Did Agnon Write About the Holocaust?
In this study the works of the Israeli writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888–1970) are analyzed in order to assess his approach to the Holocaust and his place in the literature of the Holocaust. During the war years, the Holocaust does not appear very often in Agnon’s work and no major text is devoted to this theme. However, some stories written in the 1930s — after his visit to his hometown of Buchach — on the tragic situation of the East European Jewry (e.g., “A Guest for the Night” and “At the Outset of Day”), were perceived by the public in the early 1940s as reflecting the Holocaust. In the spring of 1944, after the destruction of the Buchach Jewish community, Agnon reacted directly and openly to the Nazi mass murder of Jews. Some of his unpublished stories reveal that he was aware of the limits of his artistic powers regarding this theme. Two books published posthumously, A Teeming City (1973) and Our Family Chronicles (1979), represent a considerable addition to Holocaust literature. Here Agnon aimed to preserve the memory of the Jewish civilization that was destroyed.