1st Edition

Emotions in Yiddish Ghetto Diaries Encountering Persecutors and Questioning Humanity

By Amy Simon Copyright 2023

    This book uses an empathic reading of Yiddish diarists’ feelings, evaluations, and assessments about persecutors in the Warsaw, Lodz, and Vilna ghettos to present an emotional history of persecution in the Nazi ghettos.

    It re-centers the daily experiences of psychological and physical violence that made up ghetto life and that ultimately led victims to use their diaries as a place of agency to question and attempt to maintain their own beliefs in pre-war Jewish and Enlightenment ethics and morality. Holocaust scholars and students, as well as people interested in personal narratives, interpersonal relations, and the problem of dehumanization during the Holocaust will find this study particularly thought-provoking.

    Essentially, this book highlights the benefits of reading with empathy and paying attention to emotions for understanding the experiences of people in the past, especially those facing tragedy and trauma.

    1. Introduction: Reading Ghetto Diaries 2. The Cities and Their People 3. The Art of Cruelty 4. Censure and Casting Out 5. The Deepening Darkness 6. Conclusion: Humanity, Expectation, Agency, and Morality


    Amy Simon holds the Farber Family Chair in Holocaust Studies and European Jewish History at Michigan State University. She writes about Holocaust diaries and pedagogy, including the article, "Imperfect Humans and Perfect Beasts: Changing Perceptions of German and Jewish Persecutors in Holocaust Ghetto Diaries" (2020).