What are the effects of radical oppression on the human psyche? What happens to the inner self of the powerless and traumatized victim, especially during times of widespread horror? In this bold and deeply penetrating book, Amos Goldberg addresses diary writing by Jews under Nazi persecution. Throughout Europe, in towns, villages, ghettos, forests, hideouts, concentration and labor camps, and even in extermination camps, Jews of all ages and of all cultural backgrounds described in writing what befell them. Goldberg claims that diary and memoir writing was perhaps the most important literary genre for Jews during World War II. Goldberg considers the act of writing in radical situations as he looks at diaries from little-known victims as well as from brilliant diarists such as Chaim Kaplan and Victor Kemperer. Goldberg contends that only against the background of powerlessness and inner destruction can Jewish responses and resistance during the Holocaust gain their proper meaning.
Introduction: "If This is a Man"
Section I: Reading Holocaust Diaries
1. Holocaust Diaries—Between Life Story and Trauma
2. Reading the Diaries as a Critique of Holocaust Historiography
3. The Dynamic of the Text between the Two Deaths—A Theoretical Model for the Reading of Traumatic Text
Section II: From Autobiographical Time to Documentation Time: Victor Klemperer's Diar
4. The Life Story of Victor Klemperer
5. The Disruption of Life-Story Time in the Klemperer Diaries
6. From Autobiographical to Documentary Diary
Section III: The Jewish Self and the Nazi Other: Chaim Kaplan's Warsaw Diary
7. Chaim Kaplan and his Diary
8. The Jews and Nazi "Law"
9. Between Perpetrators and Victims: The Gray Zone of Consciousness in the Diary of Chaim Kaplan
"Though there is much lip service paid to the importance of interdisciplinarity among today's academics, with Trauma in First Person, Amos Goldberg has produced such a rare work."~Alexandra Garbarini, author of Numbered Days: Diaries and the Holocaust
Every decade or so, an exceptional volume is born. Provocative and inspiring, historian Goldberg's volume is one such work in the field of Holocaust studies. . . . Highly recommended." ~Choice
Amos Goldberg's Trauma in First Person: Diary Writing During the Holocaust is an important and thought-provoking book not only on reading Holocaust diaries, but also on what that reading can tell us about the extent of the destruction committed against Jews during the Holocaust." ~Reading Religion
This is a book that deserves to be read well beyond Holocaust studies. Goldberg's theoretical insights into "life stories" and his readings of law, language and what he calls the "epistemological grey zone" . . . provide a stunning antidote to our unthinking treatment of survivors as celebrities (as opposed to just people who have suffered terrible things) and to the ubiquity of commemorative platitudes." ~Times Higher Education supplement
"Amos Goldberg's work offers an innovative approach to the subject matter of Holocaust diaries and challenges well-established views in the whole field of Holocaust studies. This is a comprehensive discussion of the phenomenon of Jewish diary writing during the Holocaust and after."~Guy Miron, author of The Waning of Emancipation: Jewish History, Memory, and the Rise of Fascism in Germany