Lingering Holocaust Trauma in Post-Holocaust Literature: An Exploration of Experimental Works by Marjorie Sandor, Rebecca Goldstein, and Lesléa Newman

LeDuff, Hannah Jane, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Rody, Caroline, English, University of Virginia

In Marjorie Sandor’s “The Gittel” (1984), Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s “The Legacy of Raizel Kaidish: A Story” (1984), and Lesléa Newman’s “A Letter to Harvey Milk” (1989), the narrators tell stories in which the Holocaust plays a major role. In “The Gittel,” the narrator recounts the tale of her grandmother who initially escaped Nazi violence by fleeing to Riga, but then returned to Berlin and died. The narrator of “The Legacy of Raizel Kaidish: A Story” explains her frustrations with her mother, a survivor. The narrator of “A Letter to Harvey Milk” spends his time trying to forget his past, but ultimately writes about it in a cathartic journal entry. While each of these contemporary stories involves the Holocaust, none of them present the event itself as the forefront subject matter; instead, the event operates in the background, haunting the story as a whole. This essay explores the ways in which select stories represent the Holocaust in conjunction with modern contemporary subject matter. The narrators’ respective temporal distances from the Holocaust allow for their unique and personal tellings. Instead of focusing on specific historical events, these stories illustrate the difficulty of relating to a survivor as a nonsurvivor, the struggle to come to terms with a tragedy one never experienced oneself, and lingering trauma as it affects people in the present day. In their own ways, these stories provide a contemporary vantage point from which to view the historical tragedy.

MA (Master of Arts)
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