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140 SHOFAR Summer 1999 Vol. 17, No.4 efforts of the hasidei Ashkenaz to found new communities in the borderlands of the Holy Roman Empire and Poland. Part 3 includes an exchange between Artur Eisenbach and Tomasz G'lsowski on the former's study of the emancipation of Polish Jewry in the nineteenth century and review articles by Shmeruk on new works on Isaac Bashevis Singer and by Nechama Tec on books on Auschwitz. There follow 29 individual reviews, a 20-page bibliography of Polish-Jewish studies for 1994 (297 entries!), a glossary, and an index. Polin offers the latest and best scholarship on Polish Jewry, and a short review can only signal Polin's breath and richness. The tenth volume is an occasion to congratulate and to thank the patrons and the editor for their efforts to recover the rich history of a community that is tragically only an image before our eyes, and to note the importance ofthis English-language annual for scholars and students not only of Polish Jewry, but also for East European and Jewish specialists. Stanislaus A. Blejwas Department of History Central Connecticut State University Stages of Annihilation: 'Theatrical Representations of the Holocaust, by Edward R. Isser. Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1997. 209 pp. $33.50. Reviewing Stages ofAnnihilation was both pleasant and strange for me because Edward Isser has written a book that is so close in form and contents to one that I wrote a decade ago. In fact, the author on several occasions quotes my work (and, of course, many other critical sources) in order to acknowledge previous studies about Holocaust drama as well as to distance himself from that work. Nonetheless, for the most part I find myself agreeing frequently with the conclusions Isser advances and appreciating his usually fair and clearly articulated opinions. However, I am not always aligned with the methods he uses or satisfied that he has made the best case for his judgments ... but neither am I, in hindsight, sure about all my own assertions either. What Isser has done capably is to review the themes ofthree dozen or so Holocaust plays from a number of different national traditions. His catalog is mostly up-to-date, and his expansive bibliographical collection of this subgenre of dramatic literature is well chosen. In ten short chapters plus an introduction and conclusion, Isser puts the general reader in touch with what is "out there" in Holocaust drama (with the curious omission ofIsraeli plays on the subject), and he selects reliably the key texts from the last 40 or more years of theatrical engagement with the Holocaust experience for his critical investigations. Book Reviews 141 The value oflsser's book will be judged fIrst on the strength of the criteria he sees as detennining a Holocaust play's success or failure, and then on the rigor with which he applies his standards to the texts under scrutiny. Early in Stages ofAnnihilation, Isser declares the line a playwright must not cross in making a contribution to the Theatre of the Holocaust: "... the artist who misconstrues the historical record or manipulates Holocaust imagery for artistic or political purposes can and should be challenged. The artist, however, who delves into sensitive areas and reaches unpopular conclusions should not be criticized unless there is a[n] egregious distortion of the facts" (p. 26). Earlier, Isser was more insistent that the "intellectual validity" of a Holocaust play "is mitigated by the falsifIcation of historical detail for aesthetic considerations" (p. 14). Additionally, the "introduction of dramatic artifIce does not abrogate moral and social responsibility" (p. 20). How well does Isser apply this standard to the texts he examines? I would answer: inconsistently. There are two issues here. First, what exactly comprises the "authentic" historical record? Does history lie in the details oftrain schedules and the caloric count of the ghetto diet? Or is it the shape of the Holocaust experience, brimming with atrocity and unexplainable mystery? Isser refers frequently to the ineffability of the Holocaust and is sympathetic to the challenge it presents to artists, but he leans his critical pen against the former, easier target because he recognizes the greater problem assumed by dramatic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 140-142
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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