POSTMODERNISM

AND THE HOLOCAUST
Edited by

Alan Milchman and Alan Rosenberg

VIBS
Volume 72

Robert Ginsberg Executive Editor Associate
G. John M. Abbarno Mazy-Rose Banal H. G. Callaway Rem B. Edwards

Editors Joseph C. Kunkel Alan MiIchman George David Miller Michael H. Mitias Samuel M. Natale Peter A. Redpath Alan Rosenberg Arleen Salles Alan Soble John R. Welch

Rob Fisher Dane R. Gordon J. Everet Green Heta Hayry Matti Hayry Richard T. Hull Holocaust

I
Amsterdam - Atlanta, GA 1998

I

a volume in and Genocide Studies HGS Alan Rosenberg and Alan Milchman, Editors

in dull purple are printed the word "Postkarte" and lines for names.) The card is addressed as follows: . not even a picture postcard. Surely millions like it were produced. and this space has been filled by a hurried hand in black ink. placing my own interpolations in square brackets. (I wi 11 include the postcard's punctuation and its orthographic and other errorssuch as "Gehtto" above--in my transcriptions. they will have only post cards from me. governmentissueitem. not for your name (moreover you have too many of them. for you. Past About a year and a half ago I bought an old postcard. But otherwise it is an utterly banal thing.Two INHALT UNZULA'SSIG: LATE MAIL FROM LODZ-A MEDITATION ON TIME AND TRUTH Gregory Fried Let everything become a post card again. and millions like it still exist. streets and cities. now." in The Post Card' 1. the author signs a name and designates an origin in the space designated for the "Absender" The return address is: A. but rather a standard. which is reserved uniquely for you. "Envois. and they are on all lips). Someone casuallybrowsing at a flea market might momentarily be struck by one detail: printed in the same dull purple is a stamp bearing the portrait of Adolf Hitler atop the words "Deutsches Reich" and franked "6" (Pfennige). names. everyday object. On one sideofthepostcard. For you the living one. It isan ordinary. ugly perhaps. never the true letter. There is space on one side of the card for a message. -Jacques Derrida. The other side is divided between space for an address and return address. Fajwlewicz Litzmannstadt (Gehtto) Trodlerstrasse 15.

the Nazis had vastly multiplied their Jewish "problem. rectangular frame. Or rather. the Nazis and the Soviets had already corne to agreement on how to divide the spoils. this handstamp is cruelly ironic. And yet I have in my possession a trace of their presence in this world. the Wartheland. suicide or disease. This plan demanded that the western region of Poland be Germanized-« hence thetransformation ofLodz into Litzmannstadt. who was killed near the city fighting in the First World War. Hitler's Germany invaded Poland. economic. abused and interrupted. Zuraw Krakow Lwowska 5.000. The only trace of the passage of full. human lives which has survived obliteration and incineration is a card which was scribbled in a few moments and peddled fifty years later for a few hours' wage. This postcard addressed "To Mr. Among the zones selected for either outright or eventual annexation to the Reich. By late September. and the printed stamp indicates that it dates from the period of Hitler's Third Reich. did not neatly follow a single. and though my research on Fajwlewicz and Zuraw has not been completed as of this writing. But as such a bridge. the Nazis would facilitate all further steps as their plans developed. the immediateadrninistrative question was what to do with this enormous and dispersed population during an interim period before an orderly process of universal deportation could be implemented. without being privy to the internal workings of the war against the Jews. Trodlerstrasse. On I September 1939. we must give a close readingto the card. Fajwlewicz's return address has been marked with the vertical stroke of a blue pencil. was Lodz. before the war."7 Browning notes the interpretation of the "intentionalist" historians (Hillgruber. the city's name.5 Since the Nazis considered the Jews a racial enemy presenting political. The return address gives the sender's residence as Trodlerstrasse. Browning offers a portrait oflocal Nazi officials struggling to make the most of directives imposed upon them from above. and even health risks. the Warthegau contained by far the most Jews: approximately 400. and the street underlined with a horizontal stroke by the same hand. either killed at a death camp. on 28 September. in the Litzmannstadt Ghetto. This postcard is quite probably the only remnant of the correspondents-s-a ghastly and pathetic thought." for in these lands they had acquired Europe's largest Jewish population.' With the conquest of Poland. much smaller handstamp in black: the numeral "558. after the surrender of Warsaw. in search of Lebensraum? Germany had signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov non-aggression treaty with the Soviet Union in August. Upper Silesia. Within a broken. The great argument among . Danzig. Christopher Browning has argued convincingly that Nazi ghettoization policy in Poland. In fact. Instead. GREGORY FRIED Inha/t Unzulassig: Late Mail/rom Lodz 25 The postcard was written but never sent. but local Nazi administrators in the conquered territories seized upon ghettoization as a temporary solution to the Jewish problem in Poland: by concentrating the population. The Polish language was banned from public institutions. Trunk) who believe that the ghettos were established as a deliberate first step in a program to exterminate the Jews which had been plarmed from the outset of the war or before. The city lay in that region of western Poland. Zuraw" never reached its Intended destination. That relics of the Holocaust circulate as objects of commercial transaction is itself a wretched testimony. Friedman. a handstamp of nearly the same dull purple hue lies diagonally across the face of the card. [ paid forty dollars for this postcard. and of all Jews even further eastwards. Next to this handstampis a second. guiding principle. whose population included large numbers of ethnic Germans. Mommsen) who think that the ghettos give evidence for the incremental radicalization of the Nazi treatment of the Jews in response to developing and unforeseen circumstances and resulting in the final. J. The printed stamp with Hitler's portrait has not been canceled. where Fajwlewicz lived at number 15. never dispatched and delivered. But if we ask-Why was their conversation misused. Hitler and his lieutenants had settled on the plan to reclaim western Poland (Wartheland. and city streets and sites were renamed. was ulica Szklana before the occupation. And as it turns out. up to the border of Soviet-occupied Poland. Stalin sent his armies into Poland from the east. once put into practice.24 An Herm J. "sealed ghettos of prolonged duration were not part of any policy imposed by Berlin on local German authorities in Poland in September 1939. it reads: "Inhalt Unzulassig" ("Contents Inadmissible"). Leaders in Berlin set the grand design. or less directly murdered by starvation. and on 17 September. But Litzmannstadt was not a German city before the war. renamed after the German general Karl Litzmann. they almost certainly died along with millions of others. Browning also cites the interpretation of the "functionalists" (Broszat. bridging the compartmentalized division between sender and addressee. incorporating these territories into the greater Reich.' This Germanization envisioned a concomitant purification o fall non-German elements: expulsion of all Poles and gypsies east into the Generalgouvemement region ofGennan-held Poland.' But Browning concludes that neither the intentionalist nor the functionalist explanation is adequate to understand the dynamic of the ghettoization policy. given the banality of the thing." A. Given these circumstances. Instead. we probably only have this trace of Fajwlewicz and Zuraw because their communication was interrupted. 6As he points out. extreme measure of wholesale genocide. and West Prussia) for ethnic Germans alone. why was the postcard held back and refused delivery?-we will find that in answering these questions. Fajwlewicz and Zuraw were almost certainly Polish Jews who had been confined to ghettos in Poland by the Third Reich.

Arthur Greiser. successfully argued that the ghetto should be permitted to develop its own economy. not free market capitalism."!' Of course. or. the stated Nazi policy was to expel all Jews to the eastern edge of the. relieving the local officials of their burden to cope with the ghettoized populations. Once the Jews had expended all their funds to purchase food. of ghetto conditions. and. the Nazi head of the Lodz ghetto administration. . and in August of 1944 it was the last to. given Britain's seemingly hopeless isolation and the acquisition of the colonial possessions of a conquered France. the appointed leader of the Lodz Judenrat and the "Chainnan"(der Alteste der Juden) of the Jewish ghetto administration. But to Support Jews with public funds was unthinkable. of course). so that the Reich=-or perhaps moretellingly. the authorities will not take repressive steps . concentration. mostly in textiles. the Reichsstatthalter and Gauleiter of the Wartheland. the Lodz Ghetto was a slave labor camp. at least during an indefinite. though it is almost certain that Rumkowskicould not have known this at this early date. the local authorities themselves----would not be burdened with their upkeep." In the first phase. on Reinhard Heydrich's orders." By 1943. that whatever the Nazi leaders' ultimate intentions. In this struggle. a Jewish Council. and conditions in the ghettos were always horrendous. thereby ridding the Reich of them. to implement Nazi directives on their people. but other light industries took root as well.. such as huge influxes of population. and all Jews were to be expelled. Greiser expected he would soon be rid of his warehoused Jews. who used the bills and coins-dubbed "Rumkies'v=-to pay for provisions and services. regimentation. made such normalization difficult. terrorization. and without Britain's acquiescence to massive transports by sea. Himmler's fantastical plan to solve the Jewish problem by deporting them all to Madagascar seized preeminence. Biebow even went so far as to seek out contracts in Germany personally and to procure confiscated machinery for use in the ghetto. the "Madagascar Plan" for the deportation of Europe's Jews collapsed. stated policies and particular conditions on the ground as a result of these policies. 11 When the Lodz ghetto was sealed in the spring of 1940. a plan relatively easy to execute. its remaining inhabitants deported. IS But this was a command economy in Lodz. without any clear indication ofa future plan. Rumkowski's watchword was "Work!"-he was convinced that the only hope for the Jews was to labor obediently under Nazi rule. Browning argues convincingly that the Nazi Lebensraum and EndlOsungpolicies evolved with changing circumstances." But until the Final Solution was put into practice. I give you my word of honor that no evil waits concealed in the wings of the new registration. valid only In the ghetto. with the enslaved themselves administering their everyday affairs. There has been considerable controversy as to whether the Nazis ever meant this plan seriously. they would be faced with starvation." ~umkowski even received permission to produce his own currency. from spring of 1940 to the end of 1941: ghettoization. In essence. and from late 1941 : liquidation of the concentrated ghetto populations through implementation of the Final Solution. "I am certain that if the ghetto does its work in earnest and does it well. Only when Berlin issued its orders for the liquidation of the ghettos was the trend toward normalization broken. and to attempt as much economic independence as possible. which posed a serious threat ofdisease to the outlying German and Polish populations. including Rumkowski himself. to support them enough to make the ghettos economically viable. cut off from all contact with the outside world. this "new registration" would serve as part of the apparatus for the deportations to the death camps. Greiser and other Nazi administrators of the conquered provinces found themselves saddled with their ghettoized Jews for an indefinite period. Lodz lay in the Warthegau. Lucy Davidowicz identifies three stages of Nazi policy toward the Jews of Poland: from September 1939 to the spring of J 940: occupation. had been intimately involved with this industry in the "Manchester of Poland. the local authorities in Poland still found themselves faced with specific. once it.was established (under Nazi supervision and control. filling contracts for the German army. In a speech of3 January 1942. from everywhere in this region except Lodz. a region slated for incorporation into the all-German Reich. Of course. be closed. to support itself and the German war effort. And so. A significant Jewish community had lived in Lodz before the war. and so Hans Biebow. and this meant that the authorities preferred to follow a path of normalization. On 1 May 1940.000 Jews were employed in the Lodz Ghetto.odz 27 such officials was whether to allow Jews concentrated in the ghettos to die off from famine and disease. Biebow found a ready ally for this policy in Chaim ~umkowski. But by the fall of 1940. rather than exacerbation. all larger concentrations of Jews were ordered to convene a Judenrat. The sealed ghetto. But in the summer of 1940. local administrators were each saddled with a local Jewish problem. it was a hoax masking the even m<_>re extreme plot to exterminate the Jews altogether. The city's economy was grounded in textiles. German-occupied territories. it became clear that Churchill was not going to corne to terms so readily. 12 Plans to deport Jews to eastern Poland Were canceled. extraordinary circumstances. and many Jews. he said. After the September 1939 conquest of Poland. that instead. interim period. soon presented local officials with considerable difficulties. instead. it was the relative moderates who tended to win out over the radicals.80.. moreover. then ordered the ghettoization of Lodz's Jews in order to force them to give up their "hoarded" wealth when faced with the necessity of moving and purchase of provisions. and the purpose of making the ghetto economically viable was to extract as much labor and wealth from the Jews as possible for the duration of their internment in the Warthegau territory.. Lodz became the first important city to have its Jewish population confined to a sealed ghetto (to be followed by Warsaw and Krakow). to pay the workers.ORnOORY FRIED lnhalt Unzulassig: Late Mail from l.

the ghetto population. who actually censored the mails. twenty days after these regulations were posted and about two months after transports from western Europe began to arrive. The use of intermediaries in correspondence is not permitted. As with all the other offices. drafts may be applied for through the Bank of the Eldest of the Jews. and Bernard Ostrowski. The prohibitions on "descriptions of any sort" and on placing the return address on cards for mail addressed abroad point to the authorities' wish to keep knowledge of the ghetto and conditions thereto a-minimum. speeches. But while the Nazis maintained a check on the process. Rumkowski ordered the creation of a Department of Archives for the ghetto government. The "new residents" mentioned were "Western" Jews from Ge~~an . People should be notified not to send packages here. was 144. A remarkable document has survived the Lodz regime. In correspondence going abroad. with authority to shoot anyone attempting illegal entry or escape.8 persons to a room." In this chronicle. unusual storiesanything which entered into the life of the ghetto. with pre-paid replies. who began arnvmg 1ll the first transports from the west on 18 October 1941. it is known as the Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto. epidemics. are able to use the local mail service on an equal footing with the rest of the ghetto population. Individuals may only request that pension payments be sent them. as well as from Prague and Vienna and environs. Their contents can only touch on private matters. Inquiries to the Red Cross. and a bank. They must be clearly and legibly written. or having been deported to the Generalgouvernement"). In January of 1941. which sold about 20." . Money orders are to be negotiated exclusively through the agency of the Bank here. hospitals.l0ney in such correspondence. strikes. German soldiers patrolled the ghetto perimeter. the ghetto had received 19. Abram Kamieniecki. began a secret daily chronicle of the ghetto." These regulations tell us a good deal about conditions in the ghetto during the fall of 1941. after more than six weeks since the arrival of the first transport. Rumkowski presided over a budget and all the trappings of a Jewish city administration: police. For example. and Nazi officials might conduct police raids or inspections ofthe ghetto at any time. among other governmental agencies. for they are not allowed in. the Nazi ghetto administrator. But the Chronicle entry does not tell us about all the regulations placed on the mail. Except that the Nazis themselves are never mentioned by name. In September of 1941. the Lodz Ghetto had acquired a two-tiered administrative structure (German and Jewish).ividuals have money sent to them at the addresses of older ghetto residents." By November. by the Office for RcsettledPersons. to Berlin. Abbreviations are not to be used in mail going abroad. three of the archivists.2J The post office sold only the mass-produced cards because these were easy to read and to censor. the sender's address is not to be used (a post office official will fill in the address). rumors. shootings. to the Warthegau administration and. The general rules for postal correspondence are contained in the following regulations: Only postcards may be used for private correspondence. Certificates attesting to residence in the ghetto will be drawn up by the Department of Vital Statistics and. On 17 November 1940. and all its regulations were imposed from above. suicides. And the newcomers scheme against working. with the purpose of both isolating and concentrating the Jews. The sender's address is Litzmannstadt-Getto [sic].953 new residents. living at 5. nor how these regulations were policed. The margins may not be used for wntmg. factories. beginning next Sunday. this postal service served the ghetto population only on the authority of the Germans. Mail cannot be sent across the Atlantic orto Switzerland. In a 20 December 1941 speech to some of the ghetto elite. the ghetto's new residents.000 postcards like the one we are reading now. emergency services. and making them pay their way as far as possible. marriages. "Chairman" Rumkowski complained about the many "scoundrels" among the "new arrivals" from the West and said: Recently. descriptions of any sort are not allowed.6 square mile area.000 (tens of thousands having migrated before the sealing of the ghetto. and with the permission of the [German] authorities.28 GREGORY FRIED In halt Unzulassig: Late Mail from Lodz 29 So by the fall of 1940." And a post office. direct correspondence with the Red Cross is not permitted. are only allowed at the window. policy debates. Fajwlewicz's postcard was written on 24 December 1941. in a 1. But the everyday handling of the mails was performed by Jews. Julian Cukier. it was Jews themselves under the administration of the Jewish Council and their post office. straining its capacity past endurance. By authority on loan from the Nazis. ultimately. Biebow. and it is also impermissible to request pa~~agesor ". schools. all ghetto residents were required to write their correspondence in German so that it might be inspected. 19 The Chronicle's entry of 4 December 1941 contains the following item: NEW ARRIVALS CAN NOW USE THE MAIL Beginning today.cities. weather. thanks to my censors at the post office. The writer of the chronicle recorded that "incredible crowds" of the newcomers swamped the post office. Requests tothe [German] authorities for permission to leave are also not allowed." hence Fajwlewicz's broken German. the authors recorded the everyday births and deaths. I've learned that certain ind. so that they don't have to tum over the two-thirds they would owe to the community institutions which support them. The ghetto was sealed: no one was allowed in or out without express permission from the Nazis. was directly responsible to a command hierarchy leading up through the city's occupational government." But daily life in the ghetto was administered by the Jewish Council ruled by Rumkowski.

] Wlr senen G. one was even printed with a design containing his bust.30 GREGORY FRIED Inhalt Um:uh1.\'iW l.J Gucia u[nd] Abram bitte gleich Antwort! . the authority of this force existed solely at the pleasure of the Germans. Es freut mich sehr dass Josiu Arbeit u[nd] verdant so vie! gelt[. the Order Service. and since contact with Jews was forbidden.] lch bitte Dich sehr u[nd] schreibe mir alles genau[. the semi-circle of a gear (symbolizing work). Though answerable to Rumkowski. the German ghetto guards who stood at the gates and around the perimeter. could shoot anyone for an infraction. Gesund gehbe Gott von Euch dass gleiche]. The ghetto had its own Jewish constabulary. and the Schutzpolizei. which performed the customary. The Nazis forbade the stamp's distribution. competition for the design ofa ghetto postage stamp. He used the post office to gather intelligence.\'. Several streets used by Poles and Germans passed through sections of-the ghetto.] Die L[iebe] Mutter ist G[ott] s[ei] D[ank] besser. without warning.] Sonst keine Besonderes als viele Grusse «[nd] Kusse ein besonderin Gruss u[nd] viele Kilsse vier Josiu{.ate Mail from Lodz 31 Rumkowski's megalomania went so far as to promote a. which coincided with the beginnings of the mass deportation of residents to the Chelmno death camp. To understand its transgression. and a distant view of indistinct ghetto inhabitants crossing a footbridge over an "Aryan" street. probably keying the offending item to a log entry. The German criminal police (Kripo) had its headquarters inside the ghetto itself. A censor stamped the title "Inholt Unzulassig" on Fajwlewicz's postcard. Rumkowski treated the post office as another extension of his dominion." Thus no ghetto resident could ever be sure to what extent the Nazis were looking over the shoulders of "their" police. This text reads as follows: Litzmannstadt den 24/12 41).] Warum schreibt mir nicht Hella ein par Worter]"] Bei uns ist alles so wie es wahr[. The Gestapo could enter the ghetto at will. Rumkowski announced the competition for the design of the postage stamp on 30 January 1942." So too with the policing of the mails. we must turn the card over to its reverse face. although they had not intervened in the production process. including Jewish police. and postal censorship functioned on the model of the police.} Auch ein Herzlichen Gruss VOndie L. s D.] Auch schreibe mir wa$S Hella macht mit gesund[. footbridges were built so that the ghetto residents could pass over without "contaminating" the other citizens of greater Litzmannstadt. The card addressed to Zuraw and sent by Fajwlewicz was censored and held by a Jewish postal official because it somehow broke the law of the ghetto." But the postal workers were still "my censors". The handstamp "558" is also a censor's mark. everyday police functions. Meine L[iebe] Bruder Schwager in u[nd] Josiul Eure Postkarte wie auchdie Zeitung habe ich erhalten [the words from wie through erhalten are underlined in blue pencil] fur welche ich Euch herzlich danke]. to examine the writer's brief letter. Mutter von uns[.

so it would seem that Abram was not writing to his brother. Fajwlewicz. Josl or Josek). however. thank God. and vier forfar also suggests that the writer spoke Yiddish and turned only uncomfortably to einjudisches Deutsch. Also write me how Hella is doing with her health. healthy. the ghetto had registered the number of Christian . or were there two authors? The script looks like a man's. this postcard. Taken casually and out of context. On a Wednesday.32 GREGORY FRIED Inhalt Unzuldssig: Late Mailfrom Lodz 33 A translation follows. rendering the "contents inadmissible"? The words underlined in blue pencil provide the key: Zuraw had sent Fajwlewicz a newspaper. This is not simply a matter of illiteracy. senenfor sind. a brother from whom sister and mother were now irrevocably separated." Such was the scrutiny to which the authorities subjected the correspondence of the ghetto residents. What is there here to offend the censor. But the newspaper was not the only infraction. for it was the censors who had allowed the newspaper to get through in the first place. so thirsty for any contact and news.l" By order of the Germans. the Jewish censors probably feared for their own sake that the German authorities would detect such a card. but the correct German street name to replace ulica Szklana (Glass Street) was Trodlergasse (Peddler's Alley). The writer also addressed the card to "My Dear Brother . tidbits of news-"nothing special. or worse. or possibly of the Polish Gustawa. When Polish Jews composed the population. This implies that while the author signed in the name of both husband and wife.must seem trivial: a little chit-chat about people's health. and the inconsistencies in spelling denote unfamiliarity with proper German pronunciation and orthography. for the crime of the newspaper? We cannot be sure. Otherwise nothing special except many greetings and kisses. addressed to Mr. I have received [the words from as through received are underlined in blue pencil]. Gucia and Abram please answer right. The use of words such as verdant for verdient. . But the text of the postcard seems so completely commonplace. Why doesn't Hella write me a few words? With us everything is as it was. Litzmannstadt. Even so. and reading that world back into the fabric of the text. Moreover. So did Abram write. polite inquiries about family activities. The name given on the return address is A. So it appears that "A. thank God. most ghetto residents spoke Yiddish. The censor marked Fajwlewicz's return address with the same blue pencil as the offending phrase about the newspaper. and to her brother's wife (who would then have been Gucia's sister-in-law) and their son ("Josiu"-a diminutive for Jas. although familiar with the language. Better to remove the postcard from circulation entirely. The Polish dealer who sold me the card said that it and others like it were found when the headquarters of the Jewish ghetto police was demolished in 1990. but rather complied with the regulation to write in the language of the occupiers. it is even difficult to be sure who wrote the postcard. so ready with her many kisses and warm greetings. two Catholic priests. a special greeting and many kisses for Josiu. I ask you please write me everything exactly. an abbreviation for Abram Fajwlewiez. but this may be misleading. Also a warm greeting from our dear Mother. while Gucia. 24 December 194t My Dear Brother. Fajwlewicz wrote "Trodlerstrasse" for the return address. Fajwlewicz.." But knowing that this was the Lodz Ghetto. did Fajwlewicz suffer punishment. not to a Mr.. reading the world of the ghetto backwards out of this postcard. but I cannot confirm this claim. under a Nazi occupational regime. orthographic and other errors suggest that the writer. Fajwlewicz" was inscribed in the official return address simply as the head of the family.away! The German has a much more unsure and broken quality than this rendering might indicate. Grammatical. We are. there is virtually none in the German. and a pastor. confined to the Lodzghetto with her husband and her ailing mother. I have addedpunctuation in the English. we can hear the desperate urgency of Fajwlewicz's tone. for which 1 warmly thank you. "With us everything is as it was. It makes me very happy that Josiu is working and earning so much money. But Gucia could have been writing to her brother. though this was the time when the selections and the transports to "labor camps" began." It almost reads like something sent home from a family vacation. These services were attended by a Carmelite nun. The text greets "My Dear Brother Sister-in-law and Josiu"-the card is. they were reduced to the narrow scope of personal banalities. so trusting and ingenuous in her thanks and prayers to God. although the western Jews who began to arrive in October of 1941 mostly did not. we know. may God give you the same. as well as the newspaper. only one of the pair wrote the card: Gucia=Gucia. because the card was signed by Gucia and Abram. which was strictly forbidden: no news from the outside world was allowed into the sealed ghetto. "Gucia" is probably a diminutive of the eastern European. Zuraw. Sister-in-law and Joshi! Your postcard. The street and building number were underlined." wrote about "our dear Mother" and implored Josiu to write to "me" about his work and Hella (the sister-in-laws) to write to "me" about her health." But we know from the regulations that correspondents were forbidden to describe or discuss their conditions. Indeed. Yiddish words (senen) poke through. since Gucia would have changed her fam ily name in marrying Abram. Dear Mother is better. and We can see that Fajwlewicz sought only to reassure an equally distressed and distant family by saying. was not a native German speaker. Yiddish woman's name Gitl or Guta. wrote to her brother in the Krakow ghetto. so concerned for her family's welfare. Rumkowski had "granted permission for Christian religious services to be held" by Catholics and Protestants. "With us everything is as it was. we must ask: how was "everything" on 24 December of 1941? It was Christmas Eve.

In his 20 December 1941 speech to Jewish ghetto administrators. had been shot on his way to work by a sentry. eradicate . had arrived in the ghetto the day before. The new arrivals had strained the ghetto's housing and food supply severely. Winter had descended. But the Chairman's impending marriage was not the only source of rumor that Wednesday.8 in 1942.000 in Chelmno and Auschwitz. Two men had been killed on the streets." But the Christian devotions were eclipsed by a rumor which was sweeping along the "whispering telegraph" through the ghetto: Chairman Rumkowski was to marry! "But even those unbelievers had to believe when. Finally. about a third of the ghetto's population." Ofthose who passed through the ghetto. Rumkowski observed that "people are becoming highly agitated in anticipation of a new calamity. Szyja Szylski.. "I am going to teach the Jewish population to have respect fora Jewish administration." At this rate. and given what they had experienced already. But rumors worse than those of shootings and famine began circulating in December of 1941.?" And indeed.?" That he did. get rid of . but given poor supp Iy and the condition 0 f the prov isions. if I I have the courage to admit this is my Deportations." Only the transports from Western and Central Europe kept the population relatively stable." The Germans stipulated I." This same "respect" instructed Rumkowski in how to deal with those who sought to protect others from deportation. And these were Rumkowski's own people. this meant transportation to the Chelmno death camp. These two shootings on one day had panicked the residents. "-mirrors the rhetoric of elimination and extermination of the Nazis themselves. and Regina Weinberger. in August of 1944. Even deportations don't scare them. nota bene.. that they had driven off together in a coach which.000 to 10. Perhaps 10.000 Jews.000.. to his elite: On the basis of my authority and the ghetto's autonomy. Rumkowski's language-" . and at the same time I was able to have the number reduced by half. this would have seemed likely. where gassing trucks had been functioning since the beginning of the month. Did he understand what fate awaited them? Almost certainly not at this early date.. German propaganda promised that residents would be deported to labor camps. which must be respected as seriously as German institutions.':" By the end of the summer of I 942.?" The Lodz Ghetto was thinned of its old.7. and there was meager heating fuel for homes and factories. Diagnosis: impudence. born in ]907 in Lodz. the ghetto was completely liquidated. 130. cure: deportation. . A special commission made up of my most trusted associates is now compiling lists of candidates. born in lIino in February of 1877. 100 calories a day. or who allowed their children to beg: "These saboteurs will be shipped out!"-family and all. and then turned to the problems of overcrowding. for a total of 11. the Jews would have to get by on the dietary equivalent of "prison fare" or even less. the fare was often considerably less." The Germans dictated that the Jews must never eat as well as the Volksdeutschen.. in the case of parents who dared permit their children to sell cigarettes and candy on the street. or even the Poles. The rate rose to 159. 31. all in the name of "autonomy" and the greater welfare of the ghetto community.39 He itemized policies to cope with the food and fuel shortages.37 Deaths outstripped births by twenty to one. a tailor. that the Chairman had kissed her hand in greeting and.34 GREGORY FRIED lnhalt Unzuldssig: don't do it. the machinery of the Final Solution was being set in motion.328 deaths in a fluctuating population of about 150.000 survived." The population was exhausted and edgy.6 from 1929-38. it had been 9.000 in Lodz.." Rumkowski's delusional faith in his own "authority" gave him the strength over the next two and a half years to administer the ghetto's cooperation in its own mass murder. Chaim Rumkowski himself boarded one of the last transports for Auschwitz-Birkenau with his family." Late Mail/rom Lodz 35 residents: 110 on 1 April 1941. They married on Saturday. "I will cure you of your impudence. On 28 August. The death rate per one thousand inhabitants in 1941 was 75. Wolf Wolfowicz. where they too perished..000. four days before Fajwlewicz wrote. . at least in the beginning. who spread talk of as many as seven killings and avoided going anywhere near the ghetto perimeter.. starvation and disease ran rampant. a few dozen kilometers distance from Lodz. everyone in Poland "had some inkling of what was going on. who avoided work. on Wednesday evening. its young and its sick until only those able to work as industrial slaves remained and labored for several more years. Only in this way will we eradicate this evil for good. someone else will. finally. I received permission to have the selection for deportation done by us alone." . Rumkowski continued. the next day. the new residents. This rabble multiplies like mushrooms after a rain. In December of 1941. I myself am at a loss to understand how to get rid of the criminals." Raul Hilbergreports: "Deportations [from Lodz] during the first five months of 1942 resulted in the disappearanceof55. from 20. 27 December in Rumkowski's apartment. the news spread that the lucky woman was sitting in the front row at that Wednesday's concert. a lawyer. 1 see no other way than to send this undesirable element out of the ghetto. position. It had begun. and over 250 more among the new arrivals from the West in autumn.. 21. had been shot while attempting to escape from a police escort taking him to the German Kripo headquarters. multiplies like mushrooms . Besides. refusal to work and an epidemic of crime. But already..000: 60. the Nazis had murdered some 190. on 25 December the Department of Vital Statistics received documentation for marriage from Mordecai Chaim Rumkowski..

allows the father of an argument. only those conveyed in dialectic can truly help their progeny in the soul of the listener. at the high stage of our civilization and at the peak of human cultural achievement. Modernity. leaving usto freefall without foundation. has this uncanny character. is the seriousness about justice and these things which is born when one makes use of the dialectical technique. The very idea ofa postmodern epoch. But. and the modem world cast off these props in favor of a direction grounded in humanity's own proud rationality. For the offspring of painting stand there like living beings. (276e-277a) Only the spoken word of dialectic. and that books. with the past. I think. converse with us in the eternal present of ideas. almost by definition. we learn that in writing essays about literary texts we should speak in the present tense. Zygmunt Bauman writes: "The Holocaust was born and executed in our modem society. and intention precisely cannot be present in the written word. perhaps because dialectic has the nature of conversation.In dialectic. and spread the words further in speech. for the most part. its author. but if you ask them anything. present and future.36 GREGORY FRIED Inhalt Unzuldssig: Late Mail/rom Lodz 37 2.''" Ifthis is true (though let us not he too hasty in accepting his assertionj-e-if modernity's hopes of progress. it seems. both Jerusalem and Athens. Only speech can suffice. they keep a most solemn silence. Present In Modernity and the Holocaust. then perhaps postmodernity announces a world where both faith and reason. just as much among those who understand as amongst those for whom it is in no way fitting. But postmodernity intimates a decline-in the sense of both an erosion and a refusel=-a dissolution of both the traditional past and the Faustian present. Post-modernity serves as the transitional after-word. for example: Plato writes. unparalleled disaster and horror beyond imagination. the temporal division of epochs according to the vantage-point of modernity collapses and begins to erase itself. words capable of carrying the seed forever forward. In destroying the paradigm of a modernity which embraced the future as the soon-to-be-conquered domain of the present. every speech is tossed about and circulated everywhere. though long dead. postmodernity collapses the conceptual edifice which has divided eras into the modem and pre-modem. Th~ post of postmodernity is not a shining future at which we have finally arrived. it always needs its father to help it. Socrates says to his interlocutor: 'Writing. Despite whatever intellectual and cultural roots we might trace back beyond the Second World War. but rather yield a seed from which other words grow in other dispositions. We acknowledge this enduring authorial presence by writing something like this: "In Plato's Phaedrus. Socrates seems to prefer the logos-the speech. planting and sowing words [/ogol] according to knowledgewords which can help themselves and the person who planted them. then this same event may well constitute the frontier between the modern and the postmodern eras. and can rally to defend the "seed" of the logos .'(275d-e)" When discussing literary authors rather than historical artifacts or events. is a paradox. for it does not have the power to defend or help itself. Now. the temporal convention we employ is. undying. in school. and it does not know to whom it should and should not speak. it is as if we had lurched out of the Now into what is coming-to-be. This triad of pre-modem. the word. Of course. or Socrates says. its confidence in human rationality. Socrates distinguishes between two kinds of gardener (georgos) of the seeds of speech: those who are content with play (paidia) and fleeting amusements and those whose work is serious (spoude). And when it is ill-treated and abused unjustly. its dedication to enlightenment and technology have all culminated. And once it is written down. coming upon a fitting soul. argument. and for this reason it is a problem of that society. the author precisely cannot be present personally to defend the text. center or certainty. the passage cited from Plato famously argues that thought. exhaling the stale air of the past and gulping at the fresh winds of the future. to the demise of modernity. wishing to understand what they are saying. postmodemity would then have its greatest impetus in the Holocaust itself. and even among spoken words. they forever signify one and the same thing. is (or was) a nearly breathless present. So it is with written speeches [logoi}: you might believe that they spoke as if they were thinking something. the post-script. 276a). the discourse-which is written upon the soul of the ready listener (hos met' epistemes graphetai en tetou manthanontos p. In postmodernity. which in truth is like painting. the author's engaged and responsive intention remains present in the interlocutor's soul. though ancient. civilization and culture. but in the Holocaust. and which grant their possessor as much well-being as is possible fora human being. if not in conflict. Phaedrus. but if you question them. Common usage has often understood modernity in contrast. words which are not without fruit. not in the relief of man's estate. then. We are told that authors and narrators. for only such words grow into the living arguments which can defend themselves from mistreatment and unjust abuse. overstepping ourselves and our own proper temporality. have failed us. modern and post-modern epochs corresponds tothe three dimensions of time: past. the "father" of the text-the author of this wayward child-must always be present to defend and support its meaning.vykhe. but rather an afterward. to remain forever present in the souls of those who hear. and in the realization--however slowly filtered through the West's institutions-that modernity's grand and ambitious narrative had ended in outrageous arrogance. He says to Phaedrus: But far more noble. If'the pre-modem world was grounded in transcendent faith and unquestioned tradition for its guidance.

This temporality which plods unchanging from past to present is the opposite of the modem. Its future was interrupted as decisively as the lives of the inhabitants of Lodz who wrote and posted it in December of 1941. the author and meaning are both present and absent.and postrnodemism comes into question. too. The German for was is war. But Fajwlewicz did not mention the future.. to eradicate the Jew from the present. An adjective became a verb. no immediate equivalent for war or was as a past tense of the verb to be. and Socrates is present to us only through the written words of Plato (and Xenophon and Aristophanes). In this word.. of wahr and war. for Fajwlewicz. since for postmodernism the past. perhaps their refusal. and so from the future. In Yiddish. ") Again. the longing for a "few words" from Hella and Josiu. it merely confirms that the bases for historical knowledge are not empirical facts but written texts. we do indeed now speak of authors as if they were still present: Plato writes . and speech and writing. though forced into the shell of a Roman alphabet and a German phonetic transcription. Just a slip of the pen by a hurried writer whose Hochdeutsch was not so good. so In the temporality of the trace. The great irony. at least in this case. " ("We are. immediate presence which undergirds the whole structure of the West's arrogant and tyrannical aspiration for unquestioned dominion. But if we observe the usual literary convention and ask-Who are Fajwlewicz and Zuraw. In the next sentence... which eagerly casts off the past in its assault on the future. And yet. or it is written. their dialogue. strikingly inappropriate. Unjust abuse (ouk en dike loidoretheisi thus seems to be either the deliberate or the careless mishandling in a discourse of the author's seed-a lingering and enduring presence which can only take its measure from respect for the author's meaning and intention. when the Final Solution was beginning to unfold. But the h of wa(h)r is not the substitution of one identically .. is that while Socrates on ly speaks. "this graphic difference (a instead of e). To do justice to the text as it stands. Derrida-in many of his works beyond this one on Plato-stresses the flux and interweaving of presence and absence in both writing and speech. too. between two vowels. To proceed as if Fajwlewicz and Zuraw had attained Plato's authorial immortality would be an unseemly affectation. there is no simple past. too. but here the author of the card wrote wahr. it is precisely the positing of such absolute.. Fctpostmodemism asks whether we can know the truth about the past. the written h of wa(h)r-was/true-cannot be heard. Gucia and Abram's irrepressible otherness. we are as well as we were. And so r write that Fajwlewicz wrote. and perhaps even from the past. thank God. erupted in a written di fference in the verb to be. the life... in this conflation of the truth and the past. and the metaphysical surety demanded by the author-father-tyrant is subverted." Was this error a Freudian slip? Probably not. Only the posting of the postcard itself. the boundaries of time had collapsed. Butthe truth came out in the writing itself. of the spoken word in the written medium? In any case.?" So." We must ask whether this textualization of historical truth has consequences beyond the subtleties of literary theory. in a form of the verb lobe. Socrates says . differance.. And this postcard was never delivered. If we extend this notion beyond literature. healthy . Their existence was effaced by a regime whose defining purpose was precisely to obliterate the presence of such human beings. of course. Plato writes. Fajwlewicz attempted to comply with the imposition of the German language upon all communication beyond the ghetto. we might have to translate the sentence: "With us everything is as it was/true. in his work on "Plato's Pharmacy. Gucia and Abram's true "we are" broke through: the Yiddish zenen is still present.?" produces a complex and subtle reading of the Phaedrus in which he addresses a number of these themes. And in this silent intervention of the letter h. and the plea to "please answer right away!" intimate that the writer had any expectation of something to come. In Derrida's reading (indebted largely to Heidegger) of the history of the Western metaphysics of presence. including those of father and son.. this marked difference between two apparently vocal notations. to be thoroughly absorbed by a political and linguistic tyranny. Fajwlewicz wrote: "Wir senen Grou} s[et] Drank} Gesund . remains purely graphic: it reads. "With us everything is as it was"-so wrote the author of the postcard. Fajwlewicz elided the past and the present in an effort to reassure distant relatives: what was is whatis. Certainly one of the most celebrated postmodern reflections on language is Derrida's continuing discussion of his neologism. play and seriousness.38 GREGORY FRIED Inhale Unzulassig: Late Mail/rom Lodz 39 from injustice. but cannot be heard.. restricting the tenses of the verb to be to is and was. we must remember that what we usually call literary history has little or nothing to do with literature and that what we call literary interptetation-s-provided only that it is good interpretation-is in fact literary history. Derrida offers us instead the notion of writing as trace. Is Plato's triumph then the discovery of a literary form-the Socratic dialogue-which preserves the seed. the whole relation ofthe Holocaust. . Instead. one extraordinary in its ordinariness. Jacques Derrida. he questions the privileging of speech over writing and the corresponding metaphysical notion that the author's "presence" isonly fully present in speech. and why is their communication. But the writer of the postcard made a mistake. Paul de Man writes: To become good literary historians. the German word for true. Derrida's now famous trope is to undermine the boundaries in such pairings. is a text. Fajwlewicz must have understood German well enough to know this verb in its spoken form. a signification in which both presence and absence participate indeterminately. interrupted'i=-this convention seems. In particular. their incapacity. and in writing this card. even if these texts masquerade in the guise of wars or revolutions.

effective truth. Nothing. On this postmodern account. S4 Signification thus functions on the model of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle: if you fix a meaning's position in the order of its difference to other meanings. neither among the elements nor within the system." hemeans to shock his reader into a realization that National Socialism is but an extension. Whereas Fajwlewicz inscribed the silent h "by accident. is the text produced only in the transformation of another text. "That is why this event-the Extermination-s-is for the West the terrible revelation of its essence. a postmodern thinker appropriating Heidegger's attack on metaphysics.40 GREGORY FRIED In/wit Unzuldssig.or in any sense. the structure-of a language grounds its integrity and totality on the solid relation of signifier and signified. and all absolutes: "When one considers the sufferings that men have inflicted and inflict on one another in the name of the epochal principles. the fraying of the "textile" of the text.itselfas the agent of history. But the political lesson is clear: any modem project which presumes to erect some totalizing interpretation and which arrogates to itself the pure presence of an absolute truth is bound to collapse-s-but only after inflicting untold destruction in its lust for hegemony. Rather. structuralist conception of the system of signs. This interweaving results in each "element"-phoneme or grapheme-being constituted on the basis of the trace within it of the other elements of the chain or system. language possesses structure only because of the "spacing" conferred by the difference among signs. the hubris of the modem subject had to end in disaster. can privilege presence. referring only to itself. differre. Better. and as such a reductio ad absurdum. prefer the irony ofmasks which indefinitely displaces the identity of the subject. the differentiation of words. and here Derrida picks up a thread of Saussure:each sign in any semantic system has its meaning only because of its difference from other signs. you lose the situational play of interpretation within which all meaning participates.so postmodern ists. reject ingthe arrogance of sel f-certainty and sacred. to cite Reiner Schurmann. never heard. is anywhere ever simply present or absent. including Derrida. A nd. There are only. essentiallyan-archie. differer. In the Sausurean. Derrida seeks to overturn what he regards as the Western tradition's privileging of the supposed immediate presence of speech over the derivative impotence of writing. each signifier (distinguished and identified by its difference from each other signifier) refers to a signified. a rejoinder between a and e which may only be written and read. there can be no doubt that philosophy-or 'thinking'-is no futile enterprise: a phenomenology that deconstructs the epochs 'changes the world' because it reveals the withering away of these . for no system of significance can standetemally sound in its structure. always temporally indeterminate. . that a simple element be present in and of itself. when Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. Yet Derrida does not want simply to invert this hierarchy. The play of differences supposes. The postmodern political gambit is. the modem subject-the "1"presumes to seck mastery over all beings as its object on the basis of "constant presence" ibesuindige Anwesenhein. di fferences and traces of traces." In its self-identity. this textile." But Derrida simultaneously undermines the scientific program of structuralism by noting the second sense of differre. syntheses andreferrals which forbid at any moment. reducing all beings to things present-and-accounted-for within the domain of its power. to help along this "event" of the dissolution of meaning. '11105. In Heidegger'saccount of the history of Being. both linked to the Latin root of the word. attaining dominion over both man and nature. of the whole modem project which set out to give humanitas the role of absolute subject. )) Late Mail from Lodz 41 and enduring sounding vowel for another. historical mission. But many postmodern thinkers. the temporal sense of deferral. But Derridean deconstruction insists on the deferral of the meaning of all signs and words: meaning is never purely present. he seeks "a new concept of writing" which enfolds both traditional speech and does not insist upon its own absolute Derrida's linguistic and philosophical conceit may seem rather rarefied and distant from worldly concerns. in effect.?" It is precisely the West's ambition for effective and totalizing truth that terminates in what Lacoue-Labarthe calls the "caesura" of Auschwitz: a rupture in the grand narrative of modernity=-a caesura at which point this whole narrative deconstructs. everywhere. writes that "Nazism 17 is ahurnanism. writing. Whether in the order ofthe spoken or the written discourse. writing. By insisting on a written differance. too. the h is itself silent. the logocentrisrn of all rat iona Ii ty. Deconstruction happens. and of their "present" exegetes. all foundations. with a concomitant absolute dominion over Being. have taken up (with modifications) the deconstructive destruction of the "metaphysics of presence" which Martin Heidegger first prosecuted across the full reach of the history of Western thought. Yet the imposition of the h in wa(h)r intimates an irruption of the truth in the past. both of the canonical authors. One of these in English means to differ. This interweaving. this subject is fully present to . as well as the masquerade of signifier and signified which constantly defers set meaning. and language is constantly in play. to point out sooner rather than later the happening of deconstruction. it seeks to unhinge all principles. one which presence. let alone the Holocaust. Postmodernists affect only to be pointing it out. if you fix meaning in time. then." Derridadeliberately writes differance in this manner to draw out the two senses of the French verb. of the Holocaust in modernity. you lose the momentum of signification's temporal trajectory. all Truths. They prefer the infinite and disruptive play of interpretation to the hegemony of a single. no element can function as a sign without referring to another element which itself is not simply present. In differance. meaning and things is always temporally atissue.

negative.present. deconstructive play would then be the best weapon to wield against such totalizing concepts and constructs. the seminal adventure ofthetrace. Rousseauistic side of the thinking of play whose other side would be the Nietzschean affirmation." Derrida indignantly observes: Whoever calls for vigilance in the reading of history. with Goebbels' propaganda ministry. And even if some proofshould remain and some of you survive. if the Holocaust serves such a pivotal role in the dissolution of modernity and the onsetofpostmodemity and a postmodern politics. guilty. and all procedures for determining the facts.one which abjures "dreams of deciphering a truth." Nazis understood how to "play" with truth. whoever complicates a littlethe schemasaccredited by thedoxa. Jaded postmodernism knows better than to give way to (his sort of innocence. he fiercely defends himself against the "symmetrical perversity" of those who charge that deconstruction and postmodernism foment an "atmosphere" in which such revisionism can thrive. procedures. In one of his most recent works. and without origin which is offered to an active interpretation. Levi cites Wiesenthal's account as an echo of his own: However this war may end [said the death camp guards]. on the simple plane of prudence: who is Iikely to triumph when reality and truth are thrown into the play of "absolute chance"? Do we have anyevidence that an-archie deconstruction will carry the day when everything is wagered on the power-play of "discourse"? The Nazis.?" But settingaside exalted philosophic talk. Derrida affirms his conviction that "there must be no let-up in the opposition" to the "abyssal perversity" ofHolocaust denial. none of you will be left to bear witness. PrimoLevi. A number of Holocaust survivors-Terrence Des Pres."S9 Though Schurmann cites Heidegger here. pieces. A programmatic passage from one of Derrida's most influential essays shows us what is at stake: Turned towards the lost or impossible presence of the absent origin. the longing for purity and absolutes.Simon Wiesenthal-have reported disturbing episodes of SS camp guards taunting their prisoners with visions ofthe death oftruth. did a fine job with the game of truth. the SS knew all too well the pleasures of Nietzsche an festival cruelty. deconstructive closure which seals the history of metaphysics? Schurmann would seem to answer for many postmoderns: "[Tjhe play of a flux in practice. a response might be that it is precisely the "nostalgia" for origins. throughout his entire history-has dreamed of full presence. is an end in itself. who will deny everything. or the final.?" "With us everything is as it was/true." one "which is no longer turned toward the origin. a persistent theme in the authors we have touched upon here would tend to deny the existence nfhistorical. that is the joyous affirmation of the play of the world and of the innocence of becoming. But while it is almost impossible to speak for postmodernism in general. with its "rational" methodologies for obtaining evidence. without stabilization and presumably carried to the point of an incessant fluctuation in institutions. withouttruth. All facts. And it plays without security." But can we "play" "without security" in the shadow of the Holocaust? Can we shout "joyous affirmation" here to a world "without truth"? To do justice to Derrida and other postmoderns. people will say that the events you describe are too monstrous to be believed: they will say thatthey are the exaggerations of Allied propaganda and will believe us. we might want to have an answer to this question. capital t Truth. is so bold as to assert that its paradigm is so structurally sound as to ensure eternal truths concerning times and places no longer present to us. the name of man being the name of that being who. and not you. we have won the war against you. affirmation also surrenders itsel f to genetic indetermination. under the sway of the metaphysics of presence. Derridawrites hopefully of an "other" mode of interpretation." At the same time. For there is a sure play: that which is limited to the substitution of given and existing . but even ifsomeone were to survive. the echo of Marx is unmistakable: what is the purpose of political practice if the outcome of a process is inevitable. but there will be no certainties. In absolute chance. which gave rise to the horror ofthe Nazi death-worlds. There will perhaps be suspicions. the world will not believe him. arise within a "paradigm" (Kuhn) or a "discourse" (Foucault) which has always already set the parameters for what counts as a fact.rincip!es." Not all deconstructive play is liberating. Only naive modernity. de-centering and anti-hierarchical. Specters of Marx. the origin and the end of play. We will be the ones to dictate the history of the Lagers. whether as the revolution which ends history. may we ask. Is there reason to think that postmodernism is really prepared to defend us against Holocaust deniers and whatever corresponding politics may now appear in our world of "ethnic cleansing"? Beiunsalles ist so wie es wahr. the reassuring foundation. throughout the history of metaphysics or of ontotheology-s-in other words. because we will destroy the evidence together with you. research by historians. affirms play and tries to pass beyond man and humanism. or demands a reconsideration of the concepts. Des Pres writes that the SS "took pleasure" in tormenting death camp prisoners with such prophesies." Is there truth in or about the past? Surely. The past is not a place "in" which one discovers "truth" lying "about" like a corpse at the scene of'arnurder. nostalgic.42 GREGORY FRIED In halt Unzulassig: Late Mat/from Lodz 43 . discussions. This affirmation then determines the noncenter otherwise than as loss of the center. and productions of historical truth or the presuppo- . after all. this structuralist thematic of broken immediacy is therefore the saddened. the affirmation of a world of signs without fault.

of attempting to decipher the meaning of the text." "Once the Author is rernoved. The impossibility of this answer to the call of duty does not nullify it. he moves in the same current as the postrnodem destruction of the subject." writes Derrida. of "revisionism" or at least ofp laying into some "revisionism. It would indeed be unjust to claim that postmodem authors such as Derrida who are inveterateanti-fascistsdeliberate/Y aid and abet the cause of Holocaust revisionism. This task seems all the more pressing for scholars in a time when outright Holocaust deniers" take up the epistemological cause of the SS guards. The postmodem critique oftheconventional understanding of truth (that is. or how. Andyet. and murdered in such a way that seems to have been specifically calculated to rob them of the agency and individuality we associate with human SUbjectivity? Or are we to remember the "event'vofthe "rupture" of the metaphysics of presence? Pretty thin gruel. truth as a re-presentation of reality which corresponds to the facts) does not simply shed doubt on the methodologies for ascertaining the truth.'?" lnhalt Unzulassig: Late Mail from Lodz 45 But Derrida is too coy. can learn and remember what happened to the millions of human beings caught up in Hitler's death camps. a truth immune to dissolution." nor does the talk of the "concepts. of trying to understand the intentions of the writer. procedures and productions" intimate that such truth is anything other than a fabrication of human=-all too human-devices. But what and how are we to remember if there is no truth and there are no facts. declares the "death of the Author" in his essay of the same name. But maybe this misses the point.such truth is a weapon which the absolute subject wields in its attempt to tyrannize over all beings. Postmodemism asks us to dissolve the subject. risks being accused today. we cannot make them present again. at least we can commemorate. all constructs deconstructed. and to convey this information to a new generation. through amalgamation. this infinite duty commands that we go on striving to recover the victims from their obliteration. of any transcendental source for the meaning of any creation. to prove the sadistic prophesies of the S8 guards false. And so. as sornethingimpervious to "abyssal" mythologization and perverse manipulation. like Zarathustra COmedown off the mountain. But the truth is elusive. Nevertheless. of course. even if. or who were born after the fact. Deconstruction hardly complicates the question of historical truth just "a little. But the command to "Never forget!" seems to demand something more of us." wrote Fajwlewicz. The duty never to forget is a duty to commemorate: to join in memory and to recover each of the victims from the obliteration to which the Holocaust condemned them.Author?" We may well answer: in this case.?" The dethroning ofthe Author-God. he offers us nothing with which we can defend the truth as something given. all the difference in the world. the duty never to forget is an infinite duty. where Fajwlewicz was from. are fragile. historians would have a duty to preserve the facts. whether human or divine. as if an "exactly" written card or letter would convey with it the longed-for presence of infinitely distant loved ones. though Derrida here does seem acquainted with standards for moral condemnation and epistemic judgment. that knowledge and truth itself. "More" research will never be adequate. Derrida writes: "The absence of the transcendental signified extends the domain and the play of signification indefinitely. We cannot be sure who wrote the card. The exclamation point is important: itgives an appeal the tenor ofa command. We cannot bring the victims back.44 GREGORY FRIED sitions of historiography. The imprecation bestows a duty-a duty. 25: 19). however partial or futile this effort may be. all pretensions to such truth must be dissolved. The Holocaust sought to obliterate the presence of persons and a people. "What difference does it make who is speaking?" asks Foucault in "What is an. in the game of power and knowledge. J confess that this is futile ina certain respect-the victims (the "true witnesses" in Primo Levi's sense: those who died . tried to uncover the truthofthe circumstances of its writing. But the command to remember that something happened cannot enable us personally to remember what happened. Deuteronomy. "I ask you please write me everything exactly.inthe death camps") are forever beyond Our reach. Fajwlewicz's plea=-c'please answer right awayl'l+-devolves upon us as the counterpart to the command. perhaps naively. contagion. he or she met death."'° What remains is the play of "the infinite deferment of the signified'?' and the perpetual play of the weave of the text. Abstractly. This is no "nostalgia" for lost origins or for absolute presence. supposedly frees the text from tyranny-frees the text for play and pleasure. indeed. In my reading of Fajwlewicz's postcard. But the Holocaust is an event which appeals to us to "Never forget!" (10 tishkach. "Never forget!" If we cannot remember personally. For many postmodems. When Roland Barthes. to uncover more. Perhaps further research will yield results.jhe claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. "Play is the disruption of presence. Rather. postmodernskeptlcisrn attacks the very idea ofan absolute truth. I have." But I plead guilty to the charge of seeking to recover the author of Fajwlewicz's postcard. something impossible and yet inescapable: a person at duty to remember those millions as individual human beings. for "Truth" is always an attempt to freeze the temporal play of meaning. we who were not victims. But in the face of an event whose defining purpose was the obliteration of human beings as persons and as individuals it is proper to contemplate the wisdom ofthis request. among other things. In this sense. both natural and human. and so forth. What are we to remcmberifnotthepeople who were murdered. and when the voices of those who survived as witnesses will succumb to silence all too soon? The commandment "Never forget!" implies thatmemory and. he reserves this knowledge for himself. Roland Barthes writes: . or confusion.

Christ cried: "My God." (John I: I) In the mystery of the trinity. we are bound by infinite duty to cross the divide to what was/true. theh marks a blank spot which will not figure into the economy of play between presence and absence. just before the commemoration of the birth of Jesus.also intimates how little we are entitled to as readers of this postcard: we cannot gain admission to its contents. And yet. a yearly renewal and return. a mission to the future from a present which becomes past. final moment in the Christian yearly cycle when absence is about to be filled with presence. The Holocaust sunders time and denies us per-mission to the "contents" ofthe past. if what we seek is a pure representation of the world reflected in the card.. the expectant. The task ofcommemorating falls to us. Nor. why do you let them say that you are neutral? Why do you not punish. those who are destroying us? Are we the sinners and they the righteous? Is it so? Is this the truth? Surely you are intelligent enough to understand that we are not the sinners and they the Messiah!" On Golgotha. lost conversations. In the face of the Holocaust. For the Christian. The posting of the postcard. for the deliverance ofthe ghetto. the appropriate Biblical passage is Deuteronomy 25: 17-19. Commemoration asks that we seek to recover the lost voices of these dead. by reading. from the traces and scraps which they have left behind. of this postcard was interrupted. We are at an impasse. the transmission. But this is a case at the limit. nearly frantic craving for presence which exudes from Fajwlewicz's "p lease write me everything exactly"and "please answer right away!" Fajwlewicz's postcard never did reach its intended reader and its intended destination. "Is-this the truth?" God did not defend His Word. Advent. the infinite duty of commemoration commands that we try to breach this breach. on the elusive. be present with Gucia and Abram. But the sending. The infinite duty of commemoration commands that we leap the breach. Postage is futural. effacing inscription ofthe trace." lnhalt Unzulassig: Late Mail/rom Lodz 47 The duty of commemoration up-ends Barthes' elimination of'theauthorand his elevation of the anonymous reader. and the world receivedHim: "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. from the Latin permittere. an absence unredeemed. however. Christ is a figure for a cyclical wholeness of time. And yet. even ifwe must fail..." The censor stamped it with the title" Inhalt Unzuldss ig. Yet this destination cannot any longer be personal: the reader is without history. theh which silently separates the war from the wahr. an aporia. death and rebirth to eternal life. It could not be let through. ours is a duty of breaking the silence. For though the . biography. it interrupts the communication. and Yiddish in the margins ofaFrench novel. but rather as moral beings ~and though I do not discount a philosophical rejoinder to postmodern skepsls. God the Author did not spare His logos from unjust abuse (Plato's auk en dike /oidoretheis). has a temporal trajectory. We need not insist on the possibility of truth as philosophers. for our deliverance. as does per-mission. At Yad Vashem is preserved a young man's journal. in A ugustof' 1944: My God. but God the Father healed the rift in the temporal cycle of life and death through the resurrection of His son. in all their human specificity. the transmission. the arkhe. English. full of grace and truth. by overcoming death. Christ cameas the Savior of mortal sinners. Commemoration asks us to respect that repressed. the birth of Christ is the beginning. the card is not a dead letter. He describes the last days of the ghetto.. and as the Redeemer of time itRelf." "Contents lnadmissible"-thecensor's mark indicating that the content of the letter was unacceptable for some reason. in responding to the call of commemoration. but He made whole the text ofredemption. that we attempt to recover millions of "sorneones" as persons. and the Word Was with God. We cannot. the glory as of the only begotten son of the Father. personality. Christ's mission of salvation is unbroken. for the inhabitants. Yet what is true and what is past intersects in this single word. God sent no Messiah.. his logos. Andthe titlefor this broken trajectory-"lnhaltUnzuldssig". now. and we beheld His glory.46 GREGORY FRIED The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost. wa(h)r. Polish. a text's unity lies not in its origin but in its destination.sent. It addresses itself." (John I :14) God the Author sent His Word. or of any mail. from birth to death to resurrection and back again. We cannot be sure of our secure delivery across this divide. of the past. he is simply that someone who holds together in a single field all the traces by which the written text is constituted. The Holocaust is the hidden subtext in Fajwlewicz's postcard. The Gospel according to John famously begins: "In the beginning was the Word [En arkhe en ho logos]. with all your anger. but if we divest ourselves of the idea of the truth. Les Vrais Riches. why hast Thou forsaken meT(Mark 15:34) Christ died on the cross. Finally. every day was an Eve unfulfilled. my God. where the anonymous author perished after being deported there' from Lodz. It was discovered at Auschwitz. we will certainly fall-and this plunge into the abyss will be no ecstatic liberation from logocentrism. God. The extraordinary irony of this date could not be more bitter.. without caesura. The German verb zulassen has the etymological sense of letting-through. written in Hebrew. to know and to experience what they did. the silent h divides war andwahr. life. we cannot ignore that the postcard is dated 24 December 1941Christmas Eve. It cannot be made here). do we presume to take the place of God as saviors of the victims.himself as Word to the world. Derrida insists on the commingling of absence and presence. these authors of countless lost texts. lost prayers. For the Christian. and has reached a destination only under the eyes of strangers. of a text--of the text=-whichenfolds the complete story of birth. He overcame finitude. and the Word was God. to us. The Holocaust breaks the cycle oftime. it intends its reading.

waiting.me in their hospital. "I drink without praying. on the thirteenth floor of a splendid tum-of-the-century building. he picked up the Elgin. I was too sick." he added. 3. fortyodd years ago. with salvation postponed." Mr. a deep blue face and elegant hands. Adler works on Labor Day). but haven't seen this! You know. "Ah! Mr. brass case. with a dull. as a child. Why did he have to do it like that? To go broke isn't the worst-thing." he said. an Elgin and a Hampden. was lucky enough to escape Prague with his immediate family in 1939. Adler examined the Hamilton and told me that it would take two or three weeks to fix. "You know what that is?" Yes. I went to the opera all the time. "Ah! Coin silver. 1 have only studied it for my own work on German philosophy.48 GREGORY FRIED lnhalt Unzulassig: Late Mail/rom Lodz 49 infinite task still binds us. and he was wearing a watch like this. he weighed 250 pounds. He asked me to write my name and telephone number on an envelope in which he would keep the watch. Adolph Adler's shop is on South Wabash. tapping it lightly with his knife. because the friend whose watch it was hoped to wear it to the opera. its fulfillment lies beyond us. then?" No. with bright eyes and a subtle smile. When you approach the glass-fronted door. he is a small man. and I squeezed into the tiny space with him. Adler's head is barely visible over the tall counter which serves as a partition." Next he inspected the Hampden. from around 1850. Adler began to open the back of the watch with a small knife and looked up at me through his fuzzy brows: "But I am curious. let us not compound it. steel frame. At the impasse. hardly bigger than a closet. "No. and since it is difficult to calibrate watches if you don't come in to work. [ had been eating sand and spinach. Adler threw himsel Iout of a window. Would I like to come and pick it up? I was so pleased. There are some beautiful passages!" Mr. Adler sang a few lines in a quiet. But he calledyesterday: he would be going away for Yom Kippur. "this watch still has a nice movement. "Yes! A long time I have been working. People shouldn't let things go that far. I thought it dated from the 1920s. he had finished the repairs on the Hamilton already. A boy was shot in the back this week. r saw everything! All the great singers! The ushers would let me stand in the back and then find a seat in the dark. The destruction has already been accomplished. I knew the man whose company made this brand from when I first came to Chicago. after a brief examination through his eye-piece magnifier. earlier. the same as silver dollars. (would have been finished. It was for a Tuesday evening. we too stand at the Eve. a modest but handsome piece. And when the Americans liberated me. The Americans liberated me at Buchenwald. He hit the EI and then the pavement. "'Fried'-a German name?" In a sense. "Today I drink coffee like a goy. "When I was a boy. my father is a Czech Jew who. you know the kind I am talking about? "But last year a man came in to me with two watches even older than yours. Adler had time to chat. The Americansput. Mr. you know what [ mean? r was twenty years old. Adler. Future Today. but he was big enough for two of me. Mr. he looked at the Tavannes. The workshop is a tiny space. So 1 hoped he could fix it. expository voice as 1 attended to the envelopes. Auschwitz. I live in Rogers Park.1 saw a photograph of Caruso. infinite reconstruction. and it is dangerous now at night. "Is the face porcelain?" he asked. When I brought the watch in last Monday (Mr. Very nice! How many jewels?" I didn't remember. He has season tickets to the Lyric Opera. "To Traviata at the Lyric. "I went to the opera this year for the first time since coming to America. Chaimov recommended me! Are you also a German teacher. but I went!" . but the offices were right here downtown. which is a little awkward with work." said Mr. I brought in three more watches for him to work on-two pocket-watches. 1 don't have the timer" But Mr. When he paid for his repairs. "1907." 1 moved the watches together on the counter. The company made good quality watches. but 1 could not even walk. After giving me back the Hamilton and explaining the work he had done on it." "Yes. Buchenwald." Finally. Mr. once he had recited the neglected prayer in Hebrew for my edification. A good student. so they went out of business. Where had he been sent? "Gross Rosen. a Tavannes. He held a cup in his hand. They had to pick himup in buckets. Mr. Too emotional? "No. and an early wrist-watch. with a tone which suggested that he was simply curious to learn how such an unlikely event had taken place. I went to Chicago's Loop to pick up an old Hamilton pocket-watch I was having repaired for a friend. A good boy. Ours is a task of expectant. too late. "But I could not stay to the end. and [ learned to walk on crutches with legs and wheels. If they had waited two more days. but they couldn't compete with the cheaper brands." I told him that this must be an omen. The factory was somewhere else. he gave mea ticket to Traviata. Adlerhanded me three envelopes to fill out again for each watch. I can work on it. It has a dark. Adler set the watches down on a tiny counter in the tiny vestibule which we stood in together. Mr. His name was Adler. 13 September 1994. like Heidegger declaring that "Only a god can save us now"7B--while maintaining a deafening silence. Adler opened the door for me. An athlete. too." he said. But we must not remain idle. But then I couldn't go for some time. he first asked me who had recommended him. with an elongated hexagonal form and a simple design." he said.

the Hampden and the Tavannes. 396-397. between pages 130 and 131. p. Cf Dawidowicz. p. The Destruction of/he European Jews. 51.50 GREGORY FRIED lnhalt Unzulassig. Just bring it in if it loses time!" I would like to thank the Bradley Foundation. 37.. p. "Plato's Pharmacy. whose support in part made possible the writing of this essay. xxxix. 18. pp. N. 9.. p. Dobroszycki. p. pp. 191. 100. pp. For an illustration ofthe banknotes... Among the many friends and colleagues who gave helpful advice and criticism. pp. pp. Hilberg. 1989). only because he knew how to repair watches. ed. 1987)." in Dissemination. 99. Notes 1. 39. 38. Lodz Ghetto: Inside a Community under Siege. Ibid. lbid.pp. ix-xv. Ibid. 24. 86-88. Alan Adelson and Robert Lapides (New York: Viking Penguin." in Margins of Philosophy. The Chronicle of the l. 41. 45. Christina Hardway. Jacques Derrida. See Brewing's chapter on "Nazi Ghettoization Policy" in The Path to Genocide. xxiv. 14. 84.. 5-8. lbid. Dawidowicz.. 61-69. p. 191. See Primo Levi. pp. trans. Ibid. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. Browning.. 43. "Difference. trans. . trans. p.Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. 711e War against the Jews. pp. p. 31. Ibid. 1 thanked Mr. pp. See Raul Hilberg. l. Zygmunt Bauman. 210. pp. lbid. Personal correspondence 1994. p. Ibid.. 53. pp. The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto. The Post. 2fl. 34. p. Derrida takes up this theme of linguistic space in ibid. 52.odz Ghetto. pp. Modernity and the Holocaust (Ithaca.. The Drowned and the Saved. The Destruction of the European Jews (New York: Holmes and Meier. 539. 8. Dawidowicz. 493. Alan Bass (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 1989). Positions. 162. 43.. 56. 22. The Path to Genocide. lix. 1992). 12. The Destruction of the European Jews. "Literary History and Literary Modernity. lbid. I-Ii. 1986). waiting for the elevator.. Nathan Tarcov. For a concise history of the fate of Poland's Jews in the war. 54. and others (New Haven: Yale University Press. Ibid. TheChronicleof the Lodz Ghetto. 15. Davidowicz. p. 304-306. See Dobroszyski's Introduction to The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto. p. 8fT. xxxviii. 11. 92. 49. The Destruction of the European Jews. 46.1'ath to Genocide. 189. p. p.odz Ghetto. Alan Bass (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 20. 91-92. see Lucy S. Michelle Hawley. pp. 32. 31. Peter Miller. 70. 6. See Christopher Browning. The Path to Genocide. See ibid. 18ff. pp. and I wished him happy holidays. Jacques Derrida. 1941-1944. 40. 29." in Blindness and lnstgl«: Essays inthe Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. letter dated 22 February 26. trans. See The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto. Hilberg provides a schematic of this command hierarchy. trans.. "Differance. ed. 47. pp. 493-494. 1985).odz Ghetto. 191-192. 17. Charles Fried.odz Ghetto. 48.x. 25. Raymond Rosenthal (New York: Vintage International. pp. Alan Bass (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. xvi-xvii. Richard Lourie. and seeDawidowicz. p. p. Ibid . See Jacques Derrida. pp. The Path to Genocide: Essays on Launching the Final Solution (Cambridge. 33. Hilberg. 67. pp. Ibid. I realized that Mr. 5. he appeared around the comer and called to me: "I didn't have enough days to be sure of the calibration of that watch. 80-81. 23. Y. The Destruction of the European Jews. 100. The . 13. see Lodz Ghetto. 10. Jacques Derrida. p. 19. 1989). I left him with the Elgin. p. p. 26. 42. 201-202. Barbara Johnson (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Hilberg. p. 211." p. 165. 539 Ibid. pp. pp. England: Cambridge University Press. Lodz Ghetto. 28-30.. Derrida '5 emphasis. quite probably. Richard Polt. The Chronicle a/the l. Ibid. The War against the Jews. 96. 16.. fn. p. 4. The War against the Jews. Adler for working so quickly on the Hamilton. 21. p. 11. pp. 196. 1984). 1982). 50. Paul de Man. 44. Browning's emphasis. 30. p. p. 394ff. Iii. 85. Out in the hall.e Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto. p. The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto. r was finding it hard to speak. 35. Ibid. Derrida. 31-32. 1992). 1976). Chronicle of the l.. 3. The War against the Jews. lbid. 2. Of Grammatology. lbid. See The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto. trans. 102-103. 39-40. 3. 42. xxxix. 36. 8. 1981). Iwould especially like to thank Michael Baur.. Jacques Derrida. trans.. Browning. Lucjan Dobroszyekl. 55.: Cornell University Press.. p. Joachim Neugroschel. p. and Lodz Ghetto. p. 7. Ixv.. Browning. 27. 8-9. and Slawomir Tokarski. Adler had survived. p. I and 464. Late Mail from Lodz 51 The We talked some more. Ibid. pp. from Luejan Dobroszyckl. The War against theJews (New York: Bantam Books. Suddenly. 1981).

For a survey and analysis of contemporary Holocaust denial. 83-84.52 GREGORY FRIED 56. 77. "The Death of the Author. CI. 58. "Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten. 292. the Work of Mourning and the New International. "The Death of the Author. p. The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps (New York: Pocket Books. fn. 1978). p. Ibid. and Play. 72." both in Martin Heidegger. 147. Ibid. 64. 1990). 70. p. See I-Ieidegger's "The Age of the World Picture" and "The Question Concerning Technology. Alan Bass (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. trans. Cf Derrida." in Image=Music=Text. 1990).. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. 67. 62. . Levi.5. and Play. p. Derrida. Heidegger. 123. trans. trans. 73. 76. "From Work to Text. Art and Politics. The Post Card. tu«. 5. "When History is a Casualty. p. 75. Barthes." in Image-Music-Text. pp. 158. 60. 185. 37. 95. 1977). Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt. trans. 59. 18. Jacques Derrida. C31. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. pp. The Drowned and the Saved." New York Times (30 April 1993).. Chris Turner (Oxford: Basil Blackwell. II. 61. Christine-Marie Gros (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (New York: The Free Press. p. p. 1993). Sign. Roland Barthes. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang. 1977). "Structure.Peggy Kamuf(New York: Routledge. p. Reiner Schllrmann. Derrida. 69. 148. Terrence Des Pres. Ibid. 74." in Writing and Difference. see Deborah Lipstadt. Barthes'sernphasis." p." p. 36. 11-12. p. p. p. 71. 292.. 439. 186. "-see the interview with Heidegger in Der Spiegel (31 May 1976). 280. Lodz Ghetto. 57. 78. 63. Ibid. Derrida's emphasis. pp. 1977). Jacques Derrida. 68. Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy. Specters a/Marx. The Drowned and the Saved. Sign. trans. p. fn. trans. p. 1994). 66. See Michiko Kakutani. William Lovitt (New York: Harper Torchbooks. Primo Levi. p. "Structure. 65. 209. Barthes.