'Textimony': The Intergenerational Transmission of Holocaust Memory in German Jewish and American Jewish Literature

Slodounik, Rebekah, German - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Grossman, Jeffrey, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Virginia

Drawing on the methodology of narrative theory, I argue that Holocaust literature written by members of the second and third generation challenges the categories of witnessing and testimony. According to the definitional schemata I employ, the first generation refers to Holocaust survivors, the second generation refers to children of survivors, and the third generation refers to grandchildren of survivors. In the well-established categories of witnessing and testimony in reference to the Holocaust, only Holocaust survivors, or those who were present at the time of the Holocaust, are witnesses to the Holocaust and, thus can provide testimony. The problem is this: if testimony about the Holocaust concerns itself with the transmission of memory, what happens when members of the first generation are no longer alive? The post-Holocaust German Jewish and American Jewish texts of the second and third generation I examine devote significant attention to the processes through which memory about the Holocaust can be transmitted across generations. These texts depict the main process of such intergenerational transmission as a dialogue between the witness and a listener, two interlocutors. Using the narrative technique of focalization, complicated framing devices, and alternating temporal narrative levels, these post-Holocaust texts complicate the transmission of memory about the Holocaust by revealing the complex process of not only a witness providing testimony, but of a listener receiving said testimony. The selected texts of the second and third generation from which I draw my examples in this study are Esther Dischereit’s "Joemis Tisch: Eine jüdische Geschichte" (1988), Maxim Biller’s "Harlem Holocaust" (1990), Elizabeth Rosner’s "The Speed of Light" (2001), Jonathan Safran Foer’s "Everything is Illuminated" (2002), Daniel Mendelsohn’s "The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million" (2006), Benjamin Stein’s "Die Leinwand" (2010), and Art Spiegelman’s "MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus" (2011).

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Holocaust, postmemory, witnessing and testimony, Jewish literature, German Jewish literature, American Jewish literature, Holocaust Studies
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