Reading “The Grey Zone” in the Testimonial Literature of the Holocaust Cover Image
  • Price 5.00 €

Reading “The Grey Zone” in the Testimonial Literature of the Holocaust
Reading “The Grey Zone” in the Testimonial Literature of the Holocaust

Author(s): Catherine Mooney
Subject(s): History
Published by: Institutul National pentru Studierea Holocaustului din Romania ELIE WIESEL
Keywords: Moral; testimony; grey zone; Primo Levi

Summary/Abstract: I will explore the ways in which Primo Levi’s concept of “the grey zone” is expressed in some of the literary and testimonial responses to the Holocaust. I hope to demonstrate that readings of testimonial literature are enriched by an awareness of the ways in which certain moral issues are expressed throughout the testimonial literature. The first text that I examine is Primo Levi’s own Story of a Coin (1981). I demonstrate that in Story of a Coin Levi takes, almost verbatim, a popular and distinctly negative portrayal of Chaim Rumkowski, and adds to that particular portrayal a moral message about the vulnerability of human character to the allure of evil. The second text that I look at is Tadeusz Borowski’s This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (1959). With this text I explore the ways in which “moral luck” frames the experience of the characters in two of Borowski’s short stories. I suggest that the concept of circumstantial moral luck allows us to appreciate one aspect of the nuanced moral message that Borowski’s stories contain. The final text that I will look at is We Wept Without Tears: Testimonies of the Jewish Sonderkommando from Auschwitz (2005). In this final section I approach the highly sensitive issue of the moral status of the Sonderkommando. I examine the testimonial accounts of three members of the Sonderkommando, paying close attention to the ways in which these individuals conceived of the moral dimension of their experience. I suggest that the concept of“tragic ethics” allows for a nuanced discussion of the ethical ambiguity that surrounds the Sonderkommando.

  • Issue Year: IX/2017
  • Issue No: 10
  • Page Range: 227-245
  • Page Count: 19
  • Language: English