Forging Shoah Memories


Forging Shoah Memories
1. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are mine.
2. Rossi-Doria draws different conclusions from those of Friedlander, and cites
the distinctions he lists in his “Introduction” to the Italian edition of La
Germania nazista e gli ebrei (“Memorie di Donne” 61 n6).
3. “The humiliation and worse of femininity is a phenomenon so renown of
the concentrationary universe that one does not need to dwell on it, if not to
remind that it was partly due to the direct action and ritual of the carcerieri
(shaving of hair and pubic hair, nudity exposed . . . , up to sterilization), for
another to the same material and psychological situation of the camp, which
promoted first of all the interruption of the menstrual period, generalized
because of the shock, undernourishment, etc. In testimonies, the desexualized image of the inmates is recurring” (Mengaldo, La vendetta 46).
4. Federica K. Clementi speaks rather explicitly of this unspoken forbiddance of
women from critical and literary discourse (281–91).
5. For a discussion about critical exclusion of Italian women’s work, L’ebraismo
nella letteratura italiana del Novecento, the otherwise worthy collection of
essays edited by Carlà and De Angelis, is particularly emblematic. None of the
nine essays is dedicated to a female writer.
6. “Why estheticism? I reply, why is there art in the tomb? Estheticism. In this
case, it means compassion” (Moravia, “Preface” 20).
7. See Lucamante, “The ‘Indispensable’ Legacy of Primo Levi: From Eraldo
Affinati to Rosetta Loy between History and Fiction,” for a treatment of literary representability of the Shoah by working on the example of Primo Levi,
Rosetta Loy, and Eraldo Affinati.
8. See Hanna Serkowska’s reflections on Alberto Cavaglion’s article (“Edith
Bruck” 165–81).
9. It comes perhaps not equipped with the strong economic components that
mark what August Bebel defines the “socialism of the idiots,” that stock of
anti-Jewish anticapitalism on which Michele Battini reflects in his stimulating study Il socialismo degli imbecilli. Propaganda, falsificazione, persecuzione
degli ebrei.
10.1057/9781137375346 - Forging Shoah Memories, Stefania Lucamante
Copyright material from - licensed to npg - PalgraveConnect - 2016-09-29
250 Notes
1 The Italian Shoah: Reception and Representation
1. While the terms Shoah and the Holocaust will be used with no distinction, I
am aware of the restrictive significance of Shoah limited in its understanding
“only to the Jewish world as if this crime only concerned Jews” (Cavaglion,
“Nota,” xxii).
2. See also Picchietti 573–78 and Marcus 142–44.
3. “The larger problem is, however, to explore the interaction between various
dimensions of language use and its relation to practice, including the relationship between the ‘constative’ historical reconstruction and the ‘performative’ dialogic exchange with the past as well as between ‘sublime’ excess
and normative limits that are necessary as controls in social and political
life” (LaCapra, Representing the Holocaust 4).
4. For a discussion of Derrida’s position on Marxism in Spectres of Marx, see
Macdonald, 143–72.
5. According to Primo Levi, Italian Jews were and are by far the most assimilated (“Intervento,” 99).
6. See also Maier 29–43.
7. Cavaglion also talks of a “general underestimation of the significance and
relevance of the extermination accomplished by the Germans in the Italian
peninsula often with the direct complicity of the Italians” (“Nota” xx).
8. “I, the nonbeliever, and even less of a believer after the season of Auschwitz,
was a person touched by Grace, a save man. And why me?” (Levi, Drowned
9. About Liliana Segre, see also Zuccala.
10. Elisabetta Nelsen investigates Sonnino’s text, stressing how it exudes the
concept of elegance in her family, despite all odds. Sonnino retrieves photos
of her beautiful family that disappeared in the Holocaust. To their innate
elegance, she opposes the blinding alienation of the camp and the constant
attempt to forge individuals into Untermenschen (Nelsen 9–18).
11. Despite the fact that Alessandro Manzoni had later rejected his own important findings with respect to the hybrid literary composition of truth and
fiction, the representation of the Milanese colonized and oppressed people
in his work reveals still today a structure of power and usurpation of the
10.1057/9781137375346 - Forging Shoah Memories, Stefania Lucamante
Copyright material from - licensed to npg - PalgraveConnect - 2016-09-29
10. See Robert Gordon’s The Holocaust in Italian Culture. Although admitting
that “[g]ender in Holocaust writing is already at this early stage a defining
terrain of distinction [ . . . ]” (53) the discussion on women writers of the
Holocaust ends here.
11. For this topic, see Sabine Sellam’s L’écriture concentrationnaire, ou, La poétique de la résistance.
12. For a further discussion of the main points of Adorno’s theory, see Peter
Haidu’s “The Dialectics of Unspeakability: Language, Silence, and the
Narratives of Desubjectification,” 279–84.
rights of the disadvantaged that little draws from chronicle-like precision.
About the difficulty of a coexistence of truth and fiction in literature see,
for instance, Cavaglion who, like me, favors the insertion of fiction into true
(“Parola” 25–37).
12. To have a full idea of production based on this topos, of how the imagination
of writers has been in this extremely fertile, it is interesting to look at the
online list of works based on the Holocaust in the US Memorial Holocaust
Museum. Elie Wiesel’s rather intransigent position (Un juif 190) cannot
do much to prevent the desire of knowledge of the fact that, unknown to
some authors, moves them nevertheless to try to imagine what s/he does not
13. For Millicent Marcus, Auschwitz is more a synonym than a synecdoche in
the case of Italians, for they almost all ended up in that camp (5).
14. About the rhetorical significance of Auschwitz, I refer not only to Agamben’s
study but also to Elaine Marks’s “Cendres Juives. Jews Writing in French
after Auschwitz” and the way Paola Di Cori presents the issue in her work (in
Maida, Un’etica 11).
15. “To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it
really was’ [Ranke]. It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a
moment of danger. Historical materialism wishes to retain that image of the
past which unexpectedly appears to man singled out by history at a moment
of danger. The danger affects both the content of the tradition and its receivers. [ . . . ] Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in
the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the
enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious” (Benjamin
2 Not Only Memory: Narrating the Camp between
Reality and Fiction
1. There are many essays on the turmoil that Ernst Nolte’s article on the
Frankfurter Allgemeine provoked in 1986. LaCapra’s article “Representing
the Holocaust: Reflections on the Historians’ Debate” is perhaps still today
one of the most lucid and apposite for our own study. In 1987, Gian Enrico
Rusconi edited Germania, un passato che non passa in Italy, which also contains an article by Ernst Nolte.
2. In 1971 the volume Un mondo fuori dal mondo was published, and in 1986
the volume edited by Federico Cereja and Brunello Mantelli La deportazione
nei campi di sterminio. Storia vissuta: Dal dovere di raccontare alle testimonianze orali nell’insegnamento della storia della 2nda Guerra mondiale, in turn
follows Bravo and Jalla’s volume.
3. In her preface to Essere donne nei Lager, Bravo specifies the number of texts—
five—published by women in Italy between 1945 and 1947 (“Prefazione” 8).
Judith Tydor Baumel notes how the many volumes on Resistance in the 1970s
10.1057/9781137375346 - Forging Shoah Memories, Stefania Lucamante
Copyright material from - licensed to npg - PalgraveConnect - 2016-09-29
Notes 251
would focus on the word “resistance” and not “women” or “family” thus
deleting the issue of gender (39–41). It is interesting to note that, until then,
Italian historiography did little to create connections between Resistance and
Shoah. Saul Meghnagi notes how, “in the relationship between Resistance
and Shoah one needs to underscore how until the end of the fifties, there was
no awareness about the extermination of the Jews in concentration camps
and instead would prevail the image of dead partisans, publicly exposed as
a form of retaliation. Violence then has a different visibility that can partly
explain the reason of a failed encounter between Resistance and Shoah”
(“Introduzione” xxiii).
4. “In a unique way, Nazis doctrine created a society organized around ‘natural’ biological poles. In addition to serving specific needs of the state, this
radical division vindicated a more general and thoroughgoing biological
Weltanschauung based on race and sex as the immutable categories of human
nature” (Koontz 5–6).
5. See Hedgepeth and Saidel, and Baer and Goldenberg, for new studies on violence against women in the Holocaust.
6. See Adam Jones’s introductory essay to Gender and Genocide for studies
on the ethnic cleansing policies accompanying genocides and gendercides
in several countries. Jones elaborates a theory on preventive genocide that
emphasizes latency and retribution, and touches upon the more than questionable role of medical doctors in the camp experiments (25–28).
7. In the first volume of the encyclopedia that she edited, Holocaust Literature:
An Encyclopedia of Writers and Their Work, Kremer draws up a general and
limited map of Italians in which Liana Millu and Giuliana Tedeschi are mentioned (xxv) and a small entry on Millu by Judith Kelly appears (843–45).
However, she gives prominence instead to Natalia Ginzburg (Vol. 1, 424–26),
who contributed a valuable writing “The Jews” (Opere 2, 641–46).
8. An exception: chapters devoted to Tedeschi, Millu, and Morante in Risa
Sodi’s Narrative and Imperative: The First Fifty Years of Italian Holocaust
Writing (1944–1994).
9. “But Italy is not only a reservoir of prisoners; it hosts on its territory concentration and transit camps such as Borgo San Dalmazzo, Fossoli and Bolzano,
and extermination camps such as Risiera of San Sabba: secondary camps,
peripheral if you want, but sufficient to place Italy among the countries in
which, aside from contributing victims, the extermination is also administered and implemented [ . . . ] The circumstances must therefore be searched
for elsewhere, from the appearance of a war that is fought not only at the
front and not only applies to regular troops, but progressively invests entire
national territories and entire populations, giving the perception of individual and collective memory a new mark” (Bravo and Jalla, “Introduzione”
10. “For many reasons, what has been called the ‘Auschwitz event’ nevertheless
remains an emblematic case and, as it often said, a unicum. Any present-day
reflection on horror must, sooner or later, come to terms with Auschwitz”
(Cavarero 33–34).
10.1057/9781137375346 - Forging Shoah Memories, Stefania Lucamante
Copyright material from - licensed to npg - PalgraveConnect - 2016-09-29
252 Notes
11. “The work of horror does not concern imminent death from which one flees,
trembling, but rather the effects of a violence that labors at slicing, at the
undoing of the wounded body and then the corpse, at opening it up and
dismembering it” (Cavarero 12).
12. Some parts of Questo povero corpo do not appear in the expanded version
like the eponymous one from which I quote. I use my own translation for this
part. Also, the name in Parks’s translation is Giuliana Tedeschi Brunelli, not
Fiorentino (her maiden name).
13. See Terrence Des Pres’s letter in which he comments upon the effective quality of better survival skills of women in Auschwitz and Ravensbrück (in
Heinemann 5).
14. Ruth Bondy speaks of the compulsory abortion for all the prisoners in
Theresienstadt from July 1943 and how some of those who refused the treatment were immediately sent to the Eastern concentration camps (310–27).
15. Often, the entire family preferred the woman to keep her presence in the
camp secret (Springer, L’eco del silenzio 43).
16. Different opinions about the existence of a choice different from Perechodnik’s
are expressed by John Roth (“Returning Home” 280–96) and David Hirsch
17. Kremer stresses the inevitable centrality of man (in a solely masculine sense
of the word) as a generalizing and universalizing element, to the detriment
and marginalization of women (Women’s 1).
3 The Power of Dignity, Or “Writers Out of Necessity”:
The Case of Liana Millu and Edith Bruck
1. Wiesel wants to be “at the same time witness and writer, and in that he can
only be compared to Primo Levi” (A. Wiewiorka 61).
2. Similarly to Mengaldo, Alvin H. Rosenfeld maintains that readers shouldn’t
identify with Anne Frank because her story was “atypical” (9–13).
3. The different status of Eastern Jews is a topic Bruck tries to explain to Italian
youth who used to think that all Jews are wealthy bankers and/or intellectuals (Signora 21).
4. This scene is repeated with equally compelling words in Signora Auschwitz
5. Pontecorvo’s 1960 film Kapo while initially lauded by critics, was highly
contested for the kind of ethics of representation of the violence in the
camp as O’Leary and Srivastava note (254). However, while they repeat that
Pontecorvo was inspired by Primo Levi’s testimony Se questo è un uomo, I
contend that Kapo’s plot follows quite strikingly that of Bruck’s book, of her
initiation, even of the name of her Kapo, Alice.
6. I ponti di Schwerin was chosen as a finalist for the Premio Campiello, an
annual Italian literary prize, in 1978.
7. For a more detailed recount about the notebook see Millu’s Dopo il fumo:
“Sono il n. A 5384 di Auschwitz-Birkenau” (76–77).
10.1057/9781137375346 - Forging Shoah Memories, Stefania Lucamante
Copyright material from - licensed to npg - PalgraveConnect - 2016-09-29
Notes 253
254 Notes
8. See also Catherine Chalier’s Lévinas: L’utopie de l’humain for the connection
between the ethical resistance of the human face and its power (91–94).
9. See also Guglielmo Petroni’s Il mondo è una prigione.
10. She, like all other prisoners, was liberated from the second only because of
the Allies, as Bettelheim stresses in “Surviving” (275–90).
1. See Pawlikowski 551–65; Miccoli.
2. For this topic, see also by Cavaglion, “Deportazione e sterminio degli ebrei”
3. About the construction of spatiality and corporeality in the quarta sponda,
see Atkinson 56–79. Several covers of La difesa della razza representing the
white man divided by a knife from the crooked-nosed Jew and the Negroid
attest to the ideological link that Interlandi meant to spread in Italy with his
4. Arendt talks about the exploitation of this originally Russian text, especially
the “plausibility of the non-public influence of the Jews in the past” (Origins
5. See Aglaia Viviani’s “La guerra con occhi di bambina. Autobiografie
d’infanzia: Janina David, Giacoma Limentani e Hannele Zürndorfer”
6. See La porta dell’acqua 15–16 for another version of the scene.
7. Not found in the English translation.
8. “The first strand, that of violence born out of racial intolerance, with the
tremendous impact of the Shoah, tells of the dialectic between the canceling that collectivity (the mass) can cause to individual identity and the
effort to keep the latter at the lowest and primitive levels, more ‘abject’.
The theme is certainly not that of the formation, but the most basic of
maintaining one’s personal dignity, a survival that is not only physical but
mental” (Molfino 182).
5 Le Lacrime: Morante and Her Critics
1. “La Storia is not a type, but a unicum; it’s not worth it to write books; it’s not
a result, but an instantly explosive necessity” (Raboni 177).
2. Gandolfo Cascio brilliantly shows how, in Morante’s short story Lo scialle
andaluso, Semitic physiognomy and Sicilian physical archetypes merge in
the characters to almost emblematize Morante’s hybrid origin.
3. Aside from Lucente’s “Scrivere o fare . . . o altro: Social Commitment and
Ideologies of Representation in the Debates over Lampedusa’s Il Gattopardo
and Morante’s La Storia,” see also Giovanna Rosa’s “La storia senza seguito,”
10.1057/9781137375346 - Forging Shoah Memories, Stefania Lucamante
Copyright material from - licensed to npg - PalgraveConnect - 2016-09-29
4 Inside the D and Out of the Ghetto with the Bambine of Rome:
Lia Levi, Rosetta Loy, and Giacoma Limentani
and Luigi De Angelis’s “Il dibattito su La Storia: una versione necessariamente
4. In the first draft, the expression was “fatalistic passivity” (Fondo Morante
V.E.1618/1.3, cartella 155).
5. It is also worth remembering Pier Paolo Pasolini’s stroncatura to La Storia,
first published in Il tempo (July 25 and August 1, 1974), then reprinted as “Elsa
Morante: La storia,” in Saggi sulla letteratura e sull’arte, 2096–107.
6. Consonni analyzes this behavior with respect to the Eichmann trial. Despite
the massive press coverage, the Italian public, save the Jewish community,
hardly realized its own ignorance of such a recent historical period (97).
7. About the importance of Holocaust trials see Felman, The Juridical
Unconscious: Trials and Traumas in the Twentieth Century, preceded by
her “Theaters of Justice: Arendt in Jerusalem, the Eichmann Trial, and the
Redefinition of Legal Meaning in the Wake of the Holocaust” and Battini’s
The Missing Italian Nuremberg. Also very important is volume 23 of The
Journal of Israeli History (Spring 2004), which is devoted to this topic: see
Anita Shapiro’s “The Eichmann Trial: Changing Perspectives” (1–23) and
Consonni’s “The Impact of the Eichmann Trial in Italy.” Consonni reports
the words of a Mauthausen survivor, Piero Caleffi: “In our country, right
after liberation, came not only a kind of indulgence which could have seemed
even noble, but an actual state of oblivion of what was and remains criminal” (91), an oblivion that Harald Weinrich traces to the holocaust of cultural
memory committed by the Nazi and Fascist regime that he termed “memoricide” (185).
8. Missing in the English translation: “grazie a Dio” (“Thank God”).
6 History and Stories: Historical Novels and
the Danger of Disintegration
1. Some of the texts whose titles can be found in Morante’s drafts are the
Italian versions of Robert Katz’s Sabato nero; Leon Poliakov’s Il nazismo e lo
sterminio degli ebrei; Gideon Hausner’s Sei milioni di accusatori: la relazione
introduttiva del procuratore generale Gideon Hausner al processo Eichmann;
Domenico Tarizzo’s Ideologia della morte: documenti per un profilo del
razzismo nazista e per una storia della resistenza europea; Peter Weiss’s
L’istruttoria: oratorio in undici canti (The Investigation); Erwin Leiser
(English), A Pictorial History of Nazi Gemany; Enzo Piscitelli’s Storia della
Resistenza romana; Pino Levi Cavaglione’s Guerriglia nei Castelli romani,
(especially for Davide’s speech “In ciascuno di noi c’è un S.S”); Eucardio
Momigliano’s Storia tragica e grottesca del nazismo (sic) [razzismo] fascista;
Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem; Emanuele Artom’s Diari: gennaio
1940-febbraio 1944; Renzo De Felice’s Storia degli Ebrei Italiani sotto il fascismo; and Paolo Monelli, Roma 1943.
10.1057/9781137375346 - Forging Shoah Memories, Stefania Lucamante
Copyright material from - licensed to npg - PalgraveConnect - 2016-09-29
Notes 255
2. This is an ethical approach that Manzoni showed in his rebuttal of Parini’s
theory of aesthetic freedom in La colonna infame (The Column of Infamy)
3. Strangely, in the Steerforth translation, this epigraph, as well as the one
from Luke’s Gospel, is physically distant from the beginning of the novel.
The space taken by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison in between the two epigraphs
and the novel itself is cumbersome for it severs Morante’s work from its own
4. Her preparatory draft of La Storia carries this important adverb (Fondo
Morante, V.E. 1618/I, Il grande male, c.1).
5. I am drawing from Emmanuel Lévinas’ idea of language’s performative
quality of “continually undoing its phrase by the foreword or the exegesis, in
unsaying the said” (Totality 30).
6. “Glimpse and inflection—these terms suggestively affirm that the ultimate
manifestation of the writer’s presence in the novel, whether conceived as the
attainment of irony or as the communication of intention, is partial, finite,
even precarious, because it dwells in the empirical world of experience and
communication” (Brenkman 291).
7. The Arturo-Morante identity can be seen once again in the utilization of
photography as a means to reconstruct a past that escapes, or lacks details,
as in L’isola di Arturo. In this novel, Arturo reconstructs the maternal figure
through a photo. See M. Hirsch for relevant theoretical elaborations regarding the use of photography in recollection.
8. “The capacity of a being, and of consciousness, its correlate, is insufficient to
contain the plot which forms in the face of another, trace, of an immemorial
past, arousing a responsibility that comes from before and goes beyond what
abides in the suspense of an époque” (Lévinas, Otherwise 97).
9. Translation mine. In the English translation, there is no mention of the
Jewish women: “who belonged with the sinners, in the company of heathen
women” (House of Liars 355).
10. Weil openly criticizes French socialists and especially Léon Blum’s lack
of political intelligence with which she opposes Machiavelli’s acumen
(“Méditations sur un cadavre” 327).
7 The Burden of Memory: Lezioni di tenebra
1. The Guanda 2013 edition flap softens this definition: “a novel nourished of
2. Director Emmanuel Finkiel utilizes a similar technique in his film on three
Shoah female survivors entitled Voyages (1999).
3. One consequence of her displacement is the lack of a mother tongue. The
narrator constantly wishes to have a language she can call her own. “Sono
convinta di avere una lingua madre che non conosco, ma vallo a spiegare a
qualcuno” (LT 76; “I am convinced I have a mother tongue that I don’t know,
but go and explain it to someone”).
10.1057/9781137375346 - Forging Shoah Memories, Stefania Lucamante
Copyright material from - licensed to npg - PalgraveConnect - 2016-09-29
256 Notes
Notes 257
1. In Multidirectional Memory, Michael Rothberg opposes a construction
of noncompetitive memory between the Shoah and decolonization. This
would be a multidirectional memory that encourages the dissolving of borders not merely among social and racial groups but among their memories
as well (6).
10.1057/9781137375346 - Forging Shoah Memories, Stefania Lucamante
Copyright material from - licensed to npg - PalgraveConnect - 2016-09-29
8 Tips against “Numbness” for New Generations: For a
Collective Useful Memory of the Shoah and a Global Novel:
Janeczek’s Postcolonial Thought
10.1057/9781137375346 - Forging Shoah Memories, Stefania Lucamante
Copyright material from - licensed to npg - PalgraveConnect - 2016-09-29
This page intentionally left blank