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Within this framework, I offer an alternative to positions in German Studies that have deemed German-language poetry from the camps and ghettos inadequate representations of the Holocaust because the texts resist straightforward classification along traditional generic lines. The couple had fled their hometown of Nuremberg four months after the November pogrom of The younger of their two daughters, Dr. During the Nazi occupation, more than , European Jews were imprisoned in Theresienstadt; approximately 35, people died in the ghetto, and about 88, were deported on to the killing centers in the East, where most of them were eventually murdered.

Milton aptly observes:. The Theresienstadt ghetto was thus, as we now know, a camp designed as a link in the chain that inevitably led to the gas chambers and also an elaborate hoax to deceive international opinion. As part of this depiction, the SS tolerated some cultural activities, including theater, music, lectures, and concerts. Other cultural activities, such as art and teaching the children were not specifically prohibited, but carried risks if discovered. Until her death in , she split her time between her families in the Netherlands and England, residing six months of the year with the Haas family and the other six months with the Rosenfelders.

In , she was the first woman elected to the administrative board of the Jewish community in Nuremberg. In trying to understand and translate the new conditions and their imminent consequences, many prisoners resorted not only to a condensed form, but also to a language known and familiar to them.

As Torah and Talmud teach, once evil is witnessed it needs to be described and reported so that it can be remembered. According to H. Moreover, such performances created a communal space in which individual experience, as expressed in the poem, could manifest itself collectively, as the shared experience of the audience.

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Not all poetry, however, was openly recited. Cultural performances were controlled and censored by camp authorities, and the policies regarding permitted artistic expression underwent frequent change. Art that was too realistic and critical in its depiction was considered subversive by the Nazis and, if discovered, the artists and sometimes the community as well were punished, tortured, or killed. While by no means conclusive, this comprehensive collection will present for the first time lyrical documents of a humanistic front against state-organized crime, as far as the sources allow.

In this book, the spiritual face of a people shall arise, a people more real than historical reality, and the collection shall be erected as a memorial to the dead and serve the living to remember. The underlying guidelines shall not be the categories of classical aesthetics, but the document of the spirit; the spirit that itself recognizes its important task in the darkest of times and acts accordingly.

As If It Were Life: A WWII Diary from the Theresienstadt Ghetto (Hardcover)

During our work on the edition it became clear that it could not be our task to offer documentary materials, but rather that we needed to keep an eye on how the metaphysical problem of persecution and banishment had been come to terms with. And here it was particularly important for the prison chapter to say a lot with little. Thus, an undue quantity of contributions from the concentration camps needed to be avoided, unless they are of outstanding significance.

Without doubt this constituted a questionable exclusion at the very least as it legitimated one form of expression over the other. Simultaneously, she discloses the existence of other witnesses, who attest to her having been in Theresienstadt, to her having written these poems and for these poems to have been communally recited. Thus, poems and publication serve as printed proof of the actuality of writer and events, a defining characteristic of the literature of testimony.

Not Your Typical Holocaust Book

This bond, she states, is thicker than blood. With this act she venerates all former inmates, those who survived and who might read this book , but also those who did not. The preface, therefore, serves a threefold function: it establishes her authority as survivor and witness; it honors and remembers her fellow inmates; and it serves as an orientation for a general audience on how to read these primary texts. Else Dormitzer endows her readers with an important message and assigns them a central role in the meaning making process.

Such an arrangement produces a plausible interpretation shortly after liberation, not only for Dormitzer, both also for the audience who receives all texts within this framework. But the reader learns that hope exists to escape this dreadful existence, even in the darkness that is Theresienstadt.

Guide to the Theresienstadt CollectionAR

This continued belief and trust will not only be a source of strength and hope, but it will bear real fruit: liberty. Thus, the poetic subject encourages itself and others to remain vigilant in the face of darkness. The precise and clear language, simple rhyme scheme and meter provide comfort and support as the poem provides a general depiction of what the poetic subject experienced.

Repetition marks individual stanzas, particularly that of the inner voice, speaking directly and clearly to an anonymous whole, guiding them not to despair. It is easy to see how the simple structure of the poem would lend itself to communal use and how a performance would have the capability to instill hope and strength, to soothe the pain at least temporarily.


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Thus, the modes of this first poem can be described as lyrical and spiritual, its functions as performance and prayer, all providing communal and individual sustenance. God has stood by his people and freedom is the reward. Nein, es ist Wirklichkeit!

As if it Were Life: WWII Diary from Theresienstadt Ghetto

Der Spuk ist aus. The title of the poem underlines the conclusiveness of the end of suffering on the day of liberation. Written from within the events, the poem highlights freedom itself, and at the time of composition, this concept naturally remains vague. Only later will the full picture emerge, along with it the realization that what has constituted home is lost and that closure will hardly be attained. At the moment, however, the experience is jubilant and represented as such. It might, therefore, lend itself less for performance and is a different realization than the first.

The reader learns about six recurring and concrete themes of daily life in Theresienstadt: hunger, work, death, pests, torture, and deportation. While all the poetic texts hold on to meter, rhyme, and versification, they display modes and functions, extending beyond the testimonial, lyrical, and spiritual.

This arrangement also has the added effect of concreteness as the new nouns articulate actions and feelings more effectively and broadly.

Additionally, Dormitzer employs the figure of the grim reaper in the same poem to represent death as the constant companion of prisoners, here waiting besides the train tracks. And perhaps this is precisely its function. The use of a regular rhyme scheme couplet in the German original renders the poem even more unsettling. She presents the Theresienstadt past as a linear sequence, providing a consoling ending freedom and immediate closure return home. The opening and closing poems create a narrative of redemption, in which Dormitzer inserts the remaining eight poems.

Her images of hunger, work, death, pests, torture, and deportation shed light on everyday life and suffering, describing and commenting on the abuse of the individual and the collective. The texts are characterized by the immediacy of experiencing the Holocaust as it affected the writer and her surroundings and by their conventional parameters, providing structural security in which to situate the experience of persecution, deportation, and annihilation. She dedicates her book to her fellow inmates, thus creating a textual memorial, with which she honors the dead and the living alike.

At the same time, the collection reaffirms her own position as she now confronts the post-war period. Apart from the Theresienstadt-specific topics these poems depict, all grounded in the experience of the Holocaust, each poem displays regular form, meter, and rhyme as well as concrete and figurative language. He visited his family twice but did not return to Germany after the National Socialists had come to power and never saw his parents again.

Rudolf was interned as enemy alien in September Soon after he joined the Foreign Legion and served in Northern Africa. He retired in Paris and died in Eva was working as an office manager in Oxfordshire after the Second World War. She died in at the age of Philipp Manes was a German Jewish fur trader who was deported to Terezin concentration camp and perished with his wife in Auschwitz in Rudolf Manes wrote the diary from to whilst in internment and serving with the Foreign Legion.

He stopped writing when he was back in regular contact with his sisters who had emigrated to England. In the diary he provides a lively account of his circumstances and living conditions as well as his thinking about his own fate and the political situation at the time.