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Welcome to the 3rd week

Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations in Yad Vashem

The photograph above shows the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations in the heart of Yad Vashem. This title is given by Yad Vashem to non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust and the trees planted in honour of these brave individuals with plaques bearing their names and countries surround the whole site of Yad Vashem.

This aspect of human behaviour and the fortitude implicit in the act of saving is very important in the commemoration of this epoch and central to Yad Vashem’s objectives of remembering and educating. This lesson will touch on the issue of human reactions and the question of choice.

Welcome back to our third lesson on poetry and the Holocaust. In lesson two we dealt with the poetry of three young people which presented some aspects of the ghetto reality and life in a concentration camp. The two locations of Bergen Belsen in Germany and Łódź in Poland anchored the Holocaust geographically but we have to bear in mind that the suffering and mass murder were European-wide.

We concluded the lesson with the story of Peter Yaos-Kest’s liberation with his family from Bergen Belsen and his personal difficulties as an adult in relating to his early poetry from the days of the Holocaust. The first half of this week will be devoted to the reality of liberation and the difficulties connected with forging a new life for yourself. The second part will take us above ground level in an attempt to grapple with the human capacity for evil, with theological implications of the Holocaust and with ways of reading history.

The four poems we will present in this lesson were all written after the Holocaust, in contrast to the poems in the previous lesson. Three of them highlight the survivor struggle with the Holocaust experience and one of the poems is an intriguing foray into the question of human nature, the capacity for good and the capacity for evil.

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Poetry and the Holocaust

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