Polish Literature and the Holocaust

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Publication Date
April 2019
Trim Size
6 x 9
ISBN
0-8101-3980-4

Polish Literature and the Holocaust

Eyewitness Testimonies, 1942–1947
Rachel Feldhay Brenner

In this pathbreaking study of responses to the Holocaust in wartime and postwar Polish literature, Rachel Feldhay Brenner explores seven writers’ compulsive need to share their traumatic experience of witness with the world. The Holocaust put the ideological convictions of Kornel Filipowicz, Józef Mackiewicz, Tadeusz Borowski, Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, Leopold Buczkowski, Jerzy Andrzejewski, and Stefan Otwinowski to the ultimate test. Tragically, witnessing the horror of the Holocaust implied complicity with the perpetrator and produced an existential crisis that these writers, who were all exempted from the genocide thanks to their non-Jewish identities, struggled to resolve in literary form.

Polish Literature and the Holocaust: Eyewitness Testimonies,1942–1947 is a particularly timely book in view of the continuing debate about the attitudes of Poles toward the Jews during the war. The literary voices from the past that Brenner examines posit questions that are as pertinent now as they were then. And so, while this book speaks to readers who are interested in literary responses to the Holocaust, it also illuminates the universal issue of the responsibility of witnesses toward the victims of any atrocity.
About the Author

RACHEL FELDHAY BRENNER is the Max and Frieda Weinstein-Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies at the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of The Ethics of Witnessing: The Holocaust in Polish Writers’ Diaries from Warsaw, 1939–1945 (Northwestern, 2014).
Reviews

 "Sensitive and persuasively argued, Polish Literature and the Holocaust is both incisive literary analysis and a sober refutation of Poland’s present nationalist leaders’ attempt to rewrite history as a myth of Polish national innocence. Brenner’s study of seven literary works composed during and immediately after the Holocaust by authors struggling to comprehend and represent the morally dubious responses of Poles like themselves to the slaughter of the Polish Jews is essential reading." —Madeline G. Levine

 “This moving and timely book gives a detailed and coherent account of the response of a number of leading Polish writers to the mass murder of the Jews on Polish lands. It is essential reading for all interested in the moral problems raised by the Holocaust.”
—Antony Polonsky, author of The Jews in Poland and Russia: A Short History