Between 'Nothing' and 'Something': Narratives of Survival in H. G. Adler's Scholarly and Literary Analysis of the Shoah

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This article examines Holocaust survival in general and inner states and temporality in particular in the study Theresienstadt 1941-1945 (1955) and the novel The Journey (1962) by the poet, novelist, and scholar H. G. Adler, a survivor of the Theresienstadt ghetto and several camps. The article shows that the moment of survival is a key juncture in both texts, as their respective representations are intertwined by overarching reflections on the implications and significance of the Holocaust, and as they conflate the experiences of the survivors, the destruction that they witnessed, and the hope they felt after liberation. Adler's complementary narratives reach, however, far beyond the description of facts; above all, they focus on a moment of transition unfolding in the individual survivor from'nothing', an inner state resulting from the devastating experiences of the Holocaust, to'something', an uncertain new beginning.The article investigates the different layers of meaning suggested by the central yet elusive terms 'nothing' and 'something', which link both texts. It analyses the biblical references used byAdler and examines the limits of narrativization. Drawing on the insights of Holocaust studies, this article emphasizes the importance of Adler's genre-bending, and, compared with other contemporary narratives, very unusual texts, which seek to understand the Holocaust primarily through a short moment in time, namely the moment of survival. In this sense, Adler's texts suggest new and distinct modes of representing the Holocaust.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLeo Baeck Institute Year Book
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)119-134
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2016