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The Holocaust and the Book

The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation

Edited by Jonathan Rose
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 328
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vk42x
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  • Book Info
    The Holocaust and the Book
    Book Description:

    Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany systematically destroyed an estimated 100 million books throughout occupied Europe, an act that was inextricably bound up with the murder of 6 million Jews. By burning and looting libraries and censoring “unGerman” publications, the Nazis aimed to eradicate all traces of Jewish culture along with the Jewish people themselves. The Holocaust and the Book examines this bleak chapter in the history of printing, reading, censorship, and libraries. Topics include the development of Nazi censorship policies, the celebrated library of the Vilna ghetto, the confiscation of books from the Sephardic communities in Rome and Salonika, the experience of reading in the ghettos and concentration camps, the rescue of Polish incunabula, the uses of fine printing by the Dutch underground, and the suppression of Jewish books and authors in the Soviet Union. Several authors discuss the continuing relevance of Nazi book burnings to the present day, with essays on German responses to Friedrich Nietzsche and the destruction of Bosnian libraries in the 1990s. The collection also includes eyewitness accounts by Holocaust survivors and a translation of Herman Kruk's report on the Vilna ghetto library. An annotated bibliography offers readers a concise guide to research in this growing field.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-158-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)
    Jonathan Rose

    THE story of the Six Million is also the story of the One Hundred Million. That is the toll of books destroyed by the Nazis throughout Europe in just twelve years, according to the calculations of one library historian. Of course, this is only the roughest of estimates, which we will probably revise as research progresses. But we can begin with this terrible certainty: the mass slaughter of Jews was accompanied by the most devastating literary holocaust of all time.

    Historians of the book all share the working premise that, in literate societies, script and print are the primary means...

  4. PART I DESTRUCTION AND PRESERVATION

    • I THE NAZI ATTACK ON “UN-GERMAN” LITERATURE, 1933–1945
      (pp. 9-46)
      Leonidas E. Hill

      SCHOLARS continue to debate the actual and symbolic meaning of the public burnings of books on 10 May 1933, the “Action against the Un-German Spirit.” Scarcely anyone disputes that the book burnings deserve mention with the Reichstag fire and the boycott of Jewish businesses as among the most striking features of the first months of the Hitler regime. But it was students rather than the new government of the Third Reich who planned and staged these events. Should they still be regarded as symbolic of Nazi cultural policy as they were during the 1930s and World War II? Was this...

    • II BLOODLESS TORTURE: THE BOOKS OF THE ROMAN GHETTO UNDER THE NAZI OCCUPATION
      (pp. 47-58)
      Stanislao G. Pugliese

      WHEN I began research into the fate of the books of the Roman ghetto under the Nazi occupation, I had in mind the line from John Milton’sAreopagiticaof 1644: “As good almost kill a man as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself.” Or perhaps—as another epigraph for the essay—Heinrich Heine’s thought in 1823 that “wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.” For the more contemporary-minded, Ray Bradbury’sFahrenheit 451might seem appropriate. Burned...

    • III THE CONFISCATION OF JEWISH BOOKS IN SALONIKA IN THE HOLOCAUST
      (pp. 59-65)
      Yitzchak Kerem

      THE confiscation of books from Salonika by the Nazis during the Second World War was more than a loss in itself. It was the first of numerous German anti-Semitic measures that eventually led to the destruction of this great Sephardic rabbinic community, thus cutting off the main lifeline of Sephardic culture in general.

      Hitler had appointed Alfred Rosenberg in 1934 to supervise Nazi intellectual and philosophical education. In 1939 Rosenberg founded the Institute for the Investigation of the Jewish Question, whose function was to pillage the libraries, archives, and art galleries of European Jewry for material that could be used...

    • IV EMBERS PLUCKED FROM THE FIRE: THE RESCUE OF JEWISH CULTURAL TREASURES IN VILNA
      (pp. 66-78)
      David E. Fishman

      THE effort to collect and preserve Jewish historical documents and cultural treasures in Eastern Europe was launched with an impassioned public appeal by Simon Dubnov in 1891; it was institutionalized and broadened into a social movement with the founding of YIVO in 1925, and it reached its heroic culmination with the rescue activities by Abraham Sutzkever, Shmerke Kaczerginski, and others in Vilna between 1942 and 1946. The final reverberations of that movement were felt in 1996, when the surviving remnants of YIVO’s Vilna archives were shipped from Lithuania to New York. That shipment was the epilogue to the story of...

    • V “THE JEWISH QUESTION” AND CENSORSHIP IN THE USSR
      (pp. 79-104)
      Arlen Viktorovich Blium

      This essay is a translation of sections from Arlen Blium’s book, The Jewish Question under Soviet Censorship, 1917–1991[Evreiskii vopros pod Sovetskoi tsenzuroi, 1917–1991] (St. Petersburg: Peterburgskii evreiskii universitet, 1996). These excerpts describe the persecution of Soviet Jews, Jewish culture, and Jewish books during the Stalin era. The plan for the book was born, as Blium notes in his Introduction (p. 23), during the years he spent studying Soviet censorship in the various archives of Moscow and Leningrad, with no hope of publishing his findings. Though he was not allowed to see many crucial materials, he still managed...

  5. PART II CULTURE AND RESISTANCE

    • VI THE SECRET VOICE: CLANDESTINE FINE PRINTING IN THE NETHERLANDS, 1940–1945
      (pp. 107-127)
      Sigrid Pohl Perry

      THE long tradition of neutrality maintained by the Netherlands since the time of Napoleon ceased on 10 May 1940 when Hitler’s invading forces bombed harbors and coastal areas, then dropped incendiary bombs on the city of Rotterdam itself several days later. On 15 May the Netherlands capitulated after Queen Wilhelmina and members of the royal family had escaped across the English Channel. Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the Austrian lawyer who collaborated with Hitler to annex Austria into the Third Reich, was appointed rijkscommissar of the occupation administration on 29 May. The Germans used the rural telephone system and the network of roads,...

    • VII READING AND WRITING DURING THE HOLOCAUST AS DESCRIBED IN YISKER BOOKS
      (pp. 128-142)
      Rosemary Horowitz

      THROUGHOUT World War II, in the ghettos, in the camps, on the Aryan side, in the woods, and in hiding, Jews were keeping diaries, chronicling events, composing poems, running illegal presses, publishing newspapers, writing letters, keeping records, among other activities. Remarkably, these were occurring even in the midst of Nazi-occupied Europe. Later, using these source materials written during the war, along with materials written before and afterward, hundreds of immigrant associations, known aslandsmanshaftn, preparedyisker(memorial) books to commemorate their respective hometowns.

      These hundreds of books constitute an interesting, but relatively unknown, collection of Holocaust literature. Their primary readers...

    • VIII POLISH BOOKS IN EXILE: CULTURAL BOOTY ACROSS TWO CONTINENTS, THROUGH TWO WARS
      (pp. 143-162)
      Sem C. Sutter

      MANUSCRIPTS and books have always been fundamental transmitters of human culture, taking their place beside older visual and oral media in bearing the thoughts, discoveries, and aspirations of one generation to those that succeed it. Indeed, the permanence and portability of the word on clay, parchment, and paper have made it the most powerful cultural medium of all. As Horace wrote, “Littera scripta manet” (“The written word remains”).

      In normal times we may not appreciate the extent to which books are symbols of national identity as well. But when war, revolution, or other forms of unrest disrupt the otherwise orderly...

  6. PART III THE READER IN THE HOLOCAUST:: DOCUMENTS

    • IX THE LIBRARY IN THE VILNA GHETTO
      (pp. 165-170)
      Dina Abramowicz

      IT was very hard for anybody in the Vilna ghetto to get into the “brigades,” which had work assignments outside the ghetto. One had a chance, in such a brigade, to bring home a “package,” although it was always a risky undertaking. So everyone was trying to “get in.” I succeeded in getting into a brigade of railroad workers. The railroad tracks ran through orchards and farms that could use female farmhands. I obtained this work thanks to Nelly Sachs, a granddaughter of Fanya Romanovna Markus, a founder of the first Jewish school for girls, where my mother was a...

    • X LIBRARY AND READING ROOM IN THE VILNA GHETTO, STRASHUN STREET 6
      (pp. 171-200)
      Herman Kruk

      AFTER the Ghetto Library’s first year of existence, we present this compilation as a historical document about a momentous and difficult time.¹ Our compilation is not only an annual report; it has an additional objective: to cast the ghetto reader into bibliopsychological relief.

      A special type of reader has emerged from the fabric of our surrounding environment—from recent events and experiences. That is what is of greatest interest to us.

      Cultural work requires peace and quiet. Our period of reporting has unfortunately been anything but a peaceful one. Nevertheless, we are not waiting for historical perspective but are attempting...

    • XI WHEN THE PRINTED WORD CELEBRATES THE HUMAN SPIRIT
      (pp. 201-205)
      Charlotte Guthmann Opfermann

      A COUPLE of years ago I took part in a seminar at the site of the Theresienstadt Garrison in Czechoslovakia, which was (from 1941 until our liberation in May 1945) the site of a fierce Nazi concentration camp. One of the breakout sessions during this meeting in 1993, conducted in the former SS Guard clubhouse, was devoted to the many prominent artists, writers, composers, performing artists, and scientists who were imprisoned there at one time or another. Many died in the camp; most were redeported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, or Sobibor, to their deaths. I was in my teens when I...

    • XII CRYING FOR FREEDOM: THE WRITTEN WORD AS I EXPERIENCED IT DURING WORLD WAR II
      (pp. 206-210)
      Annette Biemond Peck

      MY story is an eyewitness report of the most memorable written materials I read during World War II in my hometown of Amsterdam. I was ten years old when Poland was invaded, and sixteen when my country was finally freed by the Allies after five grueling years.

      When it comesto comparing national anthems, I think that the Dutch have one that is more strongly entrenched in their history as a nation than any other. The poem on which it is based, written about 1568, highlights the life of Prince William of Orange (1533–84), known as the Father of the...

  7. PART IV PRESENT AND PAST

    • XIII ZARATHUSTRA AS EDUCATOR? THE NIETZSCHE ARCHIVE IN GERMAN HISTORY
      (pp. 213-265)
      John Rodden

      SILBERBLICK. Bright moment, lucky chance.

      A sunny day in Weimar, November 1991. Hedwig, thirty-eight, waits solemnly for me in the town square still known as Karl Marx Platz (formerly Adolf Hitler Platz). A spirited, voluble woman, Hedwig has been eager to show me the cultural splendors of her hometown—the Goethehaus, the Schillerhaus, the Liszthaus, all lining the Frauenplan in the center of old Weimar. But today she is reluctant; today, warm morning rays beaming down upon us, Hedwig seems reserved as we stride along the Schillerstrasse toward the outskirts of town. Today our destination is Humboldtstrasse 36, the Villa...

    • XIV CONVIVENCIA UNDER FIRE: GENOCIDE AND BOOK BURNING IN BOSNIA
      (pp. 266-292)
      András Riedlmayer

      THE most famous book in Bosnia is a lovely illuminated manuscript known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. Although it found a home in Bosnia in the early 1600s, it was made in another place and time. It is a testimony to the artistic and cultural creativity of those who made it, valued it, and protected it over the ages. It is also a survivor. On at least four occasions in its long history, the Sarajevo Haggadah has survived attempts to destroy multicultural communities. Each of these attempts to eradicate pluralism was also accompanied by the burning of books. This small codex,...

  8. PART V BIBLIOGRAPHY

    • XV JEWISH PRINT CULTURE AND THE HOLOCAUST: A BIBLIOGRAPHIC SURVEY
      (pp. 295-310)
      Joy A. Kingsolver and Andrew B. Wertheimer

      THIS essay offers an introduction to research on the impact of the Holocaust on the cultural life of European Jewry. First, it is important to understand what existed prior to the Holocaust, so we include select references to studies of prewar Jewish libraries, booksellers, and publishers. Further sections follow these cultural institutions through the years of the Holocaust, including their suppression by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR). This essay briefly explores the postwar repatriation of books by Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (JCR), as well as the emergence of Holocaust documentation centers and theyiskerbooks. We also address the question of...

  9. NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 311-314)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-315)