Facing Death

Confronting Mortality in the Holocaust and Ourselves

Edited by Sarah K. Pinnock

  • Published: December 2016
  • Subject Listing: Jewish Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 224 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Series: Stephen S. Weinstein Series in Post-Holocaust Studies
  • Contents

What do we learn about death from the Holocaust and how does it impact our responses to mortality today?

Facing Death: Confronting Mortality in the Holocaust and Ourselves brings together the work of eleven Holocaust and genocide scholars who address these difficult questions, convinced of the urgency of further reflection on the Holocaust as the last survivors pass away. The volume is distinctive in its dialogical and introspective approach, where the contributors position themselves to confront their own impending death while listening to the voices of victims and learning from their life experiences. Broken into three parts, this collection engages with these voices in a way that is not only scholarly, but deeply personal.

The first part of the book engages with Holocaust testimony by drawing on the writings of survivors and witnesses such as Elie Wiesel, Jean Améry, and Charlotte Delbo, including rare accounts from members of the Sonderkommando. Reflections of post-Holocaust generations-the children and grandchildren of survivors-are housed in the second part, addressing questions of remembrance and memorialization. The concluding essays offer intimate self-reflection about how engagement with the Holocaust impacts the contributors' lives, faiths, and ethics.

In an age of continuing atrocities, this volume provides careful attention to the affective dimension of coping with death, in particular, how loss and grief are deferred or denied, narrated, and passed along.
Sarah K. Pinnock is professor and chair of religion at Trinity University. She is the author of Beyond Theodicy: Jewish and Christian Continental Thinkers Respond to the Holocaust and editor of The Theology of Dorothee Soelle. The other contributors are Michael Dobkowski, Myrna Goldenberg, Leonard Grob, Rochelle L. Millen, David Patterson, Didier Pollefeyt, John K. Roth, H. Martin Rumscheidt, Amy H. Shapiro, and Lissa Skitolsky.

"Remarkably original because it deals not only with the victims and their testimonies, but also with the impact those testimonies have upon the scholars and thinkers who study them."
-Peter J. Haas, author of Morality after Auschwitz: The Radical Challenge of the Nazi Ethic

"Facing Death speaks to the heart of why study of the Holocaust, and genocide more generally, is an important task for any educated member of modern society since it exposes the deeper vulnerability that exists and persists at the heart of civilization."
-Henry F. Knight, author of Celebrating Holy Week in a Post-Holocaust World

"This superb volume raises fundamental moral, philosophical and theological issues about Holocaust and genocide victims and ourselves. Does depersonalized death have a meaning? What of our own demise? Pinnock has assembled an international and interfaith group of scholars from a variety of disciplines, and the fact that these academics interrogate and respond to each other makes this book a gem."
-Alan Berger, Raddock Family Eminent Scholar Chair in Holocaust Studies and director of the Center for the Study of Values and Violence after Auschwitz, Florida Atlantic University

Prologue: Death as Atrocity / Sarah K. Pinnock

Section One Engagement with Holocaust Testimony
1. Holocaust Victims Speak; Do We Listen? / Leonard Grob
2. Dying in the Death Camps as Acts of Defiance / H. Martin Rumscheidt
3. At What Cost Survival? The Problem of the Prisoner-Functionary / Lissa Skitolsky
4. Witnessing Unrelenting Grief / Myrna Goldenberg

Section Two Self-Consciousness of Mortality
5. Living For: Holocaust Survivors and Their Adult Children Encounter Death and Mortality / Michael Dobkowski
6. Bearing Witness to a Grotesque Land / Amy H. Shapiro
7. Melding Generations: A Meditation on Memory and Mortality / Rochelle L. Millen

Section Three Ethical and Religious Reflection
8. Experiences of Death: Our Mortality and the Holocaust / Sarah K. Pinnock
9. A Jewish Reflection on the Nazis' Assault on Death / David Patterson
10. Auschwitz and Hiroshima as Challenges to a Belief in the Afterlife: A Catholic Perspective / Didier Pollefeyt 11. Facing Death: What Happens to the Holocaust If Death Is the Last Word? / John K. Roth

Epilogue Witnessing Mortality

Selected Bibliography
Editors and Contributors