The ProsenPeople

Six Neglected Holocaust Narratives to Preorder for Fall 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017| Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

The Holocaust: A New History by Laurence Rees

“To the Nazis, Freda Wineman’s crime was simple,” Laurence Rees’s new study of the Holocaust opens. “She was Jewish.” As a writer, filmmaker, and former Creative Director of the BBC TV History series, Rees has been the driving force behind historical literature and television programs on the Holocaust in Britain. In his newest work, Rees tackles the prevailing question of contemporary Holocaust studies—how and why did the Holocaust happen?—from a deeply human perspective, balancing historical analysis with 25 years of unpublished testimony from survivors and perpetrators of the Third Reich and the Shoah, polished and presented in Rees’s compelling prose. Wading through the individual stories of the people he has encountered over the course of his career as a historical documentarian, Rees imbues this new chronology of the darkest period in modern European history with the personal narratives—and human empathy—that are too often missing from contemporary Holocaust research.

Saving One’s Own: Jewish Rescuers During
the Holocaust
by Mordecai Paldiel



Saved from the Holocaust with his family as a young child by Simon Galley, a Catholic priest who abetted Jews in crossing the Swiss border, Mordecai Paldiel headed Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations through the turn of the twenty-first century, adding approximately 18,000 names to the roster of non-Jewish rescuers honored by Israel’s national Holocaust monument and research center. In the process of this noble work, Paldiel discovered the stories of Jewish resistors who helped their clansmen escape Europe. Feeling that a significant narrative of heroism in the face of the Shoah and the Nazi occupation has remained neglected, upon retiring from his position at Yad Vashem Paldiel dedicated himself to chronicling the stories of Jewish rescuers who risked their own lives to remain where they could conduct operations to smuggle other Jews to safety. Focusing on different regions by chapter, Paldiel introduces a wide cast of previously unacknowledged saviors, from underground network agents to partisan fighters to a Berlin rebbetzin who facilitated the safe passage of thousands of Jewish German children to Palestine.

Stealth Altruism: Forbidden Care as Jewish
Resistance in the Holocaust
by Arthur B. Shostak



Exploring another neglected narrative of Jewish resistance in the Holocaust, Arthur B. Shostak redefines the very concept of heroism to include the acts of caring for others in an environment of evil and terror. Exploring the unrecognized instances of forbidden kindness among victims of the Nazi camps—holding weak neighbors up at roll call, switching tasks with prisoners assigned to hard labor details, sharing food and clothing—Shostak reveals the largely untold history of humanity at the darkest moments of the Shoah. The author also shares some of his research findings, interviews with survivors, and Holocaust memorial and education centers at www.stealthaltruism.com.

Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots
Against Hollywood and America
by Steven. J. Ross



While the United States trained its law enforcement agencies’ focus on Soviets and communists, the plots and activities of Nazi operatives on American soil in the early 1930s went unnoticed but for one vigilante spy ring headed by Hollywood attorney Leon Lewis, “the most dangerous Jew in Los Angeles” as the Nazis would come to call him. Viewing Hollywood as the greatest propaganda machine in the world—and eying key military positions and armories along the Pacific Coast—the Nazis planned out a siege of Los Angeles, plotting to massacre the city’s Jews and hang twenty of Hollywood’s brightest stars. From 1933 through the end of World War II, Lewis and his network of military veterans—and their wives—infiltrated all Nazi and fascist activities in the City of Angels, uncovering and snuffing out the Nazi’s sinister plot to destroy Los Angeles.

Textual Silence: Unreadability and the Holocaust
by Jessica Lang



Sidestepping Theodor Adorno’s famous aphorism, “To write poetry after the Holocaust is barbaric,” Jessica Lang questions whether Holocaust literature across form and style can or even should translate the Nazi genocide to those who did not experience it themselves. Defining the expression of the limitations and barriers of language to adequately convey the horror and trauma of those who survived—blank spaces, trailing punctuation, italic, and narrative interruptions—as “textual silence,” Lang claims these critical breaks in poetry, novels, diaries, and memoirs as essential characteristics of the genre.

For Two Thousand Years by Mihail Sebastian

Originally published under his penname in 1934, Iosif Mendel Hechter’s diary of Romania’s nascent antisemitism—growing increasingly rampant together with Hitler’s popularity in Germany and his installation as chancellor the year before—highlights the violence and injustices committed against Jewish populations throughout Europe, even within intellectual circles and institutions of higher education, long before the war began. Sebastian describes scampering around his university campus in Bucharest to avoid beatings on his way to lectures and discovering that even his closest friends and comrades believed the antisemitic propaganda proliferating throughout the continent—including the beloved mentor Sebastian asked to write the preface to this very book, which Sebastian nonetheless included in the original publication out of spite:

It is an assimilationist illusion, it is the illusion of so many Jews who sincerely believe that they are Romanian… Remember that you are Jewish!... Are you Iosif Hechter, a human being from Brăila on the Danube? No, you are a Jew from Brăila on the Danube.

Recalling the widespread adoption and impact of such beliefs—and what they led to—seems especially important in wake of recent statements made in by the White House press secretary two weeks ago, drawing condemnation from Jewish organizations and scholars, including Deborah Lipstadt.

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