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Their Childhood and the Holocaust

A Child’s Perspective in Polish Documentary and Autobiographical Literature


Justyna Kowalska-Leder

Children have a specific perception of the Holocaust: it did not destroy their earlier world view, but became the field of first experiences. This book focuses on the traumatic dimension of the Holocaust and how it is expressed (or left unexpressed) in children’s diaries. «Here and Now» under the German Occupation presents an analysis of diaries and school elaborations written in Polish by Jewish children during German Occupation. A Literary Return to Childhood during the Holocaust is dedicated to Polish retrospective literature, in which authors return to the experience of the Holocaust during their childhood years.
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The child as a medium of the holocaust

Personal so-called documents originating from the Second World War written by children, just as recollections of childhood during the Holocaust, represent an attempt through language in expressing experience that in fact shows resistance to it, though in various ways is referred to or signalled with the help of words. This can be seen most clearly in the analysis of written work by children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Their authors, while still remaining in an extreme circumstances, from a relatively small chronological distance describe events that most certainly belong to the most painful in terms of psyche such as illness and the death of close ones, fear for one’s own life, physical pain and spiritual suffering. In the diaries of the German Occupation, which are incomparably more fulsome, apart from the subject of wartime one can also find that of growing up, which the following issues intertwine independently from the context of the Occupation: first love, stormy relations with peers, and rebellion against the older generation. The blending of trauma during the Occupation with that of universal aspects of life also appears in the written work ex post. Their authors, however, are aware of the dimensions of crimes that the Holocaust took on and it is this awareness in fact that influences the means of shaping such written communication. Regardless of the range of testimonies of childhood during the Holocaust, every one though to a various extent, is affected...

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