Title

“Count Him a Human Being”: David Grossman’s See Under: Love and Holocaust Perpetrators in Israeli Fiction

Publication Date

Fall 10-2016

Journal

Prooftexts

Volume

35

Issue

1

First Page

13

Last Page

24

Abstract

This paper engages David Grossman’s See Under: Love through an aspect usually left under-examined: the characterization of Holocaust perpetrators. Grossman imagines Herr Neigel, the death-camp commandant, as a vulnerable and multidimensional individual, who—compared to the flat and stereotypical Nazi characters common in earlier Israeli fiction—is humanized to the point of blurring the divide between victim and victimizer. This characterization is considered here in the context of Grossman’s more political writing (The Yellow Wind; The Smile of the Lamb) as an expression of the author’s wider humanistic vision, and in the context of the fundamental changes Israeli society and literature underwent in the 1970s and 1980s. As revealed in a brief discussion of later literary responses to the Holocaust (Itamar Levy’s The Legend of the Sad Lakes; Savyon Liebrecht’s the “Strawberry Girl”; Amir Gutfreund’s Our Holocaust), Grossman’s perpetrator characterization holds a formative and lasting impact on Israeli writers.

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