The 14 Words

Monday, 30 June 2014

JEW Elie Wiesel on raping German girls


Naomi Seidman, professor of Jewish Culture at the University of California, writes in her 1996 paper Elie Wiesel and the Scandal of Jewish Rage about Wiesel's reference to raping German girls in the Yiddish version of "his" book Night

"In both the Yiddish and the French (versions of Night), the narrator criticizes the other survivors for thinking of nothing but food, and "not of revenge." The following passage is taken from the Yiddish, but the French is similar:
The first gesture of freedom: the starved men made an effort to get something to eat. They only thought about food. Not about revenge. Not about their parents. Only about bread. And even when they had satisfied their hunger they still did not think about revenge.
But the Yiddish continues: 
"Early the next day Jewish boys ran off to Weimar to steal clothing and potatoes. And to rape German girls [un tsu fargvaldikn daytshe shikses]. The historical commandment of revenge was not fulfilled." 
In French this passage reads: 
"Le lendemain, quelquesjeunes gens coururent a Weimar ramasser des pommes de terre et des habits-et coucher avec des filles. Mais de vengeance, pas trace." 
Or, in Stella Rodway's English rendition: 
"On the following morning, some of the young men went to Weimar to get some potatoes and clothes and to sleep with girls. But of revenge, not a sign."
To describe the differences between these versions as a stylistic reworking is to miss the extent of what is suppressed in the French. Un di velt depicts a post-Holocaust landscape in which Jewish boys "run off" to steal provisions and rape German girls; Night extracts from this scene of lawless retribution a far more innocent picture of the aftermath of the war, with young men going off to the nearest city to look for clothes and sex. In the Yiddish, the survivors are explicitly described as Jews and their victims (or intended victims) as German; in the French, they are just young men and women. The narrator of both versions decries the Jewish failure to take revenge against the Germans, but this failure means something different when it is emblematized, as it is in Yiddish, with the rape of German women. 

The implication, in the Yiddish, is that rape is a frivolous dereliction of the obligation to fulfill the "historical commandment of revenge"; presumably fulfillment of this obligation would involve a concerted and public act of retribution with a clearly defined target.


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