The Presence of the Past: Transnistria and the Bukovinian Holocaust in Edgar Hilsenrath’s The Adventures of Ruben Jablonski (1999)
Hilsenrath’s survival narrative contributes to the cultural history of the former Austrian province of Bukovina as it draws attention to the fate of the Eastern Jews from the Bukovinian town of Sereth and provides insights into historical questions regarding the persecution of the last preservers of Austrian culture in Bukovina. Hilsenrath’s autobiographical novel sheds new light on the Austrian presence in the East and the destruction of the Bukovinian Jewry during the Holocaust. As I argue in my paper, his text highlights the East-West divide in Jewish history as well as the diverse cultural and linguistic identity of Bukovinian Jews in particular. Austrian culture was an important aspect of Jewish life in Bukovina and especially in its capital Czernowitz. Yet Eastern Jewish traditions played an equally important role in Sereth and other Bukovinian towns. For most of the Austrian era and beyond, the German language and culture were valorized at the expense of local cultures, whether Yiddish, Romanian, or Ukrainian. It is therefore not surprising that Hilsenrath addresses the tragic irony of the Bukovinian preservers of German that had to die at the hands of the Germans. More importantly, Hilsenrath’s narrative addresses also the complicity of ethnic Germans and Romanians with the Nazis—a topic that requires further research by historians and literary scholars alike. In the midst of the European debates that discuss the role east European countries played in the Holocaust, Hilsenrath’s text raises more questions as to who was responsible for the Holocaust in Transnistria.
Valentina Glajar (United States)
Assistant Professor of German
Texas State University--San Marcos
I defended my dissertation in German Studies at the University of Texas at Austin 1999. Since then I have been teaching at Ohio State University, Texas Tech University, and Texas State University--San Marcos. My revised and expanded doctoral thesis will be published by Boydell & Brewer in 2004. I presented numerous papers on minority issues, Austrian colonialism, German-Romanian literature, the Sudeten German-Czech conflict, and other topics at national and international conferences .
Person as Subject
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)