Bearing the Unbearable

Yiddish and Polish Poetry in the Ghettos and Concentration Camps

By Frieda W. Aaron

Subjects: Jewish Studies
Series: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture
Paperback : 9780791458563, 242 pages, July 1990
Hardcover : 9780791402474, 242 pages, July 1990

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Table of contents




Part One: Poetry as Documentation

1. In the Beginning

2. The Great Chain of Being

Part Two: Morale, Moral Resistance, and the Crisis of Faith

3. Breaking through the Wall of Silence

4. The Cultural Ferment and the Moral Mandate

Part Three: Issues of Resistance

5. Poetics of Exhortation

6. Word into Deed

7. S. O.S.



Selected Bibliography



This book is a pioneering study of Yiddish and Polish-Jewish concentration camp and ghetto poetry. It reveals the impact of the immediacy of experience as a formative influence on perception, response, and literary imagination, arguing that literature that is contemporaneous with unfolding events offers perceptions different from those presented after the fact.

Documented here is the emergence of poetry as the dominant literary form and quickest reaction to the atrocities. The authors shows that the mission of the poets was to provide testimony to their epoch, to speak for themselves and for those who perished. For the Jews in the condemned world, this poetry was a vehicle of cultural sustenance, a means of affirming traditional values, and an expression of moral defiance that often kept the spirit of the readers from dying.

The explication of the poetry (which has been translated by the author) offer challenging implications for the field of critical theory, including shifts in literary practices—prompted by the growing atrocities—that reveal a spectrum of complex experimental techniques. .

Born in Warsaw, Frieda W. Aaron survived the Warsaw ghetto, Maidanek and other concentration camps.


this book has singular importance as a study of poetry in relation to the Holocaust. ..[and] real merit as a resource in the burgeoning field of critical theory generally, poetics in particular. "—Terrence Des Pres". ..a distinguished contribution to Holocaust scholarship. "—Irving Halperin

". is one of the best works I ever read on the subject. .."—Miriam Novitch