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Numbered DaysDiaries and the Holocaust$
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Alexandra Garbarini

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780300112528

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300112528.001.0001

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Reluctant Messengers

Reluctant Messengers

Chapter:
(p.129) 5 Reluctant Messengers
Source:
Numbered Days
Author(s):

Alexandra Garbarini

Publisher:
Yale University Press
DOI:10.12987/yale/9780300112528.003.0005

This chapter explores the task and pursuit of diary writing of Jewish victims during the Holocaust as a cultural pursuit. Primo Levi, for example, in his memoir of Auschwitz, described how he recited Dante from memory to a fellow inmate while retrieving the day's soup ration. After reciting it in Italian, he then tried to translate it into French for his French-speaking companion. The effect it had on Levi was profound, as it momentarily transported Levi beyond Auschwitz. Levi later reflected on the importance of culture for him during Auschwitz, wherein it allowed him to transcend his circumstances. Literary theorist Tzvetan Todorov called these activities of reading and writing, listening to or performing music, appreciating nature, creating art, and engaging in conversation as “the search for truth and the search for the beautiful.” They, in turn, became “morally uplifting” activities for Jews under German occupation. The chapter thus further looks and analyzes the medium of diary writing within this context.

Keywords:   Jewish victims, Holocaust, Primo Levi, Auschwitz, Dante, Tzvetan Todorov, activities, German occupation, diary writing

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