How Shall We Know Them: The Struggle Inherent in Representing Victims of the Holocaust in Terms of their Collective, Individual and Gendered Experience of the Shoah

By Cayo Gamber.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this essay, I contrast the ways in which artifacts in a museum, such as the display of hair at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, represent the Holocaust in terms of the silent/silenced “remains” of the victims and the ways in which four texts–Taube’s poem “A Single Hair,” Shayevitsh’s epic poem “Lekh-Lekho,” Zelkowicz’s vignettes and diary, and Menachem’s photomontage of the mother and child of Łódź–consciously ask us to consider how we shall know those who died by asking us to see the inhabitants of the Łódź ghetto and the prisoners of Auschwitz as gendered individuals who creatively, purposefully, urgently responded to their persecution. Given that the Nazi enterprise was dedicated to destroying the Jewish people, the representation of the Holocaust–especially within museums–is dedicated to representing the implements and the events of that destruction. However, the Jewish people (and the other victims of the Holocaust, as well) should not solely be known by the evidence of their destruction, for even in the times of their greatest peril many actively worked against their destruction by chronicling their lives and their desire to live in poetry, art, and journals. Taube, Shayevitsh, Zelkowicz, and Menachem, ask us to know those who died not through their remains but through their intentions, through their life stance in which they indicated their commitments and practice, revealing what they believed ultimately was important in their creative works.

Keywords: Holocaust, Individual, Gender, Museums, Poetry, Taube, Shayevitsh, Zelkowicz, Menachem

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 9, pp.285-304. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.562MB).

Dr. Cayo Gamber

Assistant Professor of Writing, The University Writing Program, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, Takoma Park, USA

Cayo Gamber is an Assistant Professor of Writing at the George Washington University. She currently teaches a writing seminar, “Legacies of the Holocaust,” focused on researching primary documents related to the Holocaust (e.g., oral histories of survivors and archival photographs); “Introduction to Women’s Studies”; and “From Barbie Dolls to Guerilla Girls: A Study of Women in/and Media.” Her research interests include analyzing the memorialization of warfare, teaching the Holocaust through primary documents and literature, and the role of popular culture (e.g., the Barbie doll and Nancy Drew) in creating Western notions of girlhood and womanhood.


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