Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

American Jewish Holocaust Literature: The Survivor Generation to the Present

Course Number


Study Group Leader (SGL)

Tamar Aizenberg


This course will take place virtually on Zoom. Participation requires a device (ideally a computer or tablet, rather than a cell phone) with a camera and microphone in good working order and basic familiarity with using Zoom and accessing email.

5-Week Course

Feb. 27 - March 26.


“The details are the products of imagination, but the kernel of truth remains,” wrote Chaim Kaplan in the diary he kept in the Warsaw Ghetto. Like many Jews who lived during the Holocaust, Kaplan turned to writing as a way to process the horrific events unfolding around him. In doing so, he reckoned with the difficulty of expressing in words what he saw for the sake of preserving the memory for the future. Across the Atlantic Ocean, several generations of American Jews have continued to try and understand the Holocaust through writing. By reading short stories and book excerpts from works written by the survivor generation, their children, and their grandchildren, we will use literature to explore how the memory of the Holocaust has been transmitted over the course of generations. Our goals are to identify literary patterns that run through the texts, discuss how memories and narratives are passed down, and to use this literature to think through our own place in the world.

We will also use these texts as a way to ask broad questions that face anyone who confronts their own family history: What is my relationship to my ancestors, my relatives, and my community? How does my history inform my place in the world? How will I remember this history when its first hand witnesses are no longer able to tell it? Through these discussions, we will see how American Jewish Holocaust literature belongs and imparts lessons to all who wish to take part in it.

Group Leadership Style

More facilitated discussion than lecture.

Course Materials

All readings will be provided as scans on a class website or by email links.

Preparation Time

1-2 hours (40-70 pages)/week.


Tamar Aizenberg is a PhD candidate at Brandeis in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. She received her BA in History and Jewish Studies from Williams College and her MA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis. Her research focuses on the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and the grandchildren of Holocaust perpetrators. She has taught in Austria through the Fulbright program and in Boston as a teaching assistant and peer research mentor at Brandeis. This is her second time teaching at BOLLI.