Abstract

The article discusses different images of Poland in post-Holocaust Hebrew literature. These texts portray journeys to Poland as a means of constructing a self-identity. Poland is a perfect place for such a search. It is the soil on which many Jews lived for centuries and where a large portion of the Jewish people was exterminated in World War II. Poland is, on the one hand, the place of origin and, on the other hand, the place where an entire civilization came to an end. The article distinguishes two main waves in journeys to Poland in Israeli literature. The first wave was the first encounter with Communist or Postcommunist Poland as it awakened to a new world. This wave was composed primarily of “second-generation” writers who were trying to construct their own identity and memory from the remnants of the destroyed Jewish world. For them, the journey to Poland was first and foremost a journey to the valley of death. The second wave was of Israeli writers who traveled to the same “void” as their predecessors, but they were fascinated by the memory of the absent Jews, which was constructed by Poles. They are distant from themselves, and they have a sense of irony as they observe the Polish reality around them. This Poland is different, democratic, and modern. The second-wave writers are not afraid to enter into a dialogue and interaction with Poles and they treat them as subjects, not as symbols of the “other”; but for first-wave writers, Poles were merely in the background, not partners for dialogue. However, in both waves the goal of the journey is to construct an identity by finding a link to the past that will establish a continuity: a continuity that offers the consolation of a complete story and therefore closure.

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