David Roskies and Naomi Diamant Guide Readers Through Holocaust Literature

New Book Provides a Much-Needed Roadmap

Reading The Holocaust: Naomi Diamant and her co-author David G. Roskies have published “Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide.”
Brandeis University Press
Reading The Holocaust: Naomi Diamant and her co-author David G. Roskies have published “Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide.”

By Erika Dreifus

Published May 02, 2013, issue of May 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

The literature of this period was “communal” in multiple respects, including what the authors describe as its initial reception within highly localized (and politicized) audiences.

1960, on the cusp of the Eichmann trial, marks the start of the third phase: a quarter-century of “provisional memory.” The authors present this period as “a time of discovery, of seeing things as if for the first time.” Witnesses now had faces, and their words were beamed around the world. During this period, “English became the main purveyor of Holocaust writing,” and “Holocaust literature took on a life of its own.” Once those trends were entrenched, a new phase began: “authorized memory.” Dating from the mid-1980s, this era has been characterized by seismic global changes and technologies that have brought forth new studies, new research and new pilgrimages, particularly those undertaken by descendants. It is in this era that we continue to live and read.

But what do we read? What should we read? True to the book’s subtitle, the authors follow their history with a “Guide to the First Hundred Books.” They highlight under-appreciated work from the earlier phases, and some readers may be surprised by some of their choices, such as John Hersey’s “The Wall” (1950), which the authors signal for its “value as a document of the early development of Holocaust literature in languages other than Hebrew and Yiddish,” or Binjamin Wilkomirski’s “Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood” (1995), a fraudulent account that is included, at least in part, for what it reveals about the public’s needs and expectations from Holocaust literature at a particular moment. The list’s logic is informed by the authors’ innovative definition of “Holocaust literature” itself: “Holocaust literature comprises all forms of writing, both documentary and discursive, and in any language, that have shaped the public memory of the Holocaust and been shaped by it.”

This is by no means light reading, but it is both accessible and powerful. “Holocaust Literature” offers something for a remarkable range of readers, from the scholarly expert for whom the repeated references to metonymy will resonate to the less experienced reader, who may simply seek to augment a reading list.

Erika Dreifus is the author of the short-story collection “Quiet Americans” (Last Light Studio, 2011).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.