On Monday, February 20th, Colorado State University kicked off their 20th annual Holocaust Awareness Week with local Jewish author, Bruce Wasserman. He gave a lecture titled, “The Breach Beyond the Dark: Literature and the Holocaust,” and spoke about the importance of post-Holocaust literature.
Post-Holocaust literature became a way for many authors who went through the Holocaust to let the world know about the horrors they faced. They tried to explain their experience through their stories. Authors such as Primo Levi, Eli Wiesel and Victor Frankl became well known based on their books that depicted their time in the concentration camps and their fight for survival.
Levi survived Auschwitz, and wrote the book, If This Is A Man, which describes his time in the concentration camp and how he ended up surviving. He mentions a man, Lorenzo Perrone, who would give him part of his food ration, which ended up saving Levi’s life. Levi was also a poet and had a collection published called, Shema: Collected Poems. Along with If This Is A Man, he wrote two more popular memoirs, Moments of Reprieve and The Periodic Table. Moments of Reprieve is about people he observed during his imprisonment in the Auschwitz, while The Periodic Table was written about his time before the Holocaust. This allows people to understand how times were very different for many people before the Holocaust.
Wiesel, also a survivor of Auschwitz, authored the famous book, Night. His book is about his time in Auschwitz with his father. Weisel was only 15 when he was put in the concentration camp and was liberated a year later when he was 16, but his father died in Auschwitz. He wrote many other books about his life during the Holocaust. Night has been the most popular book that he wrote, which was translated into 30 languages and has sold ten million copies just in the United States.
Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist who was transported to Auschwitz in September of 1942. He wrote two books after he was liberated: his best selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning: From Death-Camp to Existentialism and Nevertheless, Say “Yes” to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp. Through these books, he was able to understand the importance of finding meaning in everything in life even through the toughest of times. He also developed logotherapy, a concept that focuses on Søren Kierkegaard’s “will to meaning.” Logotherapy is based on the belief that finding a meaning in one’s life is the most important motivating thing for humans.
These authors, along with many others, shed a light on the tragedy through their storytelling. They gave us a look into their lives and how they overcame such adversity. Without these stories, many may not be able to grasp how horrible this time was. Post-Holocaust literature is especially important today. We will not always be able to listen to Holocaust survivors speak in person, but we will always be able to read their stories they had published. By reading their stories, we are learning from the past, honoring those lost, and making sure it can never happen again in the future.