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A study of the suicides of eight Holocaust survivor/writers / by Janet Schenk McCord

Publication | Library Call Number: RC451.4.H62 M37 1995

This dissertation examines the lives and works of eight Holocaust survivor/writers, all of whom committed suicide after World War II, and considers them in the context of their generation. The writers included are Jerzy Kosinski, Paul Celan, Jean Amery, Bruno Bettelheim, Tadeusz Borowski, Piotr Rawicz, Joseph Wulf, and Primo Levi. It begins with the premise, based on the work of Edwin Shneidman, that suicide is linked with the desire to escape intolerable levels of inner pain which are caused by excessively felt guilt, shame, humiliation, rage, aloneness, and so forth. This expository project is not an empirical study but a subjective analysis without preconceived conclusions. Through a close reading of texts and a careful consideration of biographical data, I attempt to ascertain and describe what were the possible specific and individual sources of anguish that drove these men to conclude that death was preferable to a life filled with despair, and to draw some conclusions about what may be learned from reflecting on these life stories. The first chapter presents background information: Part I presents a brief summary of suicide in Jewish and Christian thought, suicide during the Holocaust, and a discussion of the effects of extreme trauma. Part II defines what is meant by suicide and summarizes the suicidal scenario. Part III presents an examination of the creative process and writing as a coping strategy. Chapters Two through Eight focus on the individual survivor/writers, presenting and analyzing each with an eye to possible sources of their individual inner pain. The final chapter presents conclusions based on the individual analyses viewed in aggregate. Here, a particular inner anguish that emerged consistently throughout the individual analyses--defined as the anguish of abandonment--is discussed. For each, the abandonment experienced in relation to the Holocaust resulted in a profound sense of isolation and aloneness that in the end could not be assuaged. Abandonment during and after the Holocaust--by society, by family, by the dead, and by God--may have constituted the primary anguish that subsequently led them to end their own lives.

Format
Book
Author/Creator
McCord, Janet Schenk.
Published
1995
Includes bibliographical references (p. 330-344)
Language
English
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Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:46:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/bib72611