Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Humanities

First Advisor

Anthony Abiragi

Second Advisor

David Shneer

Third Advisor

Elisabeth Sheffield

Fourth Advisor

Paul Gordon

Abstract

“Ka-Tzetnik 135633: Historical Depersonalization and the Celebrity Witnessm” will concern early representations of the Holocaust written by Yehiel De-Nur, who wrote under the name Ka-Tzetnik 135633, which loosely translates to Concentration Camp Inmate 135633. This author, with his first book appearing in 1946, produced the sextet Salamanda: A Chronicle of a Jewish Family in the Twentieth Century. The books concern the author’s own experience of the Holocaust via a fictionalized persona, as well as the experiences that he believes his siblings endured after they were separated in the ghettoes. My project will use these highly controversial books as a launching point to breech subjects such as sexual violence during the Holocaust, survivor’s guilt, the narration of trauma, and the reception of De-Nur’s books in Israel.

This essay addresses four central questions surrounding De-Nur’s work: the split of identity between the pre- and post-incarcerated self, localized at the site of the author’s imposed and chosen names; the way his books broke the silence among the children of survivors and how that impacted their understanding of the historical reality of the Holocaust; how his books have controversially represented the idea of Jewish complicity in the suffering of their fellows; in addition to the way his books have been politicized in modern Israel to support a burgeoning nationalist identity. This project attempts to look at these disparate angles in relation to each other, as well as place them in context with many canonical Holocaust works and critical theory to demonstrate why the books are controversial. Considering all of these angles, the project will ultimately argue for the viability of the human imagination as an instrument of mourning, accessing the past, and, preserving the individual against the genocidal efforts of the past. By studying Ka-Tzetnik (De-Nur) and the many questions his works raise, the essay demonstrates the tenuous line between testimony and fiction, and ultimately posits the hybrid forms of imaginative testimonies as another kind of historical knowledge.The exclusion of the personal, the subjective, from national emplotments of history risk that such widespread violence could occur again, in the sense that the reduction of the personal continues the way that violence has been justified by dehumanizing others. By acknowledging the individual traumas of the past, along with their philosophic implications, the human race acknowledges a global, nationless responsibility that everyone holds to ensure that genocide is never repeated.

Share

COinS