visual parallel between the story of the father’s
experience and the frame of modern America articulates, not
without irony, the complexity and futility involved in the father-
son situation of the second generation.
In Elie Wiesel’s
The Fifth Son
(1983), The Fifth Son is the
Missing Son at the Passover table, an unspoken presence of such
dimensions that Wiesel adds him to the Four Sons mentioned
in the Passover Haggadah. An unknown dead brother haunts
the son of Holocaust survivors to the point where he adopts
6. “Writing about the Holocaust” in Berel Lang, ed.,
Writing and the Holocaust
(New York: Holmes and Meier, 1988), pp. 261-270.
7. “Holocaust
in Berel Lang, ed., ibid., pp. 216-233.