The term “Jewish Soul” is used to describe the qualities which can be said to be quintessentially Jewish. This can imply a certain sensibility or a juxtaposition of historical context into the light of present circumstances. Although it is difficult, at best, to describe this characteristic or nature, one can still make broad claims regarding a Jewish sensibility. For example, celebrating major Jewish holy days whether at home or in synagogue, the keeping of Jewish tradition for major life events such as circumcision, bar or bat mitzvah, marriage under a chuppah, and burial rituals.
A comparison between two authors' account of their Holocaust experiences is given in light of this “Jewish soul”. References to the Torah, the Talmud, Yeshiva, prayer, Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), the Hebrew language and attendance in or reference to synagogue and religious devotion will be explored. This is not an exhaustive list and other themes will be considered. Given the nature and historical context of the respective writers certain themes emerge which cannot be ignored. Hunger, base human nature, depravity, disease, demoralization and dehumanization are concepts which are examined by both authors.
The first title is Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi an Italian Jew and chemist, who at the age of twenty-five, was arrested with an Italian resistance group and sent to a Nazi death camp in the end of 1943. Levi endured “life” in a death camp for ten terrible months. The second author's title is Fatelessness by Imre Kertész, who was born in 1929 and imprisoned in Buchenwald as a youth. The opening sequence of Survival in Auschwitz makes no mention of a “religious” involvement in Judaism or its customs. Quite the contrary in Fatelessness the author awkwardly prays with his uncle prior to his father leaving for labor camp. In Survival in Auschwitz, the author makes no mention of family life or religious experience. Both accounts rush head long into the...