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Comparative Central European Holocaust Studies

Comparative Central European Holocaust Studies

Louise O. Vasvári
Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek
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  • Book Info
    Comparative Central European Holocaust Studies
    Book Description:

    Papers in the volume are by scholars working in Holocaust Studies in Australia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Serbia, the United Kingdom, and the US.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-032-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword Europe's Oppressive Legacy
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Imre Kertész

    Amid the appalling trials and tribulations of the century we have just endured, there has been one unexpected and joyful turn of events: I have in mind the bloodless collapse of the Soviet empire, a moving spectacle that unfolded like some fascinating phenomenon of nature, following its own inscrutable rules; we watched, in fear or wonderment, but without being able to influence it in any way. And when the great castle of clay imploded, bonfires of joy throughout Europe signaled the start of unbridled celebrations. Only when the first wave of euphoria had passed did people recall themselves to the...

  2. Introduction Introduction to Comparative Central European Holocaust Studies
    (pp. xiii-xx)
    Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek and Louise O. Vasvári

    The editors ofComparative Central European Holocaust Studiesand the authors of the volume's articles subscribe to the proposition that the study of the Holocaust is of immanent social relevance and responsibility in scholarship and public discourse. In turn, the notion of the social relevance of humanities and social sciences scholarship is a tenet of the theoretical and methodological framework of comparative cultural studies (McClennen and Morello, McClennen and Fitz; Tötösy de Zepetnek,Comparative Literature, "From Comparative Literature," "Comparative Cultural," "The New Humanities"). Thus, work presented in the volume in the humanities and social sciences is based on a number...

  3. Part One Historical Representations of the Holocaust in Central Europe

    • Representations of Budapest 1944-1945 in Holocaust Literature
      (pp. 3-17)
      Ruth G. Biró

      In this paper, I discuss Holocaust literature of various genres available in English—whether originally published in English or translated from Hungarian—texts that illuminate the situation in Budapest during the period of nazi occupation from 19 March 1944 until the liberation of the cities Pest, 17 January and Buda, 28 February 1945. I include the period of six months when Raoul Wallenberg was serving in Hungary's capital from July 1944 to January 1945. Wallenberg, scion of a wealthy family of Sweden, was sent to Budapest as a diplomat under the auspices of the United States War Refugee Board under...

    • The Holocaust as a Paradigm for Ethical Thinking and Representation
      (pp. 18-27)
      Tamás Kisantal

      Representations of the Holocaust in literature raise some problems that do not emerge when dealing with other historical events—at least not so obviously. On the one hand, we are faced with problems of methods and the cultural consequences of historical representation; on the other hand, there are questions related to certain claims made by scholars of contemporary philosophy of history, asserting the relative character of historical representation. According to this relativist perspective—expressed most clearly in Hayden White's "metahistory"—any kind of historical narrative is legitimate, or more precisely, there is no external viewpoint from which any of these...

    • About Antisemitism in Post-1989 Hungary
      (pp. 28-39)
      Magdalena Marsovszky

      What is antisemitism in post-1989 Hungary? I begin with a taxonomical definition: following Fabian Virchow, I use the term "antisemitism" instead of "anti-Semitism" in order to avoid the notion that there is any kind of given "Semitism" with certain characteristics against which the antisemite holds his or her beliefs or acts. Instead, it is the antisemite who constructs the notion of the "Jew" and "Semitism" in a contingent manner (Virchow 162). The standard understanding of the notion is that of "being against Jews." If, however, we regard those definitions by which antisemitism is a "cultural code" (see Volkov), a "worldview"...

    • About the Narratives of a Blood Libel Case in Post-Shoah Hungary
      (pp. 40-50)
      Andrea Pető

      After the liberation of Hungary from nazi occupation by the Soviet army, May 1945 was an exciting and agitated time in the capital, Budapest. People were discussing the ongoing peace negotiations in Paris and cases brought before the People's Tribunals that were being reviewed on the front pages of newspapers. During World War II some 500,000 Jews had been deported from Hungary within a period of few months and the People's Tribunals (Népbíróság) were in charge of handling the war crimes and crimes against humanity that had occurred during that period (see Karsai). In the immediate postwar period, the new...

  4. Part Two Holocaust Testimony and Narratives

    • Mapping the Lines of Fact and Fiction in Holocaust Testimonial Novels
      (pp. 53-66)
      Anna Richardson

      In the case of an event as extreme as the Holocaust, one could be forgiven for presupposing that the boundary between factual and fictional modes of representation is sacred in its rigidity. However, it is often the case with survivor narratives that this expectation is far too proscriptive in its division of the realms of fact and fiction; as James E. Young comments, "If there is a line between fact and fiction, it may by necessity be a winding border that tends to bind these two categories as much as it separates them, allowing each side to dissolve occasionally into...

    • Rescue Narratives by Central European Holocaust Survivors from Carpatho-Russia
      (pp. 67-78)
      Ilana Rosen

      Although in recent decades scholarly interest in Holocaust narratives is ever growing, the narrative of so-called ordinary people—interviewees of research and documentation authorities, participants in communal memorial books, and authors of singular Holocaust memoirs—have not yet received due attention in this research. Here, I present an analysis of what might be called the central theme of all Holocaust narratives, namely, the narration of rescue acts or events. I analyze twelve narratives told by six survivor-narrators of Carpatho-Russian origins in terms of the relationship they maintain among these elements: dangerous or challenging predicament, narrator's response or nonresponse, degree of...

    • The Third Reich and the Holocaust in East German Official Memory
      (pp. 79-94)
      Anne Rothe

      Holocaust memory, like all collective memory, is never constructed in a discursive vacuum but within the dominant discourses of a particular religious, national, ethnic, or social community. These discourses determine which aspects of a historical event will be collectively remembered and which forgotten. For example, detailed testimony of Holocaust survivors was virtually absent from the public sphere in both Israel and West Germany until the 1961 Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, when the dominant discourses in both countries changed dramatically (see Schlant; Segev; Wieviorka). In East Germany—or the German Democratic Republic (GDR), as it was officially called—the authoritative memory...

  5. Part Three Kertész in Central European Holocaust Studies

    • On the Translation of Kertész's Sorstalanság (Fatelessness) into Serbian
      (pp. 97-109)
      Marko Čudić

      The work of Imre Kertész belongs to those texts whose emerging readership and reception faces the question: what are the possibilities and chances of translating such complex prose fiction from Hungarian into other languages? In this paper, I focus on Kertész's novelSorstalanság(Fatelessness) and its translation into Serbian by Aleksandar Tišma. My analysis is based on the questions about the linguistic and poetic aspects of the novel that can be transferred into a foreign language and those that can be transferred only to the detriment of the original text. In the summer of 2003, György Vári organized a round...

    • Kertész and the Problem of Guilt in Unfinished Mourning
      (pp. 110-121)
      Esther Faye

      Is it possible to mourn Auschwitz? "Kaddish" is the name for the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning uttered on behalf of the dead by those left living. The term forms part of the title of Imre Kertész'sKaddis a meg nem született gyermekért(Kaddish for an Unborn Child). It is the third book in a trilogy of fictional texts beginning withSorstalanság(Fatelessness) andA kudarc(The Failure). Although disclaimed by Kertész as autobiographies in any strict sense, in my opinion the texts mimic the autobiographical form and are reflections on his own experiences of the nazi concentration camps—Auschwitz,...

    • Polyphony in Kertész's Kaddish for an Unborn Child (Kaddish a meg nem született gyermekért)
      (pp. 122-132)
      Sándor Radnóti

      Imre Kertész'sKaddish a meg nem született gyermekért(Kaddish for an Unborn Child) is structured as one long monologue on a theme expressed in the book's title and provoked by the seemingly innocent question as to whether the protagonist of the text had children. The answer of the protagonist of the fictional text—a resolute no, also the first word of the novel—is not only a statement of fact but also its transfiguration into an existential decision. In addition to the major theme of this "no"—the "no" of the unborn and unwanted child—Kertész develops a number of...

    • Arendt and Kertész on the Banality of Evil
      (pp. 133-144)
      Mihály Szilágyi-Gál

      In his novelFatelessness, Imre Kertész shares a fundamental idea elaborated by Hannah Arendt in herEichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Arendt defined a particular moral phenomenon as the "banality of evil," which she illustrated with Eichmann's own words and deeds during World War II. Kertész created a fictional character in a novel of autofiction and had his protagonist, as well as other characters in the novel, talk and act in a ways similar to those described by Arendt about Eichmann. Arendt's text is a mixture of journalistic report and philosophical essay. Kertész's text is...

  6. Part Four The Holocaust and Central European Women’s Life Writing

    • Towards a New Reading of Ida Fink's The Journey
      (pp. 147-157)
      Iris Milner

      Ida Fink, a Holocaust survivor (born 1921 in Zbaraż, Poland), stayed in Poland for twelve years after the end of World War II. Although she had already written some short stories at that time, it was only upon her arrival in Israel in 1957 that she became intensely involved in literary work—always in her mother tongue, Polish. Her first publication, a Hebrew translation of a collection of short stories that came out in Israel in 1974, did not gain her much acknowledgment. However, the original Polish version, published in London in 1976, and a subsequent collection of short stories...

    • Emigrée Central European Jewish Women's Holocaust Life Writing
      (pp. 158-172)
      Louise O. Vasvári

      This study is part of a larger research project to integrate in the study of the Holocaust the voices of women survivors, specifically their experiences of the catastrophe, as well as their ways of post-Holocaust narration (see Vasvári, "Trauma"). I pay particular attention to texts by Jewish-Hungarian women: the women whose texts I list and discuss here did not publish in Hungarian, although in some cases their texts are based on diaries or earlier drafts in that language. The texts are divided into two categories I designate as 1) texts of "translated trauma," referring to narratives of self-translation adult survivors...

    • Introduction to and Bibliography of Central European Women's Holocaust Life Writing in English
      (pp. 173-200)
      Louise O. Vasvári

      Although the emergence of research on women in the Holocaust dates from the 1980s, the task of integrating the role of women—and that of children—into Holocaust Studies is far from complete, not the least because of the publication of so many women's life writing texts during the last decades, most of which remain virtually unknown. Holocaust scholarship still tends to privilege the Holocaust experience of men as universal and is reluctant to acknowledge testimony that does not follow preconceived gender stereotypes of suitable female behavior or pre-existing narratives of survival (see, e.g., Vasvári, "Women's Holocaust"; Waxman "Unheard Testimony";...