• Subject List
  • Take a Tour
  • For Authors
  • Subscriber Services
  • Publications
  • African American Studies
  • African Studies
  • American Literature
  • Anthropology
  • Architecture Planning and Preservation
  • Art History
  • Atlantic History
  • Biblical Studies
  • British and Irish Literature
  • Childhood Studies
  • Chinese Studies
  • Cinema and Media Studies
  • Communication
  • Criminology
  • Environmental Science
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • International Law
  • International Relations
  • Islamic Studies

Jewish Studies

  • Latin American Studies
  • Latino Studies
  • Linguistics
  • Literary and Critical Theory
  • Medieval Studies
  • Military History
  • Political Science
  • Public Health
  • Renaissance and Reformation
  • Social Work
  • Urban Studies
  • Victorian Literature
  • Browse All Subjects

How to Subscribe

  • Free Trials

In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Holocaust Literature

Introduction, early criticism.

  • History and Criticism
  • Ethics and Morality
  • Memory, Remembrance, and Testimony
  • Popular Culture and the Holocaust Novel
  • Literature in Hebrew and German
  • Gender and Jewish Identity
  • Children, Youth, and Generations
  • Study and Teaching
  • Anthologies and Reference Guides
  • Online Resources
  • Suggested Primary Texts

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" section about

About related articles close popup.

Lorem Ipsum Sit Dolor Amet

Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Aliquam ligula odio, euismod ut aliquam et, vestibulum nec risus. Nulla viverra, arcu et iaculis consequat, justo diam ornare tellus, semper ultrices tellus nunc eu tellus.

  • Abraham Sutzkever
  • History of the Holocaust
  • Holocaust Museums and Memorials
  • Philosophical and Theological Responses to the Holocaust

Other Subject Areas

Forthcoming articles expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section.

  • Italian Jewish Enlightenment
  • Walter Benjamin
  • Yiddish Women's Fiction
  • Find more forthcoming articles...
  • Export Citations

Holocaust Literature by Lia Deromedi LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2021 LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2017 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0158

There are seemingly infinite anxieties about the historical, literary, ethical, and theological responsibilities of Holocaust representation. Early critics recognized the ethical dangers inherent in writing about an extreme historical event. But they also saw the expansion of possibility so that an evolving body of literature transcends national and cultural boundaries and shares a spectrum of attitudes toward the concentration camps and the world beyond. While later critics have focused on new issues, such as the resurgence and proliferation of Holocaust literature for popular consumption, and how distance in time alters representation, these works asked the first hard questions and revealed the innovative ways writers approach the historical event. Holocaust literature challenges the idea that there are distinct unsurpassable borders separating history from artistic representation. Criticism often calls attention to this idea of boundaries between history and art, all of which Holocaust literature seems to obscure or transgress in some way, revealing that the line between complete invention and genre distortion has already been crossed. Similarly, the ability to suggest experiences that could have happened or did happen, rather than documented cases, gives the Holocaust writer the opportunity to rethink and reevaluate actual events and emotions in a space that is freed from presumed boundaries that restrict the narration to strict truth or reality. Holocaust literature has been variously argued as generically different from postmodern postwar texts and as integrated within them. But more important than concerns about genre is the argument that much of the power in literature appears to originate from the dual claims it makes on fiction and fact to engage readers. Within critical and literary writing, the Holocaust is a vastly represented 20th-century event. Literary responses to history include fiction and autobiography written by survivors with compulsions to communicate the Holocaust, as well as writers with no direct experience who also share this compulsion. The 21st-century scholar of Holocaust literature will recognize its specificity and its relevance within the context of history and contemporary public consciousness, along with its important contribution to the ongoing history of literary scholarship.

Langer 1975 , and Langer 1978 , and Rosenfeld 1980 embody some of the pioneering scholarship in the field of Holocaust literature. This section focuses on some of the criticism from the 1970s and 1980s that first addressed the importance of this literary genre, the emergence of which began immediately after the event, but only gained popularity and momentum several decades later. These works helped establish Holocaust literature as an arguably distinct and significant genre in the postmodern, postwar field. This early criticism often draws on survivor testimonies and memoirs, as well as lesser-known creative works, to explore what became a phenomenon in Holocaust representation. Works such as Ezrahi 1980 examine the ways in which writers who embraced the subject were forced to extend the limits of imagination to encompass such a real horror. As seen in Rosenfeld 1980 , these critics were among the first to demand that “Holocaust literature” be examined in different ways than other literature, to be treated as part of the postmodern period but also a post-Holocaust period; what has been called a unique event in history demands a critical examination of its representation that is also distinctive. Although Young 1988 may also be included in later eras of criticism, this early work reinforces the key points made by the others that interpretation of Holocaust literature remains paramount for remembering the event. It is important to be aware of the first important criticism on the subject when reading contemporary analyses.

Ezrahi, Sidra DeKoven. By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226233376.001.0001

Discussion of the fine line that Holocaust literature straddles between real events and imagined art. Ezrahi stretches the boundaries of the subject to discuss documentation, testimony, survivor literature, the particularly Jewish aspect of the Holocaust in the form of lamentations and covenantal context, the mythologization of the event, and American Holocaust literature.

Langer, Lawrence L. The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975.

Langer addresses the challenge that literature and the imagination have in making the Holocaust accessible to readers. A discussion of writers, some of them survivors, exploring the paradox of how literature can affect readers who can no longer be shocked by a most shocking atrocity.

Langer, Lawrence L. The Age of Atrocity: Death in Modern Literature . Boston: Beacon, 1978.

Langer further investigates how the tragedy of mass death affects insight and meaning. He offers an overview using Jean Amery and Ernest Becker, with their respective theories of torture as transcendence and “creatureliness,” examining works of the Holocaust and other atrocities.

Rosenfeld, Alvin H. A Double Dying: Reflections on Holocaust Literature . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980.

Argues for the special status of Holocaust literature to understand the enormity of the event and its repercussions for humanity. The title of the book suggests Rosenfeld’s main point that the Holocaust killed not only men, but also the “idea of man.”

Young, James E. Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust: Narrative and the Consequences of Interpretation . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

Historiographical work that interprets the meaning of Holocaust literature. Examines the perpetuation of Holocaust memory and understanding in several forms of media. Includes an extensive bibliography of works.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login .

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here .

  • About Jewish Studies »
  • Meet the Editorial Board »
  • Abraham Isaac Kook
  • Agudat Yisrael
  • Ahad Ha' am
  • American Hebrew Literature
  • American Jewish Artists
  • American Jewish Literature
  • American Jewish Sociology
  • Ancient Anti-Semitism
  • An-sky (Shloyme Zanvil Rapoport)
  • Anthropology of the Jews
  • Anti-Semitism, Modern
  • Apocalypticism and Messianism
  • Archaeology, Second Temple
  • Archaeology: The Rabbinic Period
  • Art, Synagogue
  • Austria, The Holocaust In
  • Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1867-1918
  • Baron, Devorah
  • Biblical Archaeology
  • Biblical Literature
  • Bratslav/Breslev Hasidism
  • Buber, Martin
  • Bukharan Jews
  • Central Asia, Jews in
  • Chagall, Marc
  • Classical Islam, Jews Under
  • Cohen, Hermann
  • Culture, Israeli
  • David Ben-Gurion
  • David Bergelson
  • Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Death, Burial, and the Afterlife
  • Debbie Friedman
  • Deuteronomy
  • Dietary Laws
  • Dubnov, Simon
  • Dutch Republic: 17th-18th Centuries
  • Early Modern Period, Christian Yiddishism in the
  • Eastern European Haskalah
  • Economic Justice in the Talmud
  • Emancipation
  • Environment, Judaism and the
  • Ethics, Jewish
  • Ethiopian Jews
  • Exiting Orthodox Judaism
  • Folktales, Jewish
  • Forverts/Forward
  • Frank, Jacob
  • Gender and Modern Jewish Thought
  • Germany, Early Modern
  • Ghettos in the Holocaust
  • Goldman, Emma
  • Graetz, Heinrich
  • Hasidism, Lubavitch
  • Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) Literature
  • Hebrew Bible, Blood in the
  • Hebrew Bible, Memory and History in the
  • Hebrew Literature and Music
  • Hebrew Literature Outside of Israel Since 1948
  • History, Early Modern Jewish
  • Holocaust in France, The
  • Holocaust in Germany, The
  • Holocaust in Poland, The
  • Holocaust in the Netherlands, The
  • Holocaust in the Soviet Union, The
  • (Holocaust) Memorial Books
  • Holocaust, Philosophical and Theological Responses to the
  • Holocaust Survivors, Children of
  • Humor, Jewish
  • Ibn Ezra, Abraham
  • Indian Jews
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer
  • Israel Ba'al Shem Tov
  • Israel, Crime and Policing in
  • Israel, Religion and State in
  • Israeli Economy
  • Israeli Film
  • Israeli Literature
  • Israel's Society
  • Italian Jewish Literature (Ninth to Nineteenth Century)
  • Jewish American Women Writers in the 18th and 19th Centuri...
  • Jewish Bible Translations
  • Jewish Culture, Children and Childhood in
  • Jewish Diaspora
  • Jewish Economic History
  • Jewish Folklore, Chełm in
  • Jewish Genetics
  • Jewish Heritage and Cultural Revival in Poland
  • Jewish Names
  • Jewish Studies, Dance in
  • Jewish Territorialism (in Relation to Jewish Studies)
  • Jewish-Christian Polemics Until the 15th Century
  • Jews and Animals
  • Joseph Ber Soloveitchik
  • Josephus, Flavius
  • Judaism and Buddhism
  • Kalonymus Kalman Shapira
  • Khmelnytsky/Chmielnitzki
  • Kibbutz, The
  • Kiryas Joel and Satmar
  • Languages, Jewish
  • Late Antique (Roman and Byzantine) History
  • Latin American Jewish Studies Latin American Jewish Studie...
  • Law, Biblical
  • Law in the Rabbinic Period
  • Life Cycle Rituals
  • Literature Before 1800, Yiddish
  • Literature, Hellenistic Jewish
  • Literature, Holocaust
  • Literature, Latin American Jewish
  • Literature, Medieval
  • Literature, Modern Hebrew
  • Literature, Rabbinic
  • Magic, Ancient Jewish
  • Maimonides, Moses
  • Maurice Schwartz
  • Medieval and Renaissance Political Thought
  • Medieval Anti-Judaism
  • Medieval Islam, Jews under
  • Meir, Golda
  • Menachem Begin
  • Mendelssohn, Moses
  • Messianic Thought and Movements
  • Middle Ages, the Hebrew Story in the
  • Minority Literatures in Israel
  • Modern Germany
  • Modern Hebrew Poetry
  • Modern Jewish History
  • Modern Kabbalah
  • Moses Maimonides: Mishneh Torah
  • Music, East European Jewish Folk
  • Music, Jews and
  • Nathan Birnbaum
  • Nazi Germany, Kristallnacht: The November Pogrom 1938 in
  • Neo-Hasidism
  • New Age Judaism
  • New York City
  • North Africa
  • Orthodoxy, Post-World War II
  • Palestine/Israel, Yiddish in
  • Palestinian Talmud/Yerushalmi
  • Philo of Alexandria
  • Poetry in Spain, Hebrew
  • Poland, 1800-1939
  • Poland, Hasidism in
  • Poland Until The Late 18th Century
  • Politics and Political Leaders, Israeli
  • Politics, Modern Jewish
  • Prayer and Liturgy
  • Purity and Impurity in Ancient Israel and Early Judaism
  • Queer Jewish Texts in the Americas
  • Rabbi Yeheil Michel Epstein and his Arukh Hashulchan
  • Rabbinic Exegesis (Midrash) and Literary Theory
  • Race and American Judaism
  • Rashi's Commentary on the Bible
  • Reform Judaism
  • Ritual Objects and Folk Art
  • Rosenzweig, Franz
  • Russian Jewish Culture
  • Sabbatianism
  • Sacrifice in the Bible
  • Sarah Schenirer and Bais Yaakov
  • Scholem, Gershom
  • Second Temple Period, The
  • Sephardi Jews
  • Sexuality and the Body
  • Shlomo Carlebach
  • Shmuel Yosef Agnon
  • Shulhan Arukh and Sixteenth Century Jewish Law, The
  • Sociology, European Jewish
  • South African Jewry
  • Soviet Union, Jews in the
  • Soviet Yiddish Literature
  • Space in Modern Hebrew Literature
  • Spinoza, Baruch
  • Sutzkever, Abraham
  • Talmud and Philosophy
  • Talmud, Narrative in the
  • The Druze Community in Israel
  • The Early Modern Yiddish Bible, 1534–1686
  • The General Jewish Workers’ Bund
  • The Modern Jewish Bible, Facets of
  • Theater, Israeli
  • Theme, Exodus as a
  • Tractate Avodah Zarah (in the Talmud)
  • Translation
  • Translation in Hebrew Literature, Traditions of
  • United States
  • Weinreich, Max
  • Wissenschaft des Judentums
  • Women and Gender Relations
  • World War II Literature, Jewish American
  • Yankev Glatshteyn/Jacob Glatstein
  • Yemen, The Jews of
  • Yiddish Avant-garde Theater
  • Yiddish Linguistics
  • Yiddish Literature since 1800
  • Yiddish Theater
  • Ze’ev Jabotinsky
  • Zionism from Its Inception to 1948
  • Privacy Policy
  • Cookie Policy
  • Legal Notice
  • Accessibility

Powered by:

  • [|]

Jewish Women's Archive

Sharing Stories Inspiring Change

  • Civil Rights
  • Community Organizing
  • Disability Rights
  • Labor Rights
  • LGBTQIA Rights
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Voting Rights
  • Women's Rights
  • Architecture
  • Fashion and Beauty
  • Photography
  • Advertising and Marketing
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Jewish Education
  • Jewish Studies
  • Summer Camps
  • Women’s and Gender Studies
  • Food Writing
  • Antisemitism
  • Soviet Jewry
  • World War II
  • Rosh Hashanah
  • Simchat Torah
  • Tisha B'Av
  • Tu B'Shvat
  • Philanthropy
  • Social Work
  • Civil Service
  • Immigration
  • International Relations
  • Organizations and Institutions
  • Social Policy
  • Judaism-Conservative
  • Judaism-Orthodox
  • Judaism-Reconstructionist
  • Judaism-Reform
  • Midrash and Aggadah
  • Spirituality and Religious Life
  • Synagogues/Temples
  • Agriculture
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Natural Science
  • Psychology and Psychiatry
  • Social Science
  • Coaches and Management
  • Non-Fiction

Shopping cart

The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Holocaust literature.

by Sara R. Horowitz Last updated June 23, 2021

Literature by and about women and the Holocaust explores the impact of the Nazi genocide on women during and after the war, its impact on subsequent generations, and the reflections of women on the implications of the Holocaust. Encompassing a range of literary genres, including fiction, poetry, drama and memoir, women’s Holocaust writing explores the intersection of history, imagination, Jewishness and gender. Placing women at the center, rather than on the periphery, women’s Holocaust writing expands our understanding of the impact of Nazi atrocity on families and intimate relationships, on the particular vulnerabilities of women, and on the agency of women to contend with, resist, respond to, and interpret their experiences and memories.


“Today, I am not sure that what I wrote is true.  I am certain it is truthful.”  So Charlotte Delbo (1913-1985) prefaces None of Us Will Return , her meditation on life and death during and after the Holocaust. None of Us Will Return , the first volume of her trilogy Auschwitz and After , is a memoir that combines straightforward recounting, poetry, and prose poems, with self-conscious reflection on the acts of memory and testimony. 

Arrested in Paris in 1942 by the French police and turned over to the Gestapo as a member of the French Resistance, Delbo was sent with a convoy of other Frenchwomen to Auschwitz-Birkenau and then to Ravensbrück . Her writing uses a powerful arsenal of literary tools to testify to her own suffering, that of her compatriots, and that of the Jewish women whose experiences she witnessed. The trilogy probes the dimensions of Nazi atrocity and its aftermath and poses complex questions about the adequacy of language to carry that burden and the ability of the psyche to bear extreme trauma. The paradox conveyed by the epigraph to None of Us Will Return —at once uncertain and certain of the truthfulness of her writing—expresses the shock and disbelief she felt both upon arriving at Auschwitz and later, looking back on it once returned to normal life.

The epigraph may also be said to represent the place and the license of literature in representing the Holocaust: both not true and true, combining memory and imagination, history and invention, to reflect upon the past and its philosophical, moral, and psychological implications. Like Delbo, many women who experienced and survived Nazi atrocity gave literary form to their experiences, memories, and reflections. Writing in a variety of genres, including fiction, poetry, drama, and memoir, they utilized a range of literary strategies and presented a variety of themes. Their writing is often at odds with literature written by men, where women frequently figure more peripherally and in limited roles. In addition, women who were not victimized by the Nazi genocide, either because they did not live in Europe or were born later, began to write literature about the Holocaust, based on research rather than personal memory.

Studies of women and the Holocaust or gender and the Holocaust are part of a dynamic, evolving field. As part of literary studies, these approaches draw upon many other fields and methodological approaches, such as history of the Holocaust, gender studies, psychology, trauma theory, literary theory, life writing, women’s studies, religious studies, and memory studies. 

Writers and Writing

Wartime Writing

Already during the war years and under the shadow of Nazism, Jewish women gave narrative form to their experiences, writing wartime diaries and journals. The most famous of these, the diary of Anne Frank (1929-45), takes the form of letters to a confidante and traces the daily life and inner life of an adolescent girl, hiding in a secret room in Holland with her secular German Jewish family. Although Frank was eventually deported to Bergen Belsen, where she perished, her father later retrieved and edited his daughter’s diary, which was published posthumously in 1947; the 1952 English translation appeared under the tile The Diary of a Young Girl . The curated entries of the published diary stressed the universal rather than the Jewish aspects of Frank’s sensibilities, omitting most explicit references to antisemitism and Judaism. Also not included were Frank’s harshest words about her mother, with whom she often was in conflict, and her explicit writing about sexuality. Not until the 1990s was the diary published in its entirety. Evidence of a talented, thoughtful girl, Frank’s diary was the inspiration for plays and films depicting her life in hiding. More recently, a cluster of writers have incorporated Frank as a character in their own fiction, poetry, and films, giving her something of a literary afterlife. The journals of Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) similarly reflect life in Holland under Nazism. Hillesum was already a young adult by the time antisemitic acts affected her life; her journals reflect her struggle to come to terms philosophically and psychologically with the events of her life. Her writing was published almost two decades after her death in Auschwitz.

The work of Charlotte Salomon (1917-1943), Life? or Theater?: A Song-play , defies generic categories. A series of over 750 drawings incorporating a narrative script, the work encompasses art, literature, theater, and opera. Created during the last three years of the artist’s life after she had fled Germany for the illusory safety of Vichy, France, Life? or Theater? ends—like Anne Frank’s diary—before Salomon’s arrest and deportation to Auschwitz. With some elements of fictionalization, it captures Solomon’s complicated and troubled family life and intense relationships, as well as the growing menace of Nazism.

The process of giving written shape to memory in the form of memoirs began almost immediately after the war and continues into the twenty-first century. Capturing both individual and collective experiences, narrating events from a subjective, and, of necessity, limited standpoint, memoirs about the Holocaust occupy a space between imaginative literature and history. Women’s memoirs provide details about lived experience before, during, and after the Holocaust, the inner lives of the women who wrote them, remembered accounts of others who perished, and the workings of traumatic memory.  

Although published Holocaust memoirs are far too numerous to itemize here, several are particularly noteworthy, either because they opened new subject matter, have special literary merit, or have garnered public and scholarly attention. Early memoirs, such as those by Rachel Auerbach (1903-1976), Gisella Perl (1900-1988), and Olga Lengyel (1908-2001), capture the sense of chaos both during and after the war. One of two survivors of the Oneg Shabbes, the secret project to document Jewish life in the Warsaw ghetto headed by Emanuel Ringelblum (1900-1944), Polish-born Auerbach wrote poignantly and eloquently in Yiddish about the world whose destruction she witnessed and narrowly escaped. Both during and after the war, her writing is marked by an attention to the details of everyday life and an almost unbearable compassion for the victims of Nazism.

Perl, an obstetrician in Sighet before the German occupation of Hungary, was ordered to establish a ghetto hospital. With the deportation of the ghetto inhabitants to Auschwitz, Perl was ordered to serve as the camp gynecologist. From this unique position, she witnessed the psychological and physical toll of Nazi atrocity on the women at Auschwitz. Her 1948 memoir encompasses her efforts to attend to prisoners with minimal medical supplies and to shield them from selections. 

Lengyel’s 1947 memoir offers a detailed and analytical account of her eight months in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Born into an assimilated Hungarian Jewish family, Lengyel trained as a surgeon’s assistant before her deportation to Auschwitz. Although by now some of her broad assertions about historical facts have been disproven, her narrative charts her growing recognition of the deliberate duplicity of Nazis that duped the Jews into collaborating with their own destruction. Lengyel recounts that, while working in the infirmary at Auschwitz-Birkenau, she murdered newborns to protect the life of their mothers. She outlines the social system that developed in the camp, the sexual exploitation of women, and her role as messenger in the camp underground.

Like diaries and chronicles written during the war, early memoirs such as these offer a sense of the diversity of Jewish life and Jewish responses to the Nazi onslaught, as well as the ethnic, religious, and political differences among the Jews caught in the genocidal web. They frequently focus on the details of everyday life under radically abnormal circumstances. In addition to the individual personality of the writer, memoirs are shaped by the country, social class, education, age, and degree of Jewish identity and assimilation the writer experienced prior to the war.

As time progressed, the voices of child and adolescent survivors—well into in their adult years by the time they wrote autobiographically—have been added to the accumulation of memory narratives. These accounts of Jewish childhood under Nazism are part of a wave of memoirs shaped by the authors’ backgrounds and experiences but less focused on differences within and among Jewish communities during the war. Examples include memoirs by Nehama Tec (b. 1931) and Nelly Toll (b. 1935). Tec, a sociologist who researched aspects of resistance during the Holocaust, wrote Dry Tears , which recounts her experiences as a hidden child posing as Catholic under an assumed name. Toll, an art therapist, relates her experiences hiding with her mother in a bedroom of a friend’s apartment. To alleviate anxiety and boredom, Toll was given supplies to draw pictures and write stories.  

Other child survivor memoirists are Isabella Leitner (1922-2009) and Livia Bitton-Jackson (b. 1931). Leitner recounts life in Budapest under Nazism and subsequent deportation to Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. As the title, Fragments of Isabella , indicates, the memoir offers short vignettes and chapters, characterized by anger at Nazi and Hungarian cruelty and antisemitism, and bitter anguish at the degradation and losses suffered by her family. Bitton-Jackson’s lean and focused memoir brings an emotional immediacy to the author’s recollection of her disrupted childhood in Hungarian-occupied Czechoslovakia. Deported with her family first to Auschwitz and then to a series of labor camps, Bitton-Jackson depicts her strong bonds with her mother, as well as her unbroken faith in God.  

Other memoirs focus on the experiences of women active in resistance or partisan groups, such as Haika Grossman (1919-1996), who later became a member of the Israeli Lit. "assembly." The 120-member parliament of the State of Israel. Knesset . Active in the Zionist youth movement in Poland, Grossman played a leadership role in the Bialystok ghetto. She used her Aryan looks to help support anti-Nazi resistance groups, acting as a courier and arms smuggler.

The final wave of women’s memoirs, beginning in the late twentieth century and continuing into the twenty-first, reflects changes in cultural sensibilities during the decades since the war. These memoirs, too, depict the events of the Holocaust, but they also reflect the long adulthood of the writer, the culture in which she has lived, her relationships and experiences since that time, and often a re-evaluation of how she has come to understand her past. Some of these belated memoirs convey a renewed despair that hit the writer after decades of seeming adjustment to life after the Holocaust. Sarah Kofman (1934-1994), for example, revisits her Paris childhood in a 1994 memoir, Rue Ordener, Rue Labat . By then an influential philosopher who taught at the Sorbonne and wrote on Freud, Nietzsche, aesthetics, and feminism, Kofman recounts her wartime experience in an emotionally raw and powerful narrative. The daughter of an Orthodox rabbi, Kofman, along with her mother, survived the war under the shelter of a Catholic French woman who hid both in her apartment. In the memoir, the rescuer gradually displaces Kofman’s mother in the child’s affections and replaces Jewish practices with French ones. Kofman’s narrative presents maternal competition and alienation as touchstone to the intrusion of atrocity into intimate relations, and to the complexity of what Primo Levi (1919-1987) called “the gray zone,” areas of moral ambiguity. The absence of Kofman’s father, deported to Auschwitz and murdered there by a kapo, permeates the narrative, both as personal bereavement and as an instance of the impossibility of adequate testimony. Shortly after completing this memoir, Kofman committed suicide.  

Other memoirs, such as that by Ruth Klüger (1931-2020), reflect an effort to come to terms with relationships made difficult by the pressures of the Holocaust. Born in Vienna to a secular Jewish family and deported to Theresientstadt and Auschwitz as a young adolescent, Klüger, who became a professor of German studies in the United States, recollects her mother as heroic, instrumental in their survival, but at the same time problematic and manipulative in her daughter’s life. Klüger pointedly notes that suffering and atrocity do not ennoble, but rather damage the human spirit. Klüger’s complicated and fraught portrayal of her mother in her 2001 Still Alive , a translation and adaptation of her 1992 German memoir Weiter leben , contrasts with the predominantly positive image of mothers in memoirs by Holocaust survivors.

Susan Rubin Suleiman (b. 1939) coined the term “1.5 generation” to describe women like herself whose early childhood was in Europe during the war years and who, after the war, were raised by mothers who were adult survivors of the Holocaust. Her 1999 memoir Budapest Diary emerges from a visit to Budapest with her own children almost four decades after her wartime childhood there. Miriam Katin ’s (b. 1942) graphic memoir, We Are on Our Own , similarly probes the memories of a very young Jewish child in wartime Budapest, weaving in the stories her mother has told her about their experiences passing as Hungarian peasants.

An issue that emerges in belated memoirs is sexuality, encompassing assault, barter, coerced and voluntary intimacy, and other behaviors. Two of the earliest published memoirs to introduce this topic, by Fanya Gottesfeld Heller (1924-2017) and Judith Magyar Isaacson (1925-2015), focus on events the authors withheld previously, out of shame or consideration for others.  A teenager in a religious family during the war years, Heller recounts an affair with an older Ukrainian militia man who sheltered her and her family from Nazi roundups. Isaacson, who became dean of an American university, recollects her adolescence in an assimilated Hungarian Jewish family, marked by a persistent and pervasive fear of rape after the Nazis invade Hungary, as well as in Auschwitz.

The impulse towards memoirization carries over to generations born after the war. Helen Epstein (b. 1947) and Fern Schumer Chapman (b. 1954) were among the first women to write their mothers’ stories and to explore the way those stories shaped their own lives and relationship with the past. Second-, third-, and subsequent generation writing of family stories is an expanding genre.

Imaginative Literature

Some women Holocaust survivors mediated their experiences through fiction, poetry, and other genres, utilizing literary and imaginative strategies to render their inner experience and to convey elements of atrocity that evaded more chronological or historical narratives. These literary representations grapple with the philosophical, psychological, and cultural implications of the Holocaust. While literature written by male survivors often places women at the periphery, most women’s literature focuses on women, highlighting both the commonality and differences in Jewish men’s and women’s experiences.  

Among the most powerful and subtle fiction writers, Ida Fink (1921-2011) draws upon experience, observation, and testimony to depict the daily experience under Nazism, the impact of atrocity on relationships and the self, and the complexities of memory in recollecting and narrating the events of the Holocaust years later. Born into a Jewish family well-integrated into Polish society, Fink survived the war under a series of false identities, as recounted in her fictionalized autobiography The Journey . Fink is best known for her short stories, especially A Scrap of Time , which focus on intimate, domestic moments, relationships between spouses, lovers, parents and children, and Jews and their rescuers.

Writing in many languages and countries, women survivors wrote novels and short stories depicting a variety of wartime settings. Several writers focused on life in the ghettoes. For example, Chava Rosenfarb (1923-2011) published realistic fiction set in the Lodz Ghetto. Writing in Yiddish and in a variety of genres, Rosenfarb drew on her experiences there and in Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. Considered her master work, her 1972 epic novel Tree of Life charts the path of ten inhabitants of the Lodz Ghetto from its inception until its destruction.  Other women authors published fiction set in urban and pastoral settings, tracing the fate of Jews as Nazism constricts their freedom and compels them into hiding and false identities. The novels and stories of Henia Karmel-Wolfe (1923-1984) are set in Krakow and reflect the uncertainty and deprivation of the war years. Ilse Aichinger (1921-2016), born to assimilated Jewish parents in Vienna and raised as a Catholic, was considered Jewish by the Nuremberg laws. She was among the first Austrian authors to write literature about the effects of antisemitism on the victims of the Holocaust and, as such, came under harsh criticism in her own country. Born to an assimilated Jewish family in Lublin and active in the Polish resistance, Anna Langfus (1920-1966) drew on her experiences in creating novels and stories about the Holocaust. Writing in French, the language of her adopted country after the war, Langfus explores issues of loss, devastation, hopelessness, and tormented memories. These works probe the variety of women’s experiences during the war. 

Several works of fiction offer realistic depictions of life and death in labor and concentration camps. Plasow and Skarzysko-Kamienna, where Polish-born Ilona Karmel (1925-2001) labored during the war, provide the setting for her novel An Estate of Memory . Written in English after Karmel moved to the United States, the novel explores the experiences of women in the gender-segregated camps and issues of morality in extremis . Sara Nomberg-Przytyk (1915-1996), a Polish survivor of Auschwitz, utilized her own experiences and observations to write the set of fictionalized stories that comprise Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land . Nomberg-Przytyk presents a complex sense of the range of human behavior in a context that allowed only very limited choices.

In contrast to works that focus on the Holocaust and offer realistic detail, some survivors rarely mention the Holocaust explicitly in their novels and stories. Yet the radical losses of the Nazi genocide may be seen to shape their fictional works. For example, the work of Israeli writer Shulamith Hareven (1930-2003), who was born in Warsaw and immigrated as a child to Mandatory Palestine, reflects this tendency. While neither her fiction nor her non-fiction deals directly with the Holocaust, her writing has been seen as shaped by sorrow and nightmares of the fate she narrowly escaped, featuring dreamlike returns to the city of her birth and protagonists moored in sadness and alienation. In Suite Française , a novel rediscovered and published several decades after the author’s deportation and death in Auschwitz, French fiction writer Irène Némirovsky (1903-1942) captures the chaos and desperation of Parisians fleeing the Nazi occupation in the spring of 1940 for the relative safety of the “free zone” controlled by the Vichy government. The novel was written while Némirovsky herself sought shelter under Vichy, and the author’s fate provides a coda to the work; as an immigrant from Russia, Némirovsky was among the most vulnerable of French Jews.

In addition to fiction, the Holocaust finds both direct and indirect expression in the works of such poets as Nelly Sachs (1891-1970), Gertrud Kolmar (1894-1943), Rokhl Korn (1898-1982), and Irena Klepfisz (b. 1941). Raised in Berlin where she became known for her poetry, Sachs fled to Sweden with her mother in 1939.  There, her poems reflected her growing knowledge of the Holocaust and the loss of personal friends and family to the Nazi genocide. Her poems pay particular attention to the plight of children.  

Born in Berlin to an upper-middle-class assimilated Jewish family and deported to Auschwitz in 1943, Kolmar had a significant body of poems by the time the Nazis came to power. Her work addresses the Jewish past, violent antisemitism, and the development of Nazi persecution. She continued to write even while engaged in forced labor in a munitions factory.  

Raised in a rural area of Galicia, Poland, Korn fled to the relative safety of Russia with her daughter, thereby escaping the death that overtook the rest of her family. Although only in her adult years did she learn to write in Yiddish, it is in that language that her post-war poems and stories deal with the Holocaust, conveying a sense of sorrow and loss, lamenting the murdered Jews of Europe. Klepfisz, whose father died in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and who survived with her mother by passing as Catholic Poles, recaptures the perspective of childhood in poems such as “Bashert.”

Increasingly, the Holocaust has found a place in the fiction and poetry of women who were not themselves personally involved. Whether born elsewhere or born after the war, these writers probe the resonances, after-effects, and implications of the Nazi genocide. Either implicitly or explicitly, their works also explore the ways in which their own cultures—for example, Israeli, American, French, German—negotiate and shape their representations of the past. Fiction writers include Cynthia Ozick (b. 1928), Marcie Hershman (b. 1951), Sheri Szeman (b. 1956), Michal Govrin (b. 1950), Nava Semel (b. 1954), Rebecca Goldstein (b. 1950), Marge Piercy (b. 1936), Norma Rosen (b. 1925), Susan Fromberg Schaeffer (b. 1941), Anne Michaels (b. 1958), Savyon Liebrecht (b. 1948), Judith Katzir (b. 1963), Judith Hendel (1925 – 2014), Emuna Elon (b.1955), Michal Ben-Naftali (b. 1963), Ellen Feldman (b. 1941), Rachel Seiffert (b. 1971), and  Francine Prose (b. 1947). Poets include Kadya Molodowsky (1894-1975), Rivka Miriam (b. 1952), Lily Brett (b. 1946), Alicia Ostriker (b. 1937), Ruth Whitman (1922-1999), Myra Sklarew (b. 1934), and Marjorie Agosín (b. 1955. Although Molodowsky was born in White Russia and educated in Warsaw and Odessa, by the mid-1930s she had already immigrated to the United States. In the poems collected in Der melekh dovid aleyn is geblibn [Only King David Remained], she laments the dead Jews of Europe and struggles with witnessing the Holocaust from afar. She also edited an anthology of Yiddish poetry about the Holocaust, including poems by Jews who perished during the Holocaust, those who survived, and those who witnessed it from afar. Miriam, an Israeli poet, and Brett, an Australian, are children of Holocaust survivors who struggle in their poems with this legacy. In her poems, American-born Ostriker struggles with the idea of God after the Holocaust and with the long history of Western antisemitism. Whitman, who translated Yiddish Holocaust literature into English, deals with the Holocaust in an imagined diary written in verse, in the voice of Hannah Szenes , who parachuted behind Nazi lines.

Theater is another important literary venue for representation of the Holocaust. In Lady of the Castle , a play by the Hebrew poet Lea Goldberg (1911-1970), a Holocaust survivor struggles with the aftermath of the European destruction. Born in France to Jewish immigrants from Greece, Liliane Atlan (1932-2011) and her sister were sent by their parents to the French countryside to elude the genocidal net that killed much of their extended family. Atlan’s plays dramatize the Holocaust and grapple with its implications for humanistic values. Monsieur Fugue ou Le Mal de Terre [Mr. Fugue or Earth Sickness] was inspired by the life and work of Janusz Korczak (1878-1942). In Kindertransport , Anglo-Jewish writer Diane Samuels (b. 1960) focuses on the experiences of a young girl rescued from the Nazi genocide to Britain and their psychological toll on her. In a one-woman performance co-written with Alison Summers, Punch Me in the Stomach , New Zealand-born Canadian Deb Filler (b. 1954) plays herself, her father (a survivor of Auschwitz and other camps), and other family members as she re-enacts a visit with her father to the sites of his internment during the war. The play is among the first second-generation works to use comedic elements.  

Using both visual and textual elements, several artists have created graphic novels, or comics, about the Holocaust and its effect on subsequent generations. In I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors , Canadian Bernice Eisenstein (b. 1949) explores the impact of inherited fragments of memory. In The Property , Israeli graphic artist Rutu Modan (b. 1966) traces a suppressed family story through the visit of an Israeli young women and her grandmother to the grandmother’s native Warsaw.

Central Themes

Although the corpus of Holocaust literature by women is diverse and varied, several themes predominate. Some of these recurrent themes are gender specific, while others characterize Holocaust writing generally. Gender-specific themes include the ramifications of childbirth and motherhood during the war. During the Holocaust, responsibility for children placed a special burden on mothers, who struggled to sustain the family despite the genocidal pressures that made this difficult or impossible. In ghettoes, the meager rations, demanding work details, and rampant epidemics complicated the act of mothering. In camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, mothers who arrived with small children or women who arrived pregnant were immediately sent to their death.

Literature by women explores the effects of these harsh circumstances on women’s lives and psyches. For example, Ilona Karmel’s novel An Estate of Memory centers on four woman who band together in a labor camp. One of them is pregnant; the others help keep her condition secret and, at great sacrifice, give her part of their food and take on her grueling physical work.  More than documenting these circumstances, Karmel’s novel treats the secret pregnancy as a symbol of the women’s inner resistance to the forces of atrocity and as the crucible by which they evaluate themselves as ethical beings. Her focus on a situation particular to women—pregnancy—elaborates ways in which women’s experiences differed from those of men. At the same time, it becomes a means to articulate ethical issues shared by men. Cynthia Ozick’s novella The Shawl focuses on a young mother who tries and fails to protect her infant from death in a labor camp and, many years later, still suffers from this traumatic bereavement.

A reversal of conventional gender roles often characterizes Holocaust literature by women. Traditionally, war stories depict women as relegated to domestic space; their roles are passive, either victimized or rescued by men. Much Holocaust writing by men places women in such passive or peripheral roles. By contrast, in women’s Holocaust writing, the war against the Jews is waged in domestic spaces; homes are invaded and confiscated and Jews displaced.  Memoirs depict women devising ways to feed, protect, or rescue their families. Attuned to social interactions and informal channels of information, women frequently become aware of danger before their husbands. In ghettoes, women who had never worked outside the home must work for meager pay or rations to sustain their children and husbands. In the gender-segregated labor camps, women needed to rely on themselves or on one another. Holocaust fiction explores the dimensions of such role reversals.

Women’s Holocaust literature also depicts women as sexually vulnerable. Belated memoirs, in particular, reveal a pervasive fear of rape. In addition, in much of women’s writing, the humiliation that was suffered by Jewish men and women alike is experienced by women as a sexual humiliation. The shaving of body hair and the exposure of one’s body in front of strange men, characteristic of arrivals at concentration camps, are experienced by women as sexual violations. Women’s bodies render them vulnerable in other ways, as well. Women who menstruate in the camps do not have adequate hygienic devices and feel humiliated, grotesque in their own eyes. When women cease menstruating due to malnutrition, they fear that they have become sterile.   

Women’s writing often notes the links between power and sexual exploitation. For example, in Ida Fink’s collection of short stories A Scrap of Time, one story, “Aryan Papers,” depicts a young girl bartering her virginity for false identity papers that might save her own and her mother’s lives. Another story in the collection, “Conversation,” depicts a married Jewish couple hiding on a farm, under the protection of the woman landowner. Eventually, the farmwoman demands the man’s sexual favors as the price of the hiding space. In a collection of inter-related short stories, Tales of the Master Race , Marcie Hershman explores the connections between eros and violence, as well as the construction of a Nazi masculinity, as she depicts the adulterous affair between a Gestapo interrogator and the wife of an underling. The underling has moral qualms about torture, while his supervisor profits from it.  

In literature by men about the Holocaust, the treatment of sexuality and power differs. There, victims of rape, forced prostitution, or sexual barter are almost exclusively women. Their situation, behavior, and affect are viewed externally, rather than internally. For example, in Jerzy Kosinski’s novel The Painted Bird and Louis Begley’s novel Wartime Lies , the sexual violation of women occurs in the background or the periphery, intended to darken and underscore the danger that the male protagonist faces and the psychological trauma he carries. Other writers, such as William Styron in Sophie’s Choice , present the female victim as inherently eroticized, rendered desirable by her victimization. Many novels by women treat such situations in ways that deliberately thwart the potential of voyeurism and point to the inner lives of the female victims of sexual atrocity. For example, Sheri Szeman’s novel The Kommandant’s Mistress focuses on a female inmate of a concentration camp who sexually services the camp Kommandant. The novel juxtaposes two narratives, the Kommandant’s and his prisoner’s.  The Kommandant imagines the woman sharing his pleasure, a view echoed by other prisoners, who envy and revile her. But her narrative portrays the acts that the Kommandant forces the woman to perform as another component of the atrocity inflicted upon the Jews of the camp on the way to their murder.

For some women writers, representation of the Holocaust becomes a vehicle to explore national ethos, identity, and memory. Norma Rosen’s novel Touching Evil (1969), among the earliest American novels to grapple with the Nazi genocide, explores the impact of the televised 1961 Eichmann trials on Jewish American identity and its challenge to Western ethics. In many of Irena Klepfisz’s poems, the Holocaust becomes a bridge through which she empathizes with the “other” in contemporary urban America, marginalized because of gender, race, poverty, and language. Michal Ben-Naftali’s novel The Teacher looks at the suppression and belated uncovering of survivor experiences in Israel, while Nava Semel’s stories probe the ways in which the memory of the Holocaust haunts the Israeli psyche.

Several novels build on the story of Anne Frank and the celebrity of her published diary. Judith Katzir’s Dearest Anne uses an Israeli adolescent girl’s fascination with Frank’s diary as a means to challenge the place of the Holocaust in Israeli national memory. A visit to the Anne Frank house and Jewish Museum in post-war Amsterdam prompts the recovery of family secrets and losses in Emuna Elon’s House on Endless Waters , which probes the haunted memories of an Israeli family. In Ellen Feldman’s The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank , an imagined post-war life for Peter van Pels (Van Daan in Frank’s diary) provides a means to explore cultural amnesia and Jewish identity in America. For Marjorie Agosín, Frank’s legacy becomes a means to explore not only the impact of the Jewish past on contemporary identity, but also the atrocities committed under fascism in Agosín’s native Chile. 

Literary Criticism

Many literary critics, like other researchers of the Holocaust, were initially reluctant to incorporate the lens of gender into their work or to distinguish the experiences and writing of women from those of men. Beginning in the late 1980s, women scholars began to utilize gender as a category of analysis for understanding Holocaust literature. The earliest scholarly writing about women and Holocaust literature looked to literary non-fiction, fiction, and poetry as a means to better understand the experiences of women during the Holocaust, exploring them as a form of literary witness. Moreover, because historians were reluctant to base their assertions on survivor recollections, the first academic analyses of memoirs were often by literary scholars. The presence of women scholars of Holocaust literature has had a strong impact on the development of the field.

Literary critics, such as Sara R. Horowitz, Lori Lefkovitz, and Julia Epstein, focused on the literariness of literary responses, the constructedness of memory, and the relationship of women’s literature to the different cultural milieus of the authors and of the readers—that is, on the way Holocaust remembrance shapes and is shaped by personal and collective ways of grappling with the Holocaust. Several literary scholars, such as S. Lilian Kremer, Rachel Feldhay Brenner, Mary Felstiner, Elizabeth Baer, and Myrna Goldenberg, have sought to expand awareness of women’s experiences and knowledge of women writers by analyzing works of individual women writers and studying recurrent themes in women’s writing.  Others, including Naomi Sokoloff and Hamida Bosmajian, have focused on childhood narratives and the nature of the family.

With growing acceptance of gender as a meaningful category of analysis for Holocaust literature, literary criticism and literary theory came to reflect the broader insights of gender studies. Because gender does not exist as an isolated category, its intersection with nationality, ethnicity, religion, and class became a focus of literary scholarship. Literary critics, including Marianne Hirsch, Sara R. Horowitz, Pascale Bos, Phyllis Lassner, Federica Clementi, Brett A. Kaplan, Mia Spiro, Lara Curtis, and Dorota Glowacka, developed ways of incorporating gender analysis in discussions of Holocaust representations.  

Beyond incorporating gender analysis into Holocaust literature, women literary critics including Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Sara R. Horowitz, Shoshana Felman, Susan Gubar, Hanna Yaoz, Shoshana Felman, Hamida Bosmajian, Ellen Fine, Jessica Lang, Vivian Patraka, Erin McGlothlin, Emily Budick, Susan Rubin Suleiman, Sue Vice, Victoria Aarons, Iris Milner, Lily Rattok, Ruth Franklin, Froma Zeitlin, and Gila Ramras-Rauch have contributed to the development of critical interpretations of Holocaust literature.

Women have created a rich and diverse body of literature about the Holocaust. Writing out of different experiences, with different temperaments and points of view, in a wide range of genres, and across cultures and languages, they expanded the ways in which readers encounter the Holocaust and its aftermath. The work of women literary scholars has contributed in important ways toward understanding how literature represents the Nazi genocide.  Approaching the subject with a variety of questions and concerns, with different views and interests, they have strongly influenced the ways in which readers interpret this challenging body of literature.

Literary Works

Aichinger, Ilse. Herod's Children. Trans. Cornelia Schaeffer. New York: Atheneum, 1963.

Agosín, Marjorie. Dear Anne Frank: Poems . Trans. Richard Schaff. Hanover: Brandeis University Press, 1998.

Atlan, Liliane. Monsieur Fugue Ou Le Mal De Terre . Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1967.

Auerbach, Rachel. “Yizkor 1943.” In The Literature of Destruction: Jewish Responses to Catastrophe , edited by David Roskies, 459-464. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989. 

Begley, Louis. Wartime Lies . New York: Knopf, 1991.

Ben-Naftali, Michal. The Teacher . Tr. Daniella Zamir. Rochester, NY: Open Letter, 2019.

Bitton-Jackson, Livia. Elli: Coming of Age in the Holocaust. New York: Times Books, 1980.

Brett, Lily. The Auschwitz Poems . Brunswick, Australia: Scribe, 1986.

Chapman, Fern Schumer. Motherland: Beyond the Holocaust: A Daughter's Journey to Reclaim the Past / Fern Schumer Chapman . New York: Viking, 2000.

Delbo, Charlotte. Auschwitz and After . Tr. Rosette Lamont. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.

Elon, Emuna. House on Endless Waters . Tr. Anthony Berris and Linda Yechiel. New York: Washington Square Press, 2020.

Epstein, Helen. Where She Came From: A Daughter's Search for Her Mother's Story. New York: Plume, 1997.

Feldman, Ellen. The Boy who Loved AF: A Novel. New York: Norton, 2005.

Fink, Ida. The Journey. Trans. Joanna Weschler; Francine Prose. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1992.

Fink, Ida. A Scrap of Time and Other Stories. [Skrawek czasu-opowiadania]. Trans. Madeline Levine; Francine Prose. New York: Pantheon, 1983.

Fink, Ida. Traces: Stories . Trans. Philip Boehm; Francine Prose. New York: Metropolitan, 1997.

Frank, Anne. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition . New York: Doubleday, 1995.

Goldberg, Lea. Lady of the Castle: A Dramatic Episode in Three. Trans. T. Carmi, 1974.

Goldstein, Rebecca. The Late Summer Passion of a Woman of Mind . New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1990.

Govrin, Michal. The Name . Trans. Barbara Harshav. New York: Riverhead, 1998.

Grossman, Chaika. The Underground Army: Fighters of the Bialystock Ghetto . Trans. Shmuel Beeri. New York: Holocaust Library, 1987.

Hareven, Shulamith. Twilight and Other Stories . Trans. Miriam Arad; Hillel Halkin; J.M. Lask; David Weber. San Francisco: Mercury, 1992.

Heller, Fanya Gottesfeld. Strange and Unexpected Love: A Teenage Girl's Holocaust Memoirs. Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1993.

Hendel, Judith. Anashim Aherim Hem: sipurim [They are different people: stories].  Tel Aviv: Kibuts ha-me'uhad, 2000.

Hershman, Marcie. Tales of the Master Race. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Hillesum, Etty. An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941-43, and Letters from Westerbork. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1996.

Isaacson, Judith Magyar. Seed of Sarah: Memoirs of a Survivor . Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1990.

Karmel, Ilona. An Estate of Memory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969.

Karmel-Wolfe, Henia. The Baders of Jacob Street . New York: HarperCollins, 1970.

Katin, Miriam. We Are on Our Own , Drawn & Quarterly, 2006

Katzir, Judith. Dearest Anne: A Tale of Impossible Love. Trans. Dalya Bilu. New York: Feminist Press, 2008. 

Klepfisz, Irena. A Few Words in the Mother Tongue:  Poems Selected and New (1971-1990) . Portland, OR: Eighth Mountain Press, 1990.

Klüger, Ruth. Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered. New York: The Feminist Press at City University of New York, 2001 (transl. and rev. of Weiter leben. Eine Jugend, Göttingen:  Wallstein, 1992).

Kofman, Sarah. Rue Ordener, Rue Labat. Tr. Anne Smock. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

Kolmar, Gertrud. Dark Soliloquy: The Selected Poems of Gertrud Kolmar. Trans. Henry Smith. New York: Seabury Press, 1975.

Korn, Rachel. Generations: Selected Poems of Rachel Korn. Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press, 1982.

Kosinski, Jerzy. The Painted Bird. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.

Langfus, Anna. The Lost Shore. Trans. Peter Wiles. New York: Pantheon, 1963.

Leitner, Isabella and Irving A. Leitner. Fragments of Isabella: A Memoir of Auschwitz . New York: Ty Crowell Co, 1978.

Lengyel, Olga. Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor's True Story of Auschwitz . Chicago: Ziff-Davis, 1947.

Levi, Primo. The Drowned and the Saved. Trans. Raymond Rosenthal. New York: Summit, 1986.

Liebrecht, Savyon. Sinit Ani Medaberet Elekha. Jerusalem: Keter, 1992.

Michaels, Anne. Fugitive Pieces . Toronto: M&S, 1996.

Miriam, Rivka. Mishirei Imot Ha'even. Tel Aviv: Sifriyat po‘alim, 1988.

Molodowsky, Kadya. Der Melekh Dovid Aleyn Is Geblibn . New York: Farlag Papirene Brik, 1946.

Molodowsky, Kadya, ed. Lider Fun Khurbn: Antologye . Tel Aviv: Farlag I. C. Peretz, 1962.

Modan, Rutu. The Property . Tr. Jessica Cohen. New York: Drawn & Quarterly, 2013.

Némirovsky, Irène. Suite Française. Translated by Sandra Smith. New York: Knopf, 2006

Nomberg-Przytyk, Sara. Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land . Trans. Roslyn Hirsch. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985.

Ostriker, Alicia. The Little Space:  Poems Selected and New, 1968-1988. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998.

Ozick, Cynthia. The Cannibal Galaxy . New York: Knopf, 1983.

Ozick, Cynthia. The Shawl . New York: Knopf, 1989.

Perl, Gisella. I Was a Doctor in Auschwitz. New York: International Universities Press, 1948.

Piercy, Marge . Gone to Soldiers. New York: Summit, 1987.

Prose, Francine. Guided Tours of Hell: Novellas . New York: Henry Holt, 1997.

Rosen, Norma. Touching Evil. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1969.

Rosenfarb, Chava. The Tree of Life:  A Novel About Life in the Lodz Ghetto. Trans. Goldie Morgantaler. Melbourne, Australia: Scribe, 1985.

Sachs, Nelly. O the Chimneys: Selected Poems . New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1967.

Salomon, Charlotte. Charlotte: Life or Theater? An Autobiographical Play. Tr. Leila Vennewitz. New York: Penguin Books, 1981.

Samuels, Diane. Kindertransport . London: Nick Hern Books, 1995.

Schaeffer, Susan Fromberg. Anya . New York: Macmillan, 1974.

Seiffert, Rachel. The Dark Room . New York: Pantheon, 2001.

Semel, Nava. Kov'a Zkhukhit [Hat of Glass].Tel Aviv: Sifriat Poalim, 1988.

Styron, William. Sophie's Choice. New York: Random House, 1979.

Sklarew, Myra. Lithuania: New & Selected Poems. New York: Cornwall Books, 2000.

Suleiman, Susan Rubin. Budapest Diary: In Search of the Motherbook . Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

Szeman, Sheri. The Kommandant's Mistress . New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

Tec, Nehama. Dry Tears: The Story of a Lost Childhood . New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Toll, Nelly S. Behind the Secret Window: A Memoir of a Hidden Childhood During World War Two. New York: Dial Books, 1993.

Whitman, Ruth. The Testing of Hanna Senesh. Detroit, Mich: Wayne State University Press, 1986.

Aarons, Victoria. Holocaust Graphic Narratives: Generation, Trauma, and Memory .  New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2020.

Bos, Pascale. German-Jewish Literature in the Wake of the Holocaust: Grete Weil, Ruth Klüger, and the Politics of Address. New York: Palgave/St. Martin’s Press, 2005.

Bosmajian, Hamida. Sparing the child: Grief and the unspeakable in youth literature about Nazism and the Holocaust. New York: Routledge, 2013.

Bosmajian, Hamida. Metaphors of Evil: Contemporary German Literature and the Shadow of Nazism. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1979.

Brenner, Rachel Feldhay. Writing as Resistance: Four Women Confronting the Holocaust: Edith Stein, Simone Weil, Anne Frank, Etty Hillesum. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997.

Budick, Emily. The Subject of Holocaust Fiction . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015.

Clementi, Federica. Holocaust Mothers and Daughters: Family, History, and Trauma . Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2013.

Curtis, Lara. Writing Resistance and the Question of Gender: Charlotte Delbo, Noor Inayat Khan, and Germaine Tillion . New York: Palgrave, 2019.

Epstein, Julia, and Lori Lefkovitz, eds. Shaping Losses: Cultural Memory and the Holocaust. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001.

Ezrahi, Sidra DeKoven. By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Felman, Shoshana, and Dori Laub. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Felstiner, Mary Lowenthal. To Paint Her Life: Charlotte Salomon in the Nazi Era. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.

Fine, Ellen S. Legacy of Night: The Literary Universe of Elie Wiesel. Albany: SUNY Press, 1982.

Franklin, Ruth. A Thousand Darknesses. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Garbarini, Alexandra. Numbered Days: Diaries and the Holocaust. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Glowacka, Dorota. Disappearing Traces: Holocaust Testimonials, Ethics and Aesthetics .  Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012.

Goldenberg, Myrna. “Different Horrors, Same Hell:  Women Remembering the Holocaust.” Thinking the Unthinkable: Meanings of the Holocaust. Ed. Roger S. Gottlieb. New York: Paulist Press, 1990.

Gubar, Susan. Poetry after Auschwitz: Remembering What One Never Knew. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

Hirsch, Marianne. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory . Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Hirsch, Marianne. "Marked by Memory: Feminist Reflections on Trauma and Transmission." In Extremities: Trauma, Testimony, Community, edited by. Nancy K. Miller and Jason Tougaw. Urbana: Illinois University Press, 2002.

Hirsch, Marianne. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Horowitz, Sara R. “Gender, Genocide, and Jewish Memory.” Prooftexts 20 (January) 1 (2000): 158-90.

Horowitz, Sara R. “What We Learn, At Last: Recounting Sexuality in Women's Deferred Autobiographies and Testimonies.” In Palgrave Handbook of Holocaust Literature and Culture , edited by V. Aarons and P. Lassner, 45-63. London: Palgrave, 2020.

Horowitz, Sara R. “The Literary Afterlives of Anne Frank.” In Anne Frank Unbound: Media, Imagination, Memory , edited by Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblet and Jeffrey Shandler, 215-253. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2012.

Horowitz, Sara R. “Memory and Testimony in Women Survivors of Nazi Genocide.” In Women of the Word: Jewish Women and Jewish Writing , edited by Judith Baskin, 258-282. Detroit,: Wayne State University Press, 1994.

Horowitz, Sara R. Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

Kaplan, Brett A. Unwanted Beauty: Aesthetic Pleasure in Holocaust Representation . Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006.

Kremer, S. Lillian. Women's Holocaust Writing: Memory and Imagination. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

Lang, Jessica. Textual Silence: Unreadability and the Holocaust . New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2017.

Lassner, Phyllis. Anglo-Jewish Women Writing the Holocaust: Displaced Witnesses . New York, Palgrave, 2008.

McGlothlin, Erin. The Mind of the Holocaust Perpetrator in Fiction and Nonfiction . Detroit, MI: Wayne State University, 2021.

Milner, Iris. “The Evil Spirits of the Shoah: Ka-Tzentik's Literary Testimony to Death and Survival in the Concentrationary Universe.” In Holocaust History and the Readings of Ka-Tzetnik , edited by Annette Timm. New York: Bloomsbury, 2018.

Patraka, Vivian. Spectacular Suffering: Theatre, Fascism, and the Holocaust . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

Ramras-Rauch, Gila. Aharon Appelfeld: The Holocaust and Beyond. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Sokoloff, Naomi. Imagining the Child in Modern Jewish Fiction . Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

Spiro, Mia. Anti-Nazi Modernism: The Challenges of Resistance in 1930s Fiction. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2013.

Suleiman, Susan Rubin. Crises of Memory and the Second World War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

Vice, Sue. Holocaust Fiction . New York: Routledge, 2000.

Yaoz, Hanna. Hashoah Beshirat Hamedinah. Tel Aviv: 'Eqed, 1984.

Zeitlin, Froma. “The Vicarious Witness: Belated Memory and Authorial Presence in Recent Holocaust Literature.”  History and Memory Vol. 10, No. 2 (Fall 1998), pp. 5-42.

More Like This

Cynthia Ozick

Have an update or correction? Let us know

Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

Listen to Our Podcast

Two women wearing white and marching  holding a sign that says "Women Wage Peace" in English, Hebrew, and Arabic

Get JWA in your inbox

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now

Get sweet swag.

what is holocaust literature

How to cite this page

Horowitz, Sara R.. "Holocaust Literature." Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women . 23 June 2021. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 1, 2023) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/holocaust-literature>.

  • Support Tauber
  • Undergraduate Research Awards
  • Graduate Research Awards
  • Grants and Fellowships for Judaic Graduate Studies Students
  • Jewish Studies Colloquia
  • Conferences
  • Film Series
  • Tauber Institute Series
  • The Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought
  • Antisemitism
  • Art and Literature
  • The Holocaust and World War II
  • Jewish Thought and Philosophy
  • Women and Gender
  • Zionism and the State of Israel
  • Forthcoming
  • To Submit a Manuscript
  • Brandeis University Press
  • Our Mission
  • Faculty and Staff
  • Degree Programs
  • Majors and Minors
  • Graduate Programs
  • The Brandeis Core
  • School of Arts and Sciences
  • Brandeis Online
  • Brandeis International Business School
  • Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
  • Heller School for Social Policy and Management
  • Rabb School of Continuing Studies
  • Precollege Programs
  • Faculty and Researcher Directory
  • Brandeis Library
  • Academic Calendar
  • Undergraduate Admissions
  • Summer School
  • Financial Aid
  • Research that Matters
  • Resources for Researchers
  • Brandeis Researchers in the News
  • Provost Research Grants
  • Recent Awards
  • Faculty Research
  • Student Research
  • Centers and Institutes
  • Office of the Vice Provost for Research
  • Office of the Provost
  • Housing/Community Living
  • Campus Calendar
  • Student Engagement
  • Clubs and Organizations
  • Community Service
  • Dean of Students Office
  • Orientation
  • Hiatt Career Center
  • Spiritual Life
  • Graduate Student Affairs
  • Directory of Campus Contacts
  • Division of Creative Arts
  • Brandeis Arts Engagement
  • Rose Art Museum
  • Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts
  • Theater Arts Productions
  • Brandeis Concert Series
  • Public Sculpture at Brandeis
  • Women's Studies Research Center
  • Creative Arts Award
  • Brandeis Tickets
  • Our Jewish Roots
  • The Framework for the Future
  • Mission and Diversity Statements
  • Distinguished Faculty
  • Nobel Prize 2017
  • Notable Alumni
  • Administration
  • Working at Brandeis
  • Commencement
  • Offices Directory
  • Faculty & Staff
  • Alumni & Friends
  • Parents & Families
  • 75th Anniversary
  • COVID-19 Response
  • New Students
  • Shuttle Schedules
  • Support at Brandeis

The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry

Holocaust literature: a history and guide.

David G. Roskies, Naomi Diamant

Cover of "Holocaust Literature" with woodcut print of a concentration camp.

What is Holocaust literature? When does it begin and how is it changing? Is there an essential core of diaries, eyewitness accounts of the concentration camps, tales of individual survival in hiding? Is it the same everywhere: in the West as in the East, in Australia as in the Americas, in poetry as in prose? Is this literature sacred and sui generis , or can it be studied in the light of other literatures? What of the perpetrators and bystanders, the hidden children, the children of Holocaust survivors: Do they speak with the same authority? What works of Holocaust literature will be read a hundred years from now—and why?

Here, for the first time and told from beginning to end, is an historical survey of Holocaust literature in all genres, countries and major languages. Beginning in wartime, it proceeds from the literature of mobilization and mourning in the Free World to the vast and varied literature produced in the Nazi-occupied ghettos, the bunkers and places of hiding, the transit and concentrations camps. Within weeks of the liberation, in displaced persons camps, a new memorial and testamentary literature begins to take shape. Moving from Europe to Israel, the U.S. and beyond, the authors situate the writings by real and proxy witnesses within three distinct postwar periods: a period of “communal memory,” still internal and internecine; a period of “provisional memory” in the ’60s and ’70s that witnesses the birth of a self-conscious Holocaust genre; to the period of “authorized memory” in which we live today, following the collapse of the Soviet Union (1989-91) and the opening of the U.S. Holocaust Museum (1993).

Twenty book covers — first editions in their original languages — and an eminently readable guide to the “first hundred books” together show the multilingual scope, historical depth, the moral and artistic range of this extraordinary body of writing.

"The author's comprehensive research and analysis put the individual works and the body of Holocaust literature into both a historical and literary context. . . . An essential acquisition for Holocaust Centers and large Holocaust collections, the book is a valuable resource for research and book selection and is recommended for all Jewish libraries." —Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

About the Authors

David G. Roskies is the Sol and Evelyn Henkind Chair in Yiddish Literature and Culture and Professor of Jewish Literature at The Jewish Theological Seminary. A prolific author, editor, and scholar, he has published nine books and received numerous awards. In 1981, Dr. Roskies cofounded with Dr. Alan Mintz Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History, and served for seventeen years as editor in chief of the New Yiddish Library series, published by Yale University Press.

Naomi Diamant is Director, Dean’s Office Affairs, Stern School of Business, New York University. 

  • Research Grants
  • Publications by Category

Book Specifications

Holocaust Literature:  A History and Guide

2013 360 pp.

  • $35.00 Paperback, 978-1-61168-358-5
  • $85.00 Hardcover, 978-1-61168-357-8
  • $34.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-359-2

Reading in Time: A Curriculum for Holocaust Literature A Companion to Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide , David G. Roskies and Naomi Diamant

Book Reviews

" Speaking What Must Be Spoken ," Diane Cole, Jewish Ideas Daily

" David Roskies and Naomi Diamant Guide Readers Through Holocaust Literature ," Erika Dreifus, The Jewish Daily Forward

" Recouping the Roots and Branches of Holocaust Literature ," Jonathan Druker, H-Net Reviews

" Book Review ," Ruth Franklin, Jewish Book World

" Book Review ," Ilse Josepha Lazaroms, European Review of History

" Book Review ," Halina Filipowicz,  Slavic and East European Journal


A Guide to Jewish Studies: Literature

  • Geographical Identities
  • Denominations
  • Gender and Judaism
  • Commandments ( Mitzvot )
  • Prayers & Liturgy
  • Life-Cycle Events
  • Jewish Calendar & Holidays
  • Judaism in Antiquity
  • Classical Rabbinical Period
  • Medieval Period
  • Early Modern Period
  • Enlightenment and Industrial Age
  • The Holocaust
  • Judaism since 1945
  • Rabbinic Literature

Visual Glossary

General resources, general resources - jewish literature, table of contents - jewish literature.

  • General Resources - Literature

Cover Art

Holocaust Literature

Cover Art

Jewish American Literature

Cover Art

Literature by Women

Cover Art

Jewish Identities

what is holocaust literature

  • << Previous: Judaism since 1945
  • Next: Rabbinic Literature >>
  • Last Updated: Jun 9, 2023 6:02 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.gustavus.edu/jewishstudies

Creative Commons License

Holocaust Literature

Distributed for Brandeis University Press

Holocaust Literature

A history and guide.

David G. Roskies and Naomi Diamant

368 pages | 6 1/4 x 9 1/4 | © 2013

The Tauber Institute Series for the Study of European Jewry

Jewish Studies

Brandeis University Press image

View all books from Brandeis University Press

  • Table of contents
  • Author Events
  • Related Titles

Table of Contents

Be the first to know.

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press

  • Even more »

Account Options

what is holocaust literature

  • Try the new Google Books
  • Advanced Book Search
  • Barnes&Noble.com
  • Books-A-Million
  • Find in a library
  • All sellers  »

what is holocaust literature

Get Textbooks on Google Play

Rent and save from the world's largest eBookstore. Read, highlight, and take notes, across web, tablet, and phone.

Go to Google Play Now »

Selected pages

Title Page

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases, about the author  (2012), bibliographic information.

There are no boundaries to what you can achieve with a degree from Arts & Sciences.

Apply Today

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Graduate Studies in A&S

Rethinking the complicated history of Holocaust literature

A $1.3 million grant from the United Kingdom Arts and Humanities Research Council will enable an international team of researchers to conduct the first study of Holocaust literature at scale.

what is holocaust literature

As the final survivors of the Holocaust pass away, the Nazi genocide of European Jews is slipping out of living memory. Yet antisemitic rhetoric persists and indeed surges internationally, as do ignorance, trivialization, and denial of the Holocaust. A new multi-year collaboration between researchers at the University of Leeds and Washington University seeks to reconsider the history of and emerging developments in Holocaust literature at an acute moment in history. The project is funded by a $1.3 million grant from the United Kingdom Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Together with lead investigator Stuart Taberner (University of Leeds), Erin McGlothlin , vice dean of undergraduate affairs and professor of German and Jewish studies, is convening a team of over 40 international researchers to produce a series of publications fundamentally rethinking the field of Holocaust narrative, a corpus of literature that encompasses many thousands of texts. Writers responded in real time to Hitler’s rise in power and the genocidal measures carried out by Nazi Germany and its allies, producing a large body of testimony, poetry, and fiction documenting the atrocities carried out by the Nazi regime. The field of Holocaust literature also examines works that focus on the aftermath of these events as well as their continued relevance for contemporary society and culture.

Literary responses to the Holocaust have significantly shaped global awareness of the Holocaust. While authors like Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel, and Primo Levi are household names, their works represent a small portion of a large archive of narrative responses to the genocide. These texts are written in dozens of languages and in numerous countries around the world.

“Up until this point, the analysis of individual texts has largely focused on the author’s own Holocaust experience, the authenticity of the representation, the moral response, the intergenerational transmission of trauma, or formal innovations,” said McGlothlin. “Our goal is to theorize Holocaust literature as a comprehensive literary system for the first time.”

“With our collaborative project, which will integrate the cutting-edge research of experts from around the world, we aim to set the tone for the scholarly discourse on the literature of the Holocaust for the next twenty-five years.”

As scholars have worked to identify more works of Holocaust literature, it has become clear that conventional ways of categorizing literature by genre, language, and nation of origin might be less useful in the context of a body of literature that by definition crosses national and generic borders. Taberner and McGlothlin aim to develop a new theoretical model of Holocaust literature at scale, doing justice to the number and diversity of existing texts and exploring the narrative representation of marginalized or underrepresented experiences of the genocide. In doing so, they plan to integrate insights from the recent theorization of postcolonial and world literatures as well as to trace the dynamic interaction between context, canon, and circulation.

McGlothlin and Taberner plan to publish the comprehensive multi-authored Cambridge History of Holocaust Literature , a pedagogical guide for the teaching of Holocaust literature, and numerous journal articles and to organize public-facing events. The grant will also fund three postdoctoral fellows for a period of 2.5 years, two at the University of Leeds and one in Washington University's Program in Comparative Literature. Together with McGlothlin and Taberner, this team of early-career scholars will design an iterative research process, in which contributors — including Anika Walke , associate professor of history, and Tabea Alexa Linhard , director and professor of global studies and professor of Spanish and comparative literature — will meet frequently online and at in-person workshops and conferences, resulting in cumulative dialogue rather than isolated studies.

“With our collaborative project, which will integrate the cutting-edge research of experts from around the world, we aim to set the tone for the scholarly discourse on the literature of the Holocaust for the next twenty-five years,” McGlothlin said. “This is not only a labor of love for Stuart and me. It also reflects our strong commitment to the future of Holocaust memory.”

more stories from the ampersand:

what is holocaust literature

What historical newspapers can reveal about the spread of racial terror

what is holocaust literature

Five faculty members honored for teaching excellence

what is holocaust literature

'The poem in front of you'

what is holocaust literature

A distinguished legacy

The Holocaust's Uneasy Relationship With Literature


Oxford University Press

Literature and the Holocaust have a complicated relationship. This isn't to say, of course, that the pairing isn't a fruitful one—the Holocaust has influenced, if not defined, nearly every Jewish writer since, from Saul Bellow to Jonathan Safran Foer, and many non-Jews besides, like W.G. Sebald and Jorge Semprun. Still, literature qua art—innately concerned with representation and appropriation—seemingly stands opposed to the immutability of the Holocaust and our oversized obligations to its memory. Good literature makes artistic demands, flexes and contorts narratives, resists limpid morality, compromises reality's details. Regarding the Holocaust, this seems unconscionable, even blasphemous. The horrors of Auschwitz and Buchenwald need no artistic amplification.

Since the genre emerged, this has been the defining stance of Holocaust literature—that a work's verisimilitude, or its truth-value, far outweighs its literary merit. The memoir, the first-person unembellished account, has long been considered the apotheosis of the form. Or even, according to some, the only acceptable form—confining Holocaust literature to documentation, and reflexively censuring everything else for crassly misrepresenting the unrepresentable.

Elie Wiesel—the personification of Holocaust remembrance—is the fiercest exponent of art's illegitimacy with respect to the Holocaust. "Then, [Auschwitz] defeated culture; later, it defeated art," he wrote . "The truth of Auschwitz remains hidden in its ashes." Theodore Adorno's famous dictum, that to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric, has been frequently invoked to criticize any artistic appropriation of the Holocaust.

The apprehension is certainly understandable. The Holocaust is, 60-plus years later, still politicized, and suspect to questionable artistic ambitions and misleading emphases and glosses; the six million deserve unqualified deference, not just our idle respect. Apprehension, however, shouldn't precipitate repudiation; and Holocaust literature's potential shouldn't be understated (or denied), nor its definition misconstrued.

Too many critics, instead of assessing and parsing and criticizing (in the healthiest sense), treat Holocaust works as inviolable, beyond judgment or even approach. Such sacralization is a disservice, smothering the critical dialogue that great literature engenders. Ruth Franklin's new book, A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction , is therefore more than a towering work of criticism and insight—it's an invaluable corrective. Franklin, the in-house critic at The New Republic , seeks to reclaim Holocaust literature as just that—literature about and inspired by the Holocaust—and to reaffirm its significance.

The memoir's primacy over 'standard' literature is misguided for two overlapping reasons: first, the distinction between the two is deceivingly small; and second, their respective functions are aligned. Franklin devotes each chapter to a major Holocaust work (or body of works), from Night to Schindler's List , repeatedly demonstrating just how slippery and arbitrary the division between fact and fiction really is. Because the memoir as unfiltered actuality is a myth. Fickle and unreliable memories must be reconstructed and made coherent; a story's assembly, style, and characterization will inevitably compromise any strict retelling. Emphatically, this does not mean the work is less autobiographically or historically valid —only that it is never pure autobiography or history, and has to be understood and embraced thus. Truth isn't synonymous with historicity, and infidelity to the latter isn't necessarily betrayal of the former.

Even Wiesel's Night , when compared to his autobiography, All Rivers Run to the Sea , betrays some artistic license: Moshe the Beadle is, in fact, a composite character, and much of Wiesel's ordeal was excised and sharpened for Night 's publication. (The original Yiddish manuscript was, Weisel himself reports, more than 800 pages long, about 700 pages longer than the finished product.) The Diary of Anne Frank was edited by Anne herself, then further edited (and censored) by her father, Otto. (Later, playwrights cut and reworked passages for a decidedly more universal and cheery flavor. Diary , in book and stage form, is for many the primary (or only) exposure to the Holocaust, and serves as a cautionary demonstration of art's role in shaping historical perspective. )

The line between novel and memoir, between story and history, is fine indeed. Franklin illustrates how many exemplary (though not necessarily renowned) Holocaust works dance between genres—and are no less valuable for it. In Piotr Rawicz's Blood From the Sky , the narrator (who may or may not be a survivor) patches together a semi-invented character's chaotic manuscript, with dates and names changed or omitted, all amid surrealist elements. W.G. Sebald blends facts and borrows histories and layers narration to produce his masterpieces. Jakob Littners Aufzeichnungen aus einem Erdloch is a book originally believed to be fiction and later discovered to be based on fact (its history is a dizzying stream of authorships, ghost-authorships, translations, and revisions, all superbly traced by Franklin); and despite its shifting context, it retains its value (albeit in various currencies).

Memoirs, even Holocaust memoirs, might be properly understood as, or at least overlapping with, literature. This is no downgrade. Literature is supplementary, not antithetical, to history: it allows, and in the best instances demands readers to universalize, empathize, to visualize and imagine, not merely to be informed. Testimony is critical, of course, as are scholarship and personal histories. The Holocaust is one of the most thoroughly documented events in history, and still entirely resists comprehension. The unadorned facts and uninflected history—pictures, texts, accounts—are almost unbearably distressing. Viewing images of stacked corpses or skimming meticulously organized lists of dead children or hearing of the unlimited fuel for the ovens, what soul doesn't collapse?

Literature, though, affects us in ways that even the most brutal history cannot. It vivifies and propels an event, however geographically and temporally and psychologically removed, towards the personal and immediate. If history teaches and (harshly) informs, then literature rouses and intimately disturbs. Literature is an emotional chronicle, a history of the intangible, a quest to impart sentiment, not information. Conveyance of the Holocaust is an impossible but necessary appeal to our imagination; and literature is the pathos to history's logos. Not merely learning about, but identifying with.

Memoirs are surely part of this legacy. Night's power isn't derived only from its harrowing story, but from its unflinching, deceptively plain delivery of that story, as well. Like other celebrated Holocaust works, it hits a perfect emotional pitch, if you will; notes of tragedy in agonizingly effective arrangement—an arrangement that's measured, appreciated, and felt with literary instruments. Knowing the history isn't enough: literature—and humanism in general—is, as Franklin points out, the spiritual retort to the Nazis' crazed and brutal program of dehumanization. It's more than memory that we must keep alive. Literature reminds us that significance isn't time-dependent, that empathy isn't delimited by proximity, that victims aren't statistics. For the role of Holocaust literature—the eternal role of literature, period—is to make it new again, to make it real, to make it felt.

Holocaust Literature

  • Featured Books
  • Beyond Columbia Library
  • MLA Citations

Profile Photo

Literature Databases

EBSCO icon

Additional Databases for Scholarly Articles

JSTOR icon

Finding Scholarly Articles

"Finding Scholarly Articles," recorded September 2020, 2 minutes.

Related Guides

  • Literature by Hillary Ostermiller Last Updated Oct 13, 2023 145 views this year

Creative Commons License

  • Next: Featured Books >>
  • Last Updated: Oct 31, 2023 10:53 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.colum.edu/holocaustliterature

what is holocaust literature

Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust

Teaching Holocaust history requires a high level of sensitivity and keen awareness of the complexity of the subject matter. The following guidelines reflect approaches appropriate for effective teaching in general and are particularly relevant to Holocaust education.

Define the term “Holocaust.”

The Holocaust was not inevitable.

Avoid simple answers to complex questions.

Strive for precision of language.

Strive to balance the perspectives that inform your study of the Holocaust.

Avoid comparisons of pain.

Avoid romanticizing history.

Contextualize the history.

Translate statistics into people.

Make responsible methodological choices.

Define the Term “Holocaust”

A historically accurate and precise definition of the Holocaust is essential as part of a successful lesson or unit. Defining the Holocaust at the beginning of a unit provides students with a foundation from which they can further explore the history and its lasting influence, identifying who was involved and placing the history into geographical and temporal context. It provides students with sound footing as they confront the question, “What was the Holocaust?”  

Museum educators can connect you with classroom resources and answer questions about teaching the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Was Not Inevitable

The Holocaust took place because individuals, groups, and nations made decisions to act or not to act. Focusing on those decisions leads to insights into history and human nature and fosters critical thinking. Just because a historical event took place, and it is documented in textbooks and on film, does not mean that it had to happen. 

Avoid Simple Answers to Complex Questions

The history of the Holocaust raises difficult questions about human behavior and the context within which individual decisions are made. Be wary of simplification. Seek instead to convey the nuances of this history. Allow students to think about the many factors and events that contributed to the Holocaust and that often made decision making difficult and uncertain.

Strive for Precision of Language

Because of the complexity of the history, there is a temptation to generalize and, thus, to distort the facts (e.g., “all concentration camps were killing centers” or “all Germans were collaborators”). Avoid this by helping your students clarify the information presented and encourage them to distinguish, for example, the differences between prejudice and discrimination, armed and spiritual resistance, direct and assumed orders, concentration camps and killing centers, and guilt and responsibility.

Words that describe human behavior often have multiple meanings. Resistance, for example, usually refers to a physical act of armed revolt. During the Holocaust, it also encompassed partisan activity; the smuggling of messages, food, and weapons; sabotage; and actual military engagement. Resistance may also be thought of as willful disobedience, such as continuing to practice religious and cultural traditions in defiance of the rules or creating art, music, and poetry inside ghettos and concentration camps. For many, simply maintaining the will to live in the face of abject brutality was an act of spiritual resistance.

Try to avoid stereotypical descriptions. Though all Jews were targeted for destruction by the Nazis, the experiences of all Jews were not the same. Remind your students that, although members of a group may share common experiences and beliefs, generalizations about them without benefit of modifying or qualifying terms (e.g., “sometimes,” “usually,” “in many cases but not all”) tend to stereotype group behavior and distort historical reality. Thus, all Germans cannot be characterized as Nazis, nor should any nationality be reduced to a singular or one-dimensional description.

Strive to Balance the Perspectives that Inform Your Study of the Holocaust

Make careful distinctions about sources of information. Encourage students to consider why a source was created, who created it, who the intended audience was, whether any biases were inherent in the information, whether any gaps occurred in discussion, whether omissions were inadvertent or not, and how the information has been used to interpret various events.

Most documentation about the Holocaust comes from the perspective of the perpetrators. In contrast, survivor testimonies and collections humanize individuals in the richness and fullness of their lives. 

Strongly encourage your students to investigate carefully the origin and authorship of all material, particularly anything found on the internet.

See recommendations from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance on teaching and learning about the Holocaust.

Avoid Comparisons of Pain

A study of the Holocaust should always highlight the different policies carried out by the Nazi regime toward various groups of people; however, these distinctions should not be presented as a basis for comparison of the level of suffering between those groups during the Holocaust. One cannot presume that the horror of an individual, family, or community destroyed by the Nazis was any greater than that experienced by victims of other genocides. Avoid generalizations that suggest otherwise. 

Similarly, students may gravitate toward comparisons between aspects of the Holocaust and other historical or contemporary events. Historical events, policies, and human behaviors can and should be carefully analyzed for areas where there may be similarities and differences, but this should be done always with careful consideration of evidence and contextual factors, differentiating between fact, opinion, and belief.

Avoid Romanticizing History

Portray all individuals, including victims and perpetrators, as human beings who are capable of moral judgment and independent decision making. People who risked their lives to rescue victims of Nazi oppression provide compelling role models for students. But given that only a small fraction of non-Jews under Nazi occupation helped rescue Jews, an overemphasis on heroic actions can result in an inaccurate and unbalanced account of the history. Similarly, in exposing students to the worst aspects of human nature as revealed in the history of the Holocaust, you run the risk of fostering cynicism in your students. Accuracy of fact, together with a balanced perspective on the history, is necessary.

Contextualize the History

Events of the Holocaust, and particularly how individuals and organizations behaved at that time, should be placed in historical context. The Holocaust should be studied in the context of European history as a whole to give students a perspective on the precedents and circumstances that may have contributed to it.

Similarly, the Holocaust should be studied within its contemporaneous context so students can begin to comprehend the circumstances that encouraged or discouraged particular actions or events. For example, when thinking about resistance, consider when and where an act took place; the immediate consequences of one’s actions to self and family; the degree of control the Nazis had on a country or local population; the cultural attitudes of particular native populations toward different victim groups historically; and the availability and risk of potential hiding places.

Encourage your students not to categorize groups of people only on the basis of their experiences during the Holocaust; contextualization is critical so that victims are not perceived only as victims. By exposing students to some of the cultural contributions and achievements of 2,000 years of European Jewish life, for example, you help them to balance their perception of Jews as victims and to appreciate more fully the traumatic disruption in Jewish history caused by the Holocaust.

Translate Statistics Into People

In any study of the Holocaust, the sheer number of victims challenges comprehension. Show that individual people—grandparents, parents, and children—are behind the statistics and emphasize the diversity of personal experiences within the larger historical narrative. Precisely because they portray people in the fullness of their lives and not just as victims, first-person accounts and memoir literature add individual voices to a collective experience and help students make meaning out of the statistics.

Make Responsible Methodological Choices

Educators who teach about the Holocaust seek to honestly and accurately investigate a history in which millions of people were dehumanized, brutalized and killed while ensuring a safe classroom environment in which their students can engage in learning and critical thinking. Graphic material should be used judiciously and only to the extent necessary to achieve the lesson objective. Try to select images and texts that do not exploit the students’ emotional vulnerability or that might be construed as disrespectful to the victims themselves. Instead of avoiding important topics because the visual images are graphic, use other approaches to address the material.

In studying complex human behavior, some teachers rely upon simulation exercises meant to help students “experience” unfamiliar situations. Even when great care is taken to prepare a class for such an activity, simulating experiences from the Holocaust remains pedagogically unsound. The activity may engage students, but they often forget the purpose of the lesson and, even worse, they are left with the impression that they now know what it was like to suffer or even to participate during the Holocaust. It is best to draw upon a variety of primary sources, provide survivor testimony, and refrain from simulations or games that lead to a trivialization of the subject matter.

Art projects featuring Nazi imagery, word scrambles, crossword puzzles, counting objects, model building, and gimmicky exercises tend not to encourage critical analysis but lead instead to low-level types of thinking and, in the case of Holocaust curricula, trivialization of the history. If the effects of a particular activity run counter to the rationale for studying the history, then that activity should not be used.

This Section

what is holocaust literature

Explore lesson plans and training materials organized by theme to use in your classroom.

  • Online Tools for Learning and Teaching

Trending Topics:

  • Say Kaddish Daily Online
  • Live Jewish Meditation on Tuesdays

what is holocaust literature

10 Holocaust Books You Should Read

Though not as well known as Anne Frank's diary or Elie Wiesel's works, these texts will increase your understanding of the Shoah.

By Zachary C. Solomon

When German philosopher Theodor Adorno famously said that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,” he meant that there was no way aesthetics—or art—could live up to the barbarism of the Holocaust. Maybe he was right. But here are 10 lesser-known texts that can, at the very least, increase our understanding—and our empathy.

Badenheim 1939 by Aharon Appelfeld

One of the great Hebrew novels, Badenheim 1939 was beloved writer Appelfeld’s first novel to be published in English in 1980. It revolves around a fictional, mostly Jewish resort town in Austria, in which the Nazis, never explicitly mentioned, are disguised in the abstract as the “Sanitation Department,” a specter that drives the Jewish vacationers to distraction. Appelfeld was a survivor himself — and every word he wrote rings true.

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder

Yale historian Snyder’s 2010 book explores the messy intersection between Hitler’s Final Solution and Stalin’s vicious ideology that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 14 million people throughout Europe’s “bloodlands”: Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and the Baltics. Snyder’s hypothesis is profound, but simple: The Nazis weren’t just the “villains,” and the Soviets weren’t just the “heroes.” Rather, neither regime could have murdered as many as it did without the aiding and abetting of the other. An important history lesson often overlooked.

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt

A towering book by a towering figure, theorist and critic, Arendt’s most famous work chronicles Adolf Eichmann ’s 1961 trial in Jerusalem. Famous for the coining of the phrase “the banality of evil,” which refers to the moral and emotional detachment Eichmann displayed, this book is so much more: a dense, exploratory treatise on the nature of humanity.

Five Chimneys by Olga Lengyel

Lengyel was a surgical assistant in Transylvania when she was deported to Auschwitz; she was able to secure work in an infirmary, a job that ultimately saved her life. This 1946 memoir is an unflinching account of her time in that area, her interactions with Dr. Josef Mengele  and her observations of the medical experiments performed on inmates. A deeply uncomfortable read, Lengyel’s memoir is a necessary living, breathing document.

King of the Jews by Leslie Epstein

Leslie Epstein’s greatest novel, this 1979 book gives a fictional account of Chaim Rumkowski, the Polish Jew appointed by the Nazis as the head of the Council of Elders (known as the Judenrat) in the Łódź Ghetto during the occupation of Poland. Rumkowski was seen as a villain, famous for his role in delivering children to the Nazis for extermination.

Ponary Diary, 1941-1943 by Kazimierz Sakowicz

In 1939, Sakowicz, a non-Jewish Polish newspaperman, moved to a cottage in the Lithuanian suburb of Ponary. From his backyard, through the trees, he could see a clearing. In that clearing, from 1941 to 1943, between 50,000 and 60,000 Jews were murdered by Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators. Published in English in 2005, Sakowicz’s diary is the most unflinching record of death you will ever read—and the fact that he isn’t entirely sympathetic makes it all the more difficult.

The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn

That this gripping story of memory and tragedy won both the 1996 National Jewish Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle award should clue you in to how extraordinary this book is. What begins, familiarly, as the story of a young boy learning about the tragic but mysterious fate of his relatives in the Holocaust, ends in a continent-spanning labyrinth, a sad and seductive tale of near mythic proportions.

The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. by George Steiner

Easily the strangest book on this list, literary critic and philosopher Steiner’s experimental 1981 novella chronicles a revised history in which Hitler survives and goes into hiding for 30 years in the Amazon jungle. The novel caused a stir at the time, as Steiner lets Hitler speak for himself: Hitler’s argument that the existence of Israel is due to him, and that Jews should be thankful was, to say the least, a hard pill to swallow.

This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski

Introduced to the American public in the early 1960s by Philip Roth , Borowski’s spellbinding short story collection was based on the writer’s two-year incarceration at Auschwitz as a political prisoner. Borowski, who was a non-Jewish Polish journalist, provides a perspective on camp life quite different from the more common survivor narratives.

Underground in Berlin: A Young Woman’s Extraordinary Tale of Survival in the Heart of Nazi Germany by Marie Jalowicz Simon

On June 22, 1942, Simon had a choice: submit to the Berlin gestapo and face deportation, or run. She chose the latter. Underground in Berlin is, among other things, a fascinating portrait of the Berliners who helped Marie survive for the three years she spent hiding in plain sight using fake papers and a borrowed identity.

Join Our Newsletter

Empower your Jewish discovery, daily

Discover More

what is holocaust literature

Shopping Guides

10 Holocaust Memoirs You Should Read

These first-person accounts of Jewish survival and resilience during the Holocaust are powerful, educational and moving.

Israeli Literature: Reading List

A Reader's Guide: Hebrew Literature in Translation

what is holocaust literature

Nazi Propaganda in the Holocaust

How the Third Reich spread racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Bolshevism.

Search the Holocaust Encyclopedia

  • Animated Map
  • Discussion Question
  • Media Essay
  • Oral History
  • Timeline Event
  • Clear Selections
  • Bahasa Indonesia
  • Português do Brasil

Featured Content

Find topics of interest and explore encyclopedia content related to those topics

Find articles, photos, maps, films, and more listed alphabetically

For Teachers

Recommended resources and topics if you have limited time to teach about the Holocaust

Explore the ID Cards to learn more about personal experiences during the Holocaust

Timeline of Events

Explore a timeline of events that occurred before, during, and after the Holocaust.

  • Introduction to the Holocaust
  • Antisemitism in History: From the Early Church to 1400
  • Euthanasia Program and Aktion T4
  • How Many People did the Nazis Murder?
  • Sobibor Uprising
  • Postwar Trials
  • How did postwar trials shape approaches to international justice?

what is holocaust literature

We would like to thank Crown Family Philanthropies and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors .

Danish rescue boat [LCID: 19986oym]

Featured Article

German policies varied from country to country, including direct, brutal occupation and reliance upon collaborating regimes. Until 1943, the German occupation regime took a relatively benign approach to Denmark.

Article Introduction to the Holocaust

Article antisemitism in history: from the early church to 1400, article euthanasia program and aktion t4, article how many people did the nazis murder, article sobibor uprising, article warsaw, article denmark, article postwar trials, discussion question how did postwar trials shape approaches to international justice, explore the encyclopedia.

Overview item image

Learn more about personal experiences during the Holocaust

Overview item image

Discussion Questions

How and why was the Holocaust possible?

Literary Theory and Criticism

Home › Literature On The Holocaust

Literature On The Holocaust

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on July 23, 2018 • ( 2 )

The depiction of the events of the Holocaust through fiction, drama and poetry. Some literature about the Holocaust is written as historical fiction that closely follows actual events, adding only imaginary dialogue that is consistent with those events. Other writing is much more removed from the actual course of events, and uses allegory and other a-historical literary devices to get its point across.

Both Jews and non-Jews have written about aspects of the Holocaust in the French language, especially about the camps. Charlotte Delbo and Jorge Semprun are among the best known non-Jews who have written in this vein. The works of Elie Wiesel are probably the best known pieces of Holocaust literature written in French by a Jewish writer. His first publication, actually written in Yiddish and published in French in 1958, was La Nuit (published in English in 1964 as Night ). This novel, which has since been translated into many additional languages, is almost autobiographical. Wiesel’s later works transcend the real-life Holocaust experience and depict a poetic universe rooted in Jewish tradition. Another important French Jewish author is Anna Langfus who, in The Whole Land Brimstone (published in English in 1962), is extremely realistic in her depiction of the concentration camp universe. One of the most significant allegorical works about the Holocaust, The Last of the Just (published in English in 1961), was written by Andre Schwarz-Bart. Using the Jewish folk tradition concerning the role of 36 righteous people in maintaining the world, he explores the significance of the sanctification of God’s name. Other important French Jewish writers who began publishing about the Holocaust in the first three decades after the war include Romain Gary, Jean-Francois Steiner, and Henri Raczymov. In the last decade of the twentieth century several new authors published fiction in French about the Holocaust, including Johan Bourret, Jean Malaquais, Fanny Levy and Yael Hassan.

Through the end of the 1980s, most German fiction writers chose to avoid Holocaust themes. Prior to the 1980s, the best known author to have dealt with the Nazi regime (although not directly with the Holocaust) was probably Gunther Grass. Somewhat less known was Jacob Lind, who dealt more directly with Jewish themes in his writing. Until the 1970s those Germans who wrote about the Nazi period generally portrayed both perpetrators and victims in a two-dimensional fashion. This rather black and white presentation of events is evident in Rolf Hochhuth’s The Deputy (published in English in 1964). Hochhuth’s work, a damning fictional presentation of the moral failure of Pope Pius XII to help the Jews, incited much discussion when it first came out. In Peter Weiss’s drama, The Investigation (published in English in 1964), the theme raised about the personal responsibility of the perpetrators is heavy, but does not really probe the depths of Nazi criminality. In the 1990s many literary works were published in German about the Holocaust, both original German works and translations into German. Some like The Reader by Bernhard Schlink reached a wide audience, and were made into films. German language poets have also addressed the Holocaust. One of the most powerful poems ever written about the murder of the Jews is Paul Celan’s Todesfuge, or Death Fugue , with its haunting refrain: “death is the master in Germany.”


It is not surprising that the Holocaust is the main theme or a secondary theme in hundreds of works of literature in Hebrew. Some of Israel’s most highly regarded and best-selling authors have written about the Holocaust, including Dan Ben Amotz, David Grossman, Haim Guri, Savyon Liebrecht, Aharon Meged, Uri Orlev, Amos Oz, and Dan Pagis. Others, such as Yehiel Dinur (known as Ka-Tzetnik) and Aharon Appelfeld, are famous specifically for their Holocaust writings. In addition, many Hebrew works about the Holocaust have been translated into other languages. The Holocaust has also made its imprint on the Hebrew drama. Hebrew playwrights such as Motti Lerner and Yehoshua Sobol have addressed controversial issues, such as collaboration with the Nazis and the existence of theatres in the ghettos.

Hebrew poetry on the Holocaust has been created by three generations of poets. The first generation—the poets of the 1940s—was far removed from the scene of the crime. These poets did not write firsthand; they wrote on the basis of what they sensed of the dread of the Holocaust. The second generation witnessed the creation of the state of Israel. Most of these poets abandoned the direct approach of the first generation of Hebrew Holocaust poets, and instead searched for indirect means of expressing the horror. Poets like Abba Kovner, Dan Pagis, Itamar Yaoz-Kest, and Yaakov Besser, who personally experienced World War II in their early childhood or youth, express both the personal and the national trauma of the Holocaust. The third generation of Hebrew poets to write about the Holocaust consists of children of Holocaust survivors.

In Poland, there was a wave of writing about the Holocaust immediately after the war, but during the Stalinist period that lasted until 1956, these writers were essentially silenced. After a wave of Polish Antisemitism in the late 1960s, Polish literature devoted greater attention to the subject of JewishPolish relations during the Holocaust. The major figure that has preoccupied Polish Holocaust literature is that of Janusz Korczak. Since the fall of the Communist regime, many works of fiction and poetry have been published. Among the most heart-wrenching works to appear in Polish in the last decade (also translated into English and Hebrew) are those of Ida Fink. Her short stories discuss the terrible choices, or lack thereof, which Jews faced during the Nazi period. In works written in Polish, as well as in Yiddish and occasionally in Hebrew, the borderline between literature and historical documentation is often blurred, especially when those works were created during or immediately after the war. The Polish writings of Tadeusz Borowski, such as This Way to the Gas Ladies and Gentlemen (published in English in 1967), are especially noteworthy.

The amount of literature on the Holocaust that has appeared in English (both as original works and in translation) is immense. It reflects the tremendous surge of interest that began in the United States in the last three decades of the twentieth century. As a group, Americans have confronted the Holocaust through the eyes of others, with only immigrant survivors and some soldiers having had direct contact with its horror. The first American encounter with the Holocaust can be found in the writings of returning American soldiers. The horror of their encounter so exceeded the grasp of the imagination that the language that tried to contain it was often stretched to its limits. This can be seen in the works of John Hersey ( The Wall , 1950), Bernard Malamud (The Assistant, 1957), and Lewis Wallant ( The Pawnbroker , 1961). In the two decades following the Eichmann Trial, a kind of “fascination with Nazism” led to the flourishing of an American literature on the Holocaust. Around this time, but more so from the mid-1970s onward, the voices of the survivors began to be heard. Elie Wiesel, whose works were translated into English, has arguably made the greatest impact on the American reading public. Primo Levi’s writings have also been widely read. In addition, best-selling writers, Jews and non-Jews, have used the Holocaust or the Nazi camps as a theme in their works. Among them are Saul Bellow ( Mr. Sammler’s Planet , 1972), William Styron (Sophie’s Choice, 1979), Cynthia Ozik ( The Shawl , 1989), Louis Begley ( The Man Who Was Late , 1993), Pat Conroy ( Beach Music , 1996), and Belva Plain ( Legacy of Silence , 1998). In the last decade of the twentieth century the impact of Holocaust literature has been so great that its study has become a staple course at many universities and colleges in the United States.


The flourishing of modern Yiddish literature was halted by the Holocaust. Nevertheless, Yiddish literature continued to be written in the ghettos and camps, and it played an important public role in providing spiritual sustenance to the ghetto population. Little is known about the Yiddish literature created in the extermination camps, as it was hard to find a hiding place for literary works in the camps, and even those authors who survived came back emptyhanded. Still, a few of the works created in the camps were saved, such as Zalman Gradowski’s In Harts fun Gehenem ( In the Heart of Hell ). The texts of songs sung in Chelmno, Treblinka, Auschwitz , and other extermination camps were published by Nahum Blumenthal. Literature and poetry on the Holocaust have appeared in many other languages, as well, both as original creations and in translation. There is a significant body of books in Czech, Dutch, Hungarian, Italian, Russian and Serbo-Croatian. Books have also appeared in most of the other European languages, including Finnish, Ladino and Greek.

Source: https://www.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/Microsoft%20Word%20-%206409.pdf

Share this:

Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: Anna Langfus , Charlotte Delbo , Fanny Levy , Holocaust Literature , In the Heart of Hell , Janusz Korczak , Jean Malaquais , Johan Bourret , John Hersey , Jorge Semprun , La Nuit , Lewis Wallant , Literary Theory , Literature On The Holocaust , Nahum Blumenthal , Rolf Hochhuth , Tadeusz Borowski , The Deputy , The Last of the Just , The Whole Land Brimstone , Trauma Theory , Yael Hassan , Zalman Gradowski

Related Articles

what is holocaust literature

Thanks a lot for this blog

  • Critical Theory | Literary Theory and Criticism

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Mitch Albom talks new Holocaust novel 'The Little Liar' before Naples visit in December

what is holocaust literature

Author and columnist Mitch Albom has written a novel that's relevant now more than ever, with a look back on one of the darkest chapters in human history.

Albom in "The Little Liar" delves into the Holocaust with a story that moves along swiftly with four main characters who stay connected over time. The book, which publishes Nov. 14, will certainly become another best-seller for Albom, whose "Tuesdays with Morrie" remains the best-selling memoir ever.

The columnist for the Detroit Free Press, which is part of the USA Today Network along with the Naples Daily News and The News-Press of Fort Myers, discussed "The Little Liar" on Oct. 24 in a FaceTime interview.

Albom will speak Dec. 3 at the Greater Naples Jewish Book Festival.

How 'The Little Liar' is different from other Holocaust books

"I'd always been looking for a story set during World War II and during the Holocaust but I felt there had been so many books already written about that, that I was kind of hard-pressed to find a new angle," he said.

"I didn't want to just write another book that took place during the concentration camps. There's just been so many done like that."

Albom recounted a story he heard years ago from a woman who said, when they got on the train tracks to head to concentration camps, there were Jewish people the Nazis had forced into saying, "It's safe, it's OK to go.' And because they were Jewish people, we trusted them."

"And I remember thinking, how awful to use people against you like that," Albom said. "So that became the germ of the story."

Why truth is a main theme in 'The Little Liar'

Albom said he arrived at the idea to write the book eight or nine years ago. While there's been a rise in antisemitism in recent years, and the Oct. 7 massacre of Israelis, that happened after Albom settled on the story two years ago.

However, he took note of how truth has become less important to some in recent years. Albom drove that home by making Truth the narrator of "The Little Liar."

"As I've watched over the years how truth has become kind of a relative term now in our society, I knew that it was a subject that I could do a larger book about," he said.

That is when Albom said he decided to explore the Truth theme and connected that to the Holocaust, which also reverberates with people today.

Not-so brotherly love among two main characters

Two of the book's four main characters are Nico and his older brother, Sebastian. Nico is "the little liar," while Sebastian is often jealous of his younger brother who can do no wrong.

For Albom, the bond and rivalry between brothers was something he knew well.

“I have a brother, and I’m an older brother and the more responsible one because I was older," Albom said. "And my brother was cute and got away with stuff, and I would be like, how is he getting away with that and I can’t get away with that."

Writing about the Holocaust

Growing up, Albom said he knew firsthand about the Holocaust through its survivors in his family and community.

"In my neighborhood, there were a couple of people ― women ― who would always wear their sweaters pulled down over their wrists to cover the numbers," said Albom, who is of Jewish descent.

"I didn’t know that was why until I asked my mother. And she said, well, they have these numbers and they don’t want people to see them.

“So I was always aware of it. And it’s in my family and extended family, Holocaust survivors. You don’t have to go far to hear stories of that and I’m old enough to remember when that was very present, growing up the ‘60s and hearing people less than 20 years earlier who had escaped concentration camps."

Why Albom choose Greece as the setting for part of the book

With so many books written about the Holocaust, Albom wanted to find a new angle in writing his.

So the story begins in the town of Salonika, Greece, where thousands of Jewish people were sent to their deaths in concentration camps. Few may know the story of the Greek Jews, with nearly 90 percent of them killed by the Nazis ― one of the highest proportions in Europe.

Albom also spent a summer in Greece after he graduated from college and came to love the people and their culture.

What Albom hopes people learn from 'The Little Liar'

There’s two things Albom said he hopes readers take away from his new novel.

"One obviously is the precious value of the truth and the damage that we do when we pervert the truth," he said.

"The second is forgiveness and what people will do. Nico spends his whole life basically trying to make up for one mistake, and a terrible mistake.”

And “he goes to enormous lengths that people don’t know about to basically be forgiven," Albom said.

For those attending the Naples book festival, what can they expect

Albom’s tour will bring him to Florida for book signings in November in Miami and Palm Beach Gardens, then Dec. 3 in Naples and Dec. 4 in Sarasota for the People of the Book event at the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.

At the Naples event, Albom said, he will have an audio and video presentation related to his career, while also discussing "The Little Liar" and "Tuesdays with Morrie," which remains popular with audiences.

“I really enjoy book tours. A lot of authors complain about them. I consider it a privilege," Albom said.

"Writing is a very lonely art. You don’t get to bounce things off of people very much. It should be, I hope, an enjoyable evening for people who like writing or like books.”

Naples writer: Oprah selects Florida author Nathan Hill for her latest book club pick. What to know

How to attend the book festival

Albom kicks off the book festival’s ninth season at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Nina Iser  Jewish Cultural Center  in Naples, 4720 Pine Ridge Road.

The $40 admission fee includes a copy of Albom’s latest book, “The Little Liar,” to be published Nov. 14. For more information, visit JewishNaples.org .

Dave Osborn is the regional features editor of the Naples Daily News and News-Press. Follow him on Instagram and Threads @lacrossewriter.


What is the Holocaust?

In the course of the Second World War, the Nazis murdered nearly six million European Jews. This genocide is called the Holocaust. Here, you can read about its causes and backgrounds, the stages of the Holocaust, and the perpetrators. Koen Smilde

Holocaust or Shoah?

The word ‘holocaust’ comes from ancient Greek and means ‘burnt offering’. Even before the Second World War, the word was sometimes used to describe the death of a large group of people, but since 1945, it has become almost synonymous with the murder of the European Jews during the Second World War. That's why we use the term 'the Holocaust'. Jews also refer to it with the word ‘Shoah’, which is Hebrew for 'catastrophe'.

Causes of the Holocaust

The Holocaust has a number of causes. Its direct cause is the fact that the Nazis wanted to exterminate the Jews and that they were able to do so. But their lust for murder didn't come out of nowhere. The antisemitic Nazi ideology must be considered in the broader context of the age-old hostility towards Jews, modern racism, and nationalism.

Jews in Europe have been discriminated against and persecuted for hundreds of years, often for religious reasons. For a start, they were held responsible for the death of Christ. In the Middle Ages, they were often made to live outside the community in separate neighbourhoods or ghettos and were excluded from some professions. In times of unrest, Jews were often singled out as scapegoats. During the plague pandemic around 1350, Jews were expelled and persecuted. In Russia, after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, there were outbreaks of violence in which groups of Jews were mistreated or murdered. With the rise of racially inspired ideologies in the nineteenth century, the idea arose that Jews belonged to a different race and were therefore not part of 'the people' or the nation.

In 1918, Germany lost the First World War. Right-wing extremists blamed the Jews. They also accused the Jews of being capitalist exploiters who profited at the expense of others. At the same time, the Jews were accused of being followers of communism who were after world domination by means of a revolution.

Yet there is no straight line from the antisemitism of the Nazis to the Holocaust. In his book Mein Kampf and his speeches, Hitler never made a secret of his hatred of the Jews and his opinion that there was no place for them in Germany, but initially, he had no plans for mass murder. Only after the outbreak of the Second World War did the Nazi top conceive of the idea and the possibility of murdering the European Jews. The Holocaust can, therefore, best be seen as the outcome of a series of decisions, influenced by circumstances. Sometimes the initiative came from lower placed Nazis, who were looking for extreme solutions to the problems they faced. Competition between different government departments also led to increasingly radical measures against the Jews. But in the end, nothing went against Hitler's wishes and he was the one who made the final decisions.

Expelling the Jews from Germany

Between 1933 and 1939, the Nazis made life in Germany increasingly impossible for the Jews. Jews fell victim to discrimination, exclusion, robbery, and violence. The Nazis sometimes killed Jews, but not systematically or with the intention of killing all Jews.

At that point, the main goal of the Nazis was to remove the Jews from Germany by allowing them to emigrate. To encourage them to do so, they took away their livelihoods. Jews were no longer allowed to work in certain professions. They were no longer allowed in some pubs or public parks. In 1935, the Nuremberg Racial Laws came into force. Jews were forbidden to marry non-Jews. Jews also lost their citizenship, which officially turned them into second-class citizens with fewer rights than non-Jews.

In 1938, the Nazis organised pogroms all over Germany: the Kristallnacht (Crystal Night). Jewish houses, synagogues, and shops were destroyed and thousands of Jewish people were imprisoned in concentration camps. When the war broke out in September 1939, about 250,000 Jews fled Germany because of the violence and discrimination. 

The Second World War: Radicalisation of the persecution of the Jews

The German invasion of Poland in September 1939 heralded a new, more radical phase in the persecution of the Jews. The war had made emigration all but impossible. The occupation of Poland meant that 1.7 million Polish Jews were now under German rule.  They were housed in ghettos, Jewish housing estates, which looked more like prisons. Several families often shared a single house. They went hungry and lacked medical care. The Jews were not allowed to leave the ghetto without permission, and they sometimes had to do forced labour. Moreover, during the first months of the occupation of Poland, the Germans executed thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish citizens.

During this period, the Nazis were planning to deport the Jews from the occupied territories to reservations in Poland or to the territory of the Soviet Union after its planned conquest. An alternative plan entailed deporting Jews to the island of Madagascar. It should be noted that the Nazi plans did not include provisions regarding their accommodation or other living facilities, although they did go into the seizure of Jewish property. This suggests that the Nazis counted on high mortality rates among the Jews.

Invasion in the Soviet Union: mass executions of Jews

In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Hitler declared a war of destruction on Germany’s ideological enemy, the communist regime. The army command was notified that war crimes would not be punished and that they had permission to execute all criminal suspects without trial. By expelling, killing, or starving the population of the Soviet Union, the Germans want to create Lebensraum : a colony for Germans.

Behind the German military lines, the Einsatzgruppen sprang into action. These were special killing units charged with the task of killing communist officials, partisans, and Jewish men between the ages of 15 and 60. Their actions were officially intended to prevent resistance. From August 1941 onwards, however, the Einsatzgruppen frequently also killed old people, women, and children. Their murders could hardly be considered 'retaliations'.

The Jews in the Occupied Territories were usually ordered to report to a central point, often on the pretext of deportation, or they were rounded up during raids. Then the Nazis would then take them to a remote place where they were executed. In 1941 alone, close to 900,000 Soviet Jews were murdered in this way. 

The decision to resort to genocide

Historians disagree about the moment when Hitler decided that all European Jews should be killed. A signed order to do so does not exist. However, based on other sources and events, there is a strong likelihood that the decision was made somewhere in the second half of 1941.

Mass murder seems an extreme alternative to the previous plans for deportation. The war made it impossible to deport Jews to Madagascar, and the plan to push the Jews back further to the east could not be carried out because the victory over the Soviet Union was not forthcoming. And so, the 'final solution to the Jewish question’ took the form of genocide. During the Wannsee Conference, on 20 January 1942, Nazi officials discussed the execution of the planned murder of the eleven million Jews living in Europe.

Aktion Reinhard: The first extermination camps

In late 1941, the Nazis began preparing for the murder of more than two million Jews living in the General Government, the occupied part of Poland. The Nazis also experimented with mass murder in other occupied and annexed areas of Eastern Europe. In Chelmno, they introduced the use of gas to kill Polish Jews. This method was faster and considered less ‘aggravating' for the SS officers involved than shooting people.

Under the code name Aktion Reinhard , the Nazis built several extermination camps: Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. Here, the victims were murdered in gas chambers with diesel engine exhaust fumes immediately upon arrival.

The only purpose of the extermination camps was to kill people. Only a small number of Jews were kept alive to help with the killing process. In November 1943, Aktion Reinhard was terminated. The camps were disassembled and the bodies of the victims were excavated and burned. The Nazis then planted trees on the grounds to wipe out their crimes. At least 1.75 million Jews were murdered during Aktion Reinhard . 

Deportations from all over Europe to Auschwitz

In the middle of 1942, the Germans began deporting Jews from the occupied territories in Western Europe. The decision-making process and dynamics differed from one country to the next, as did the numbers of victims. 104,000 Jews were deported from the Netherlands; in Belgium and France, the numbers were relatively and absolutely lower. There are several reasons for this difference.

The Jews were crammed in overcrowded cattle wagons and transported to Eastern Europe. Most of them ended up at Auschwitz-Birkenau, but there were other concentration or extermination camps. Out of the 101,800 Dutch Jews who were murdered, 34,000 were killed in Sobibor.

Auschwitz-Birkenau was both a labour camp and an extermination camp. And so, upon arrival, the Jews were selected according to their age, health, and ability to work. Those who were not fit enough were gassed immediately. The others had to do forced labour under barbaric conditions. The work was extremely hard, the little food was of poor quality, hygiene was poor, and Jews were often maltreated. This programme is therefore also referred to as ‘extermination through labour’.

Jews were brought in from other occupied parts of Europe. In 1943 and 1944, deportations started from the occupied regions in Italy, Hungary, Greece, and the Balkans. Only when the Allies were drawing near, by end of 1944, did the persecution of the Jews slowly come to a halt. In the last months of the war, thousands of Jews and other prisoners died during the 'death marches' after the Germans had evacuated the concentration camps to prevent the prisoners from falling into the hands of the Allied troops. Even after liberation, people still died of malnutrition, disease, and exhaustion.

The other victims of the Nazis

The Nazis did not just kill Jews during the war. Their political opponents, Jehovah's Witnesses, the handicapped, homosexuals, Slavs, and Roma and Sinti were also murdered on a large scale. Nevertheless, the murder of the European Jews takes a special place. Numerically speaking, they were the largest group of victims. Moreover, the Nazis set out to exterminate the entire Jewish people.

The only other group they intended to wipe out as a whole were the Roma and Sinti, although the Nazis were slightly less fanatical in their persecution. They murdered 200.000 - 500,000 Roma and Sinti from Germany and the occupied territories. The Roma and Sinti call this massacre porajmos , 'the devouring'.

Who were the perpetrators?

The main perpetrators of the Holocaust were the Nazis who planned and carried out the mass murder. Still, they could never have done this without the support and help of millions of Germans and others. Virtually all government agencies were complicit to some extent. There was little protest from the population, although it should be noted that the Third Reich was a dictatorship without free speech.

The allies of Nazi Germany were often guilty of killing Jews themselves or of deporting them to Germany. In some cases, they succumbed to German pressure, in others, they did not deport their own citizens, but only Jews with foreign passports.

Throughout the occupied territories, there were numerous collaborators, who reported Jews to the Germans or helped the Germans to find Jews in hiding. Government agencies often followed the orders of the Germans and cooperated in the arrest and deportation of Jews. Sometimes they did so in order to prevent worse from happening, but their actions often had fatal consequences for the Jews. In Eastern Europe, some people sided with the Germans to join them in the fight against the hated Soviet regime. The Germans sometimes recruited personnel for the extermination camps among Soviet prisoners of war, for whom this was their only chance to escape death.

People collaborated with the Germans for a variety of reasons. Antisemitic ideas often played a role, but not always. Some people had personal scores to settle. Others reported Jews out of greed, hoping that they would be able to seize their possessions. Fear of the Germans sometimes kept people from helping the Jews.

Who knew about the Holocaust?

It is difficult to determine how many people knew that the Jews were being murdered during the war. Few will have realised the full extent of the Nazi crimes. Yet in many cases, the population was aware of what was going on, at least to some extent.

In Germany, the plan to murder all Jews was officially a secret, but due to the enormous number of people involved, rumours started circulating before long. Soldiers stationed in the east wrote about the executions in their letters home and took photographs. Many others were involved in processing the Jewish possessions that were left behind after the deportations.

The Germans did not know as much about the extermination camps. Their existence was deliberately kept secret from the outside world. Still, the local population near places of execution, ghettos, and camps knew what was happening. In the rest of the occupied territories, this knowledge was less public, although it was clear that deportation to the so-called 'labour camps’ did not bode well for the Jews.

Reports on the murder of Jews reached the Allied countries from 1942 onwards, but the effect was limited, partly because they were often based on ‘hearsay’ and they reached the other side of the ocean with great delay. Besides, the Nazi crimes were so inconceivable that few could believe that the reports were not exaggerated. Only when the Allies liberated the concentration and extermination camps did the world fully realise the extent of the crime that had taken place.


  • Arad, Yitzhak, ‘”Operation Reinhard”: Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka,’ Yad Vashem Studies XVI, (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem 1984) 205-239.
  • Benz, Wolfgang, Der Holocaust (München: C.H. Beck 2005, 6e druk).
  • Browning, Christopher,  The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 2004).
  • Cesarani, David, Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933 - 1949 (Londen: Macmillan 2016).
  • Evans, Richard J., The Third Reich at War (Londen: Allen Lane, 2008).
  • Friedländer, Saul, Nazi Germany and the Jews. Vol. I: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939 (New York: HarperCollins 1997).
  • Friedländer, Saul, Nazi Germany and the Jews. Vol.II: The Years of Extermination, 1939-1945 (Londen: Wiedenfeld & Nicholson 2007).
  • Fritzsche, Peter, Life and Death in the Third Reich (Cambridge: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press 2008).
  • Gerlach, Christian, The Extermination of the European Jews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2016).
  • Kuwalek, Robert, Das Vernichtungslager Belzec (Berlijn: Metropol Verlag 2013).
  • Laqueur, Walter, The Terrible Secret. Suppression of the Truth About Hitler’s “Final Solution” (New York: Owl Books 1998).
  • Longerich, Peter, Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2010).
  • Novick, Peter, The Holocaust and Collective Memory (Londen: Bloomsbury 2001).
  • Pohl, Dieter, Holocaust. Die Ursachen – das Geschehen – die Folgen (Freiburg: Herder 2000).
  • Snyder, Timothy, Bloodlands. Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books 2010).
  • Wachsmann, Nikolaus, KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2015).


  1. Introducing the Holocaust: A Graphic Guide by Haim Bresheeth (English

    what is holocaust literature

  2. Art from the Holocaust: The stories behind the images

    what is holocaust literature

  3. The Holocaust: Who are the missing million?

    what is holocaust literature

  4. Heroes of the Holocaust by Lyn Smith

    what is holocaust literature

  5. Holocaust in Literature for Youth: A Guide and Resource Book by

    what is holocaust literature

  6. The Holocaust Museum: A timeline

    what is holocaust literature


  1. Revised Holocaust Video

  2. Roundtable: Translating the Holocaust


  1. Holocaust Literature

    For the purposes of this article, Holocaust literature encompasses a broad range of documentary and fictional texts, including memoirs, diaries, essays, novels, poetry, drama, fake memoirs, and children's literature as well as critical, theoretical, and philosophical reflections on this writing and on the Holocaust more broadly.

  2. Holocaust Literature

    Within critical and literary writing, the Holocaust is a vastly represented 20th-century event. Literary responses to history include fiction and autobiography written by survivors with compulsions to communicate the Holocaust, as well as writers with no direct experience who also share this compulsion.

  3. Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide on JSTOR


  4. Holocaust Literature

    Literature by and about women and the Holocaust explores the impact of the Nazi genocide on women during and after the war, its impact on subsequent generations, and the reflections of women on the implications of the Holocaust. Encompassing a range of literary genres, including fiction, poetry, drama and memoir, women's Holocaust writing explores the intersection of history, imagination ...

  5. Holocaust Literature: a History and Guide

    What is Holocaust literature? When does it begin and how is it changing? Is there an essential core of diaries, eyewitness accounts of the concentration camps, tales of individual survival in hiding? Is it the same everywhere: in the West as in the East, in Australia as in the Americas, in poetry as in prose?

  6. A Guide to Jewish Studies: Literature

    From the vast emigration of Jews out of Eastern Europe to the Holocaust to the creation of Israel, the twentieth century transformed Jewish life. This was true, also, of writing: the novels, plays, poems, and memoirs of Jewish writers provided intimate access to new worlds of experience.

  7. Holocaust Literature Guide

    The guide to Holocaust literature places texts in historical context, encouraging students to understand how and why the Holocaust happened. Grade level: Adaptable for grades 7-12 Subject: English/Language Arts Time required: Approximately 60 minutes to introduce Before the Reading. Student work continues while they read the text.

  8. Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide, Roskies, Diamant

    What is Holocaust literature? When does it begin and how is it changing? Is there an essential core that consists of diaries, eyewitness accounts of the concentration camps, and tales of individual survival? Is it the same everywhere: West and East, in Australia as in the Americas, in poetry as in prose?

  9. Holocaust Literature

    Postwar Literature. Between 1945 and the end of the 1960s, literary treatments of the Holocaust were dominated by the writings of survivors. The works of first-generation authors represent the difficulties they faced when trying to comprehend the enormity of what they had experienced.

  10. Holocaust Literature : A History and Guide

    Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide David G. Roskies, Naomi Diamant UPNE, 2012 - History - 355 pages What is Holocaust literature? When does it begin and how is it changing? Is there an...

  11. Rethinking the complicated history of Holocaust literature

    The field of Holocaust literature also examines works that focus on the aftermath of these events as well as their continued relevance for contemporary society and culture. Literary responses to the Holocaust have significantly shaped global awareness of the Holocaust.

  12. Literature and the Holocaust: A Review Essay

    LITERATURE AND THE HOLOCAUST: A REVIEW ESSAY* It can't be told in words And it can't be weighed in silver How the barber works in his doorway All light and razor and foam. -Nathan Alterman from "Vanity Songs" The uniqueness of the Holocaust makes special claims upon write about it, whether the writer is historian, artist, or literary

  13. Holocaust

    Holocaust, the systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children and millions of others by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. Today the Holocaust is viewed as the emblematic manifestation of absolute evil. Learn more about the Holocaust in this article.

  14. The Holocaust in the arts and popular culture

    (July 2021) The Holocaust has been a prominent subject of art and literature throughout the second half of the twentieth century. There is a wide range of ways-including dance, film, literature, music, and television-in which the Holocaust has been represented in the arts and popular culture. Dance

  15. Introduction to the Holocaust: Literature Overview & Paired Texts

    Holocaust is a word of Greek origin meaning "sacrifice by fire.". The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community. During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also ...

  16. The Holocaust's Uneasy Relationship With Literature

    Literature and the Holocaust have a complicated relationship. This isn't to say, of course, that the pairing isn't a fruitful one—the Holocaust has influenced, if not defined, nearly every...

  17. Articles

    Additional Databases for Scholarly Articles. Academic journals, books, and primary sources in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. This resource provides full text of journals, books, and other published humanities sources from around the world. Includes scholarly and peer-reviewed articles across a wide range of subject areas.

  18. Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust

    Teaching Holocaust history requires a high level of sensitivity and keen awareness of the complexity of the subject matter. The following guidelines reflect approaches appropriate for effective teaching in general and are particularly relevant to Holocaust education. Define the term "Holocaust.". The Holocaust was not inevitable.

  19. 10 Holocaust Books You Should Read

    10 Holocaust Books You Should Read | My Jewish Learning Sign Up With regards to Holocaust literature, the canon has been pretty well established. Seminal texts like Elie Wiesel's Night, Anne Frank's ...

  20. Introduction to the Holocaust

    The Holocaust (1933-1945) was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million European Jews by the Nazi German regime and its allies and collaborators. 1 The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum defines the years of the Holocaust as 1933-1945.

  21. Plessner New Perspectives in Holocaust and Antisemitism Studies Award

    On Thursday, October 19, the Institute hosted a virtual lecture with our Plessner New Perspectives in Holocaust and Antisemitism Studies Award recipient, Jules Riegel—a Lecturer in History and Literature at Harvard University—titled "The Voices of the Starving: Beggars' Music in the Warsaw Ghetto.". The Warsaw Ghetto—the largest ghetto in Nazi-occupied Europe—imprisoned roughly ...

  22. 12 Holocaust Books That Everyone Should Read

    The Holocaust, also referred to as the Shoah (the Hebrew word for catastrophe), will always be known as one of the darkest periods of humanity. Between 1933 and 1945, the German Nazis and their...

  23. Holocaust Encyclopedia

    The Holocaust was the state-sponsored systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jews by Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945. Start learning today.

  24. Literature On The Holocaust

    Literature and poetry on the Holocaust have appeared in many other languages, as well, both as original creations and in translation. There is a significant body of books in Czech, Dutch, Hungarian, Italian, Russian and Serbo-Croatian. Books have also appeared in most of the other European languages, including Finnish, Ladino and Greek.

  25. Mitch Albom talks new Holocaust novel 'The Little Liar' before Naples

    With so many books written about the Holocaust, Albom wanted to find a new angle in writing his. So the story begins in the town of Salonika, Greece, where thousands of Jewish people were sent to ...

  26. What is the holocaust?

    What is the Holocaust? In the course of the Second World War, the Nazis murdered nearly six million European Jews. This genocide is called the Holocaust. Here, you can read about its causes and backgrounds, the stages of the Holocaust, and the perpetrators. Koen Smilde Holocaust or Shoah?

  27. Memory Passages: Holocaust memorials in the United States and Germany

    People also read lists articles that other readers of this article have read.. Recommended articles lists articles that we recommend and is powered by our AI driven recommendation engine.. Cited by lists all citing articles based on Crossref citations. Articles with the Crossref icon will open in a new tab.

  28. Texas Teacher Fired for Reading Anne Frank's Diary to Eighth ...

    Anne Frank is an iconic Jewish teenager killed during the Holocaust at 16. Her diary, retrieved after her death and published in English for the first time in 1952, is regarded as a vital piece of ...