Rising from Ashes and Dust: the Poetry of German-Jewish and Japanese-American Women in World War II Concentration and Internment Camps

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Arts and Humanities | East Asian Languages and Societies | German Language and Literature | Japanese Studies


Anna Lisa Ohm, Modern and Classical Languages


During World War II German-Jewish and Japanese-American women used poetry to express powerful emotions, bear witness to traumatic experiences, affirm their humanity, question their religious identity, transcend suffering, and deal with painful memories. Among the poets included in the study are Rose Ausländer, Henryka Karmel, Gertrud Kolmar, Mitsuye Yamada, and Sharon Hashimoto. Much of the poetry comes from within the confines of Jewish ghettos, American internment camps, and Nazi concentration camps. Studying prisoners' poetry provides us unprecedented access to events of the Holocaust and Japanese-American internment and a better understanding of the role literature plays in traumatic situations. While the severity of concentration camp conditions far exceeded those of internment camps, analyzing the poetry of both groups of women helps us to understand the creative impulse in other trauma victims.