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Artistic Expressions and the Great War, A Hundred Years On

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Edited By Sally Debra Charnow

The Great War set in motion all of the subsequent violence of the twentieth century. The war took millions of lives, led to the fall of four empires, established new nations, and negatively affected others. During and after the war, individuals and communities struggled to find expression for their wartime encounters and communal as well as individual mourning. Throughout this time of enormous upheaval, many artists redefined their role in society, among them writers, performers, painters, and composers. Some sought to renew or re-establish their place in the postwar climate, while others longed for an irretrievable past, and still others tried to break with the past entirely.

This volume offers a significant interdisciplinary contribution to the study of modern war, exploring the ways that artists contributed to wartime culture – both representing and shaping it – as well as the ways in which wartime culture influenced artistic expressions. Artists’ places within and against reconstruction efforts illuminate the struggles of the day. The essays included represent a transnational perspective and seek to examine how artists dealt with the experience of conflict and mourning and their role in (re-)establishing creative practices in the changing climate of the interwar years.

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9. Fighting a Dual War: Hebrew Literature and the Experience of the Great War (Stephen Katz)

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STEPHEN KATZ

Fighting a Dual War: Hebrew Literature and theExperience of the Great War

ABSTRACT

Within the unprecedented wave of pacifist literature emerging about a decade following the Great War, readers encounter a significant body of literary works in Hebrew that thematically touch on issues similar to those covered by others. Yet these works also address specific issues confronting Jewish soldiers. Composed primarily by literati who, as soldiers themselves, were active on the Eastern Front, works by U. Z. Greenberg, A. Hameiri, Y. Ya‘ari, and S. Y. Agnon stand out as anti-heroic. These poems and novels underscore the authors’ perceptions of war trauma, a changing Europe, and their religious and national identities. The challenges before them were encapsulated under three overarching categories: (a) fighting antisemitism and seeking acceptance; (b) embracing revised theological notions in the face of war atrocities, and (c) recognizing that, as soldiers loyal to their national flag, they must kill Jews on the enemy side.

The Great War, which began on 4 August 1914, was, in the words of Paul Fussell, ‘more ironic than any before or since’,1 his words refer to the War’s transformative impact on the self-perception of Western civilization, war, and interpersonal relations. But while his study was ground breaking in this respect, Fussell’s omission of the experience of Jewish soldiers2 on the front lines leaves a significant gap about how transformative the Great War was for them. The following is an attempt to...

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