This article explores how the Americanization of the Holocaust is in part responsible for the paradigm that the mention of the Holocaust is vital for a Jewish writer of postwar fiction to be taken seriously. In keeping with the need for people to find meaning in catastrophe, to derive humanity from inhumanity and order out of chaos, Jewish literature’s apparent ‘success’ or international reach often depends on reflecting on the Holocaust as an empowering movement that pushed survivors and other Jews to feel a sense of unity and inclusiveness. By using the Holocaust to generate interest in audiences as opposed to educating the masses, the general perception of Jews as well as of the Jewish religion is reduced to nothing more than an acknowledgment of the traumatic historic event they endured. I argue that this perception of Jewish identity is disillusioned as well as destructive, and that survivor literature paints a more realistic image of what the Holocaust was like while still maintaining the Jewishness within the story. The aim of this article is to examine the trauma in Holocaust literature through the lens of Judaic studies, analyzing the way that it is written as well as providing an analysis of the trends in this postwar genre of writing from survivors and non-survivors. Being analyzed are the writings of Tadeusz Borowski and Cynthia Ozick; “This Way for Gas, Ladies & Gentlemen” and “Silence” by Borowski, and “Rosa” as well as “The Shawl” by Ozick. While Borowski’s stories were developed based on his own personal experiences as a victim of the Holocaust, Ozick is an American-born Jewish woman whose stories correlate particularly well with Borowski’s despite not having been through the traumatic experience herself. The goal in analyzing this type of literature is to bring to light the realities of the Holocaust and exactly how gruesome, inhumane and disturbing these events were and to contrast these images with more heavily edited and/or fictionalized literature, particularly the Americanized version of “The Diary of Anne Frank”. When structured for entertainment purposes, fictional literature set in the time period of the Holocaust tends to develop unrealistic portrayals of the event itself and the Jewish population affected by it. The intention of this article to draw attention to the lack of Jewish identity and religion in postwar Holocaust literature, to challenge the accuracy in Holocaust retellings and to outline the destructiveness of both characteristics in this genre of literature to the general perception of Jewish people.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Green-Rebackoff, Brie, "The Americanization of the Holocaust: Reconsidered Through Judaic Studies" (2019). Honors Undergraduate Theses. 655.