am Institut für Germanistik der Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

Holocaust literature

Definition of Terminology

"Holocaust literature" has been an established term and topic of literary studies since at least the 1980s. The term was proposed in the United States by the literary scholar and Holocaust survivor Susan Cernyak-Spatz, among others, and the academic study of Holocaust literature has since then also developed into a multifaceted field of research in Germany.

The definition of the term "Holocaust literature" demands first a further clarification of the question: what exactly can be understood under the metaphor “Holocaust”? At the Arbeitsstelle Holocaustliteratur we – similar to Cernyak-Spatz – embrace a broad understanding of the term.  The Holocaust encompasses therefore all aspects of the National Socialist persecution and extermination policy, from the first measures of exclusion immediately after the National Socialist government takeover, up to the mass murders during the Second World War. This includes the persecution of Jews, political opponents, homosexuals, Sinti and Roma, Jehova’s Witnesses and others from 1933 onwards. The persecution and systematic murder of the European Jewry was the core of the Holocaust.

According to the Gießen model, Holocaust literature therefore includes all literary works that deal centrally with the Holocaust. This means that testimonies written during the events, such as diaries, chronicles and others, as well as retrospectively written memoirs, still belong to this understanding. Moreover, the term also includes fictional works on the Holocaust, such as novels, poetry and dramas, which had either already emerged at the time of the Holocaust or even after the end of the war. These can be texts by directly affected victims and survivors, by second and third generation ancestors, or even by persons who had no involvement.

Arbeitsstelle Holocaustliteratur
Otto-Behaghel-Str. 10 B / 1 · D-35394 Gießen · Deutschland

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