“They Are Different People”: Holocaust Survivors as Reflected in the Fiction of the Generation of 1948
On the basis of the stereotype of the generation of 1948 in Israel that can be found in literary criticism and in public consciousness, we might expect to find that Holocaust survivors are portrayed in this generation’s literature superficially, distantly, callously, and with sabra arrogance towards those broken remnants that supposedly bore all the weaknesses and misery of the Diaspora. However, an examination of this literature reveals a surprisingly more complex and varied picture than the stereotype, totally refuting it. The article examines a sample of ten works: five short stories by Zerubavel Gilead, Shoshana Shrira, Yigal Kimhi, Yigal Mossinsohn, and Moshe Shamir that were published in 1940-1945; and five longer works (four novels and a novella) by Yehudit Hendel, Moshe Shamir, Yigal Mossinsohn, Hanoch Bartov, and Shlomo Nitzan that were published in 1947-1956. There is not a single example in this literature of a disdainful or belittling portrayal of a Holocaust survivor from the perspective of the new Palestinian Jew. Moreover, the criticism that can be found in this literature is directed toward the callousness of the receiving society and not toward the survivors, who are portrayed as complex characters, out of empathy, esteem, and sometimes even a pronounced sense of inferiority. At the basis of all the works is a desire to integrate the survivors into the Israeli society that was being formed, as part of the vision of the ingathering of the exiles, which was a basic element of Zionist ideology.