"Yiddish Literary Testimonies: Mordechai Strigler, Leib Rokhman, Eliezer Wiesel"
Jan Schwarz is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Germanic Studies and Committee on Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. in Yiddish literature from Columbia University and his M.A. in Scandinavian philosophy and B.A. in comparative literature from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. For his Barbara and Richard Rosenberg Fellowship, Dr. Schwarz conducted research for his project, “Yiddish Literary Testimonies: Mordechai Shtrigler, Leib Rokhman, Eliezer Wiesel.”
Dr. Schwarz is the author of Imagining Lives: Autobiographical Fiction of Yiddish Writers (Wisconsin University Press, 2005) and co-editor of POLIN 20: Studies in Polish Jewry: “Memorializing the Holocaust” (2007). He is the author of several scholarly articles and book chapters including, “The Original Yiddish Text and Context of Night” in editor Alan Rosen’s Teaching Approaches to Elie Wiesel’s Night (Modern Language Association, 2007) and, “Blood Ties: War Diary as Yizker Book” in editor Rosemary Horowitz’s The Memorial Books of Eastern European Jewry (McFarland Press, forthcoming 2009). His scholarly work addresses modern Yiddish literature, multilingual Jewish literature in America, Jewish autobiography, and Yiddish responses to the Holocaust. He edited, translated and wrote the introduction to The Golden Chain: An Anthology of Modern Yiddish Literature (Rhodos, 1993) in Danish, and his Danish translations of Scholem-Aleichem’s Tevje der milkhiger and Avrom Sutzkever’s Griner akvarium will be published in fall 2009. In summer 2008, he taught a six-week intensive reading-comprehension course Reading Yiddish for Holocaust Research sponsored by Indiana University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Dr. Schwarz is a native speaker of Danish, is fluent in Yiddish and English, and has additional language skills in German, Hebrew, Norwegian and Swedish.
During his tenure at the Center, Dr. Schwarz examined the Yiddish literary testimonies of three Holocaust survivors – Mordechai Shtrigler, Leib Rokhman and Eliezer Wiesel. The project is part of his forthcoming book Genres of Yiddish Writing after the Holocaust. During and following the Holocaust, the trans-national Yiddish placed testimonial literature or documentary fiction about the Holocaust at the center of Jewish culture. In contrast, testimonial literature in non-Jewish languages, which functioned in specific national and ideological contexts, was for the most part marginalized and suppressed until the 1960s. Dr. Schwarz examined the genre of testimonial literature and analyze how it shaped and was shaped by public memory. He discusses how this Yiddish genre was transmitted into English and French (in the case of Wiesel’s Night) and became influential in shaping Holocaust literature, which proliferated in various languages beginning in the 1960s. He utilized the Museum’s library and archives for primary and secondary sources associated with his subject.
Dr. Schwarz was in residence at the Mandel Center from August 3 to December 30, 2009.