Module 3: Religion & Culture

2: Secular Jewish Responses and Holocaust Literature

Going over the Oneg Shabbat archives in 1950. Courtesy of Yad Vashem.

Secular Jewish Responses and Holocaust Literature

In this submodule, we will look at secular Jewish responses to the Holocaust with a focus on literature. The study of Holocaust literature offers one of the most articulate examples of how the Shoah affected not only individuals, but their children and grandchildren, as well as the global Jewish community. Holocaust literature has not only been written by survivors; it has been written by authors with varying degrees of separation from the event.

This topic is divided into four parts, the first of which is this introductory section.

The second portion of this submodule will take the form of a short lecture by Ph.D. Candidate, Jesse Toufexis and oral history clips from Dr. Goldie Morgentaler, daughter and translator of the world-renowned author and survivor, Chava Rosenfarb. In this short lecture, you will learn what we mean when we talk about “secular Jewish culture.” This is followed by a short dive into the ever-evolving world of Holocaust literature, from the moment the camps were liberated to the stories that are still being written. In Dr. Morgentaler’s oral history, she discusses how her mother had to rewrite her first book of poems from memory after the Nazis destroyed her manuscript upon arrival at Auschwitz.

The third portion of this submodule is centred around a guest lecture from one of the foremost scholars on Holocaust literature, Dr. David Roskies. In his guest lecture, Dr. Roskies explains how the study of Holocaust literature offers a lens through which we can learn about Jewish culture as a whole. Following his guest lecture, you will read the introductory remarks from Roskies and Naomi Diamant’s volume, Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide.

Finally, the fourth portion of this submodule contains a source sheet with excerpts from a number of different works of Holocaust literature. With the knowledge you’ve gained from the previous three portions, you will be able to answer the reflection questions that go with this primary source reading.


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Hear Our Voices Copyright © by Deidre Butler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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