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Bearing the Unbearable

Yiddish and Polish Poetry in the Ghettos and Concentration Camps

Frieda W. Aaron

Publication Year: 1990

This book is a pioneering study of Yiddish and Polish-Jewish concentration camp and ghetto poetry. It reveals the impact of the immediacy of experience as a formative influence on perception, response, and literary imagination, arguing that literature that is contemporaneous with unfolding events offers perceptions different from those presented after the fact.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture


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Front matter

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The message of Frieda Aaron's book is in the order of her presentation. For she has put the poems first, her own life experience at the end. As painful as it is to revisit the nightmares she actually lived, unravelling the hidden meanings of Holocaust poetry is still

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pp. xi-xii

At the end of the arduous task that the writing of this book has often been, I take great pleasure in expressing my gratitude to those persons whose advice and encouragement made my work possible. I am indebted to Daniel Gerould, Irving Howe, and ...

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pp. 1-15

While they themselves and their civilization were being destroyed in the crucible of World War II, European Jews-among them those of Poland-were feverishly recording the unfolding events for posterity. Even after waves of mass deportations to death ...

PART ONE. Poetry as Documentation

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Chapter One. In the Beginning

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pp. 19-37

Poetry often derives its eloquence from the longing of the imagination to bring order to chaos, to bridle the apocalyptic and demonic worlds, and to render the incomprehensible intelligible. In the chaos of the Holocaust, this lyrical yearning sought fulfillment in ...

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Chapter Two. The Great Chain of Being

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pp. 39-67

Although an avowed Jew, Władysław Szlengel was not as deeply rooted in Jewish culture and its literature as was Abraham Sutzkever. Moreover, while Sutzkever sought an idiom within aesthetic structures, and while he fine tuned his own lyric voice, finding ...

PART TWO. Morale, Moral Resistance, and the Crisis of Faith

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Chapter Three. Breaking through the Wall of Silence

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pp. 71-93

Because both self-conscious and folk poetry had among Polish as well as other East European Jews a long and rich tradition - much of it in response to waves of destruction that periodically ravaged Jewish communities-it may not be surprising that the ...

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Chapter Four. The Cultural Ferment and the Moral Mandate

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pp. 95-130

If neither Szlengel, Katzenelson, Sutzkever, nor any other poet could invent new values to enable them to restore order either to their own or their reader's lives, at least by continuing to write, they often succeeded in keeping at bay the despair that probably would have ...

PART THREE. Issues of Resistance

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Chapter Five

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pp. 133-157

The Jews of prewar Poland had little economic power and nominal access to Poland's political infrastructure. Indeed, they were even barred from the civil service. Hence, as Lucy Dawidowicz writes, "Jewish politics were both symbolic and visionary ...

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Chapter Six. Word into Deed

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pp. 159-171

Many poets came of age during the unfolding apocalypse, not only inspiring and exhorting the people to rebellion, but actually participating it. In so doing, they transformed word into deed. For Abraham Sutzkever, who was a leading partisan, this provided the ...

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Chapter Seven. S.O.S.

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pp. 173-188

Both the predicament of the Jews and the general indifference of the world to it are evoked in a slim anthology of poetry entitled Z Otchłani (Out of the Abyss). Published in 1944 and containing the work of such poets as Czesław Miłosz (destined to become the ...

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pp. 189-211

Of the literature produced in the Holocaust and saved in milk tins or other hermetically sealed containers and unearthed after the war, George Steiner says: These books and documents ... are not for "review." Not unless ...


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pp. 213-222

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 223-233


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pp. 235-242

E-ISBN-13: 9780791494059
E-ISBN-10: 791494055
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791402474
Print-ISBN-10: 0791402479

Page Count: 242
Publication Year: 1990

Series Title: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture
Series Editor Byline: Sarah Blacher Cohen See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794701274
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Bearing the Unbearable

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