The “God, Where Art Thou?” Theme in the Literary Works of Auschwitz Survivors Ka-Tsetnik, Primo Levi and Elie Wiese

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Author: Lily Halpert Zamir, David Yellin Academic College of Education, Israel
Email: lilyzami@gmail.com
Published: November 20, 2019
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijah.6.2.04

Citation: Halpert Zamir, L. (2019). The “God, Where Art Thou?” Theme in the Literary Works of Auschwitz Survivors Ka-Tsetnik, Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 6(2). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijah.6.2.04


Abstract

This paper focuses on the search for God in Auschwitz in the literary works of three surviving writers: Yehiel (Feiner) De-Nur (known by his pen name – Ka Tsetnik (often spelled Ka-Tzetnik) 135633 – and referred to hereinafter as “Ka-Tsetnik”), Primo Levi and Eli Wiesel. These world-famous authors survived the inferno, yet returned to it again and again in their post-Auschwitz writings. Their works describe their personal experiences in the concentration camps, the inmates’ lives and their families and friends who were murdered in the gas chambers. Against this background, they tried to explain the underlying source of absolute human evil in Auschwitz. Although they came from different Jewish religious communities, their remonstrative grievance was the same: Where was God in Auschwitz?

A preliminary reading of their writings reveals their personal attitude to God in Auschwitz. Wiesel calls Him “the God of Bread” (Wiesel, 1967, p. 236), Ka-Tsetnik “the God of Soup” (Ka-Tsetnik, 1989, pp. 56-57), and Levi the “Supreme Chemist at the Auschwitz laboratory”, a “gigantic biological and social experiment of the human animal, where the struggle for life was conducted” (Levi, 1961, p. 80).* Each asked in his own way: Where was God in Auschwitz?

Keywords: Amir Naderi, The Runner, Iranian new wave, neo-realist cinema
*Wiesel and Ka-Tsetnik came from Eastern European orthodox Jewish families, while Dr. Primo Levi, a chemist from Turin, Italy, was an entirely secular-minded Jew.