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Children and play in the Holocaust: games among the shadows by George Eisen

By George Eisen

Sometimes an twist of fate of study produces a publication extra enticing than the only the historian initially meant. whereas sifting via fabric for his Ph.D. dissertation, which handled a completely diversified subject, Eisen stumbled on a diary from the Vilna ghetto written through Zelig Kalmanovitch. His tone used to be sober, yet no longer totally so. The passage that stuck Eisen's eye involved a playground erected round 1942 and the author's internal clash surrounded the coexistence of video games and activities and mass homicide within the ghetto.

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Example text

He shot them with his submachine gun and, then, with the tip of his boot kicked them into the ditch. The children knew what to expect and attempted to run away. ' " 3 These descriptions are graphically gruesome, but the history of the Holocaust rarely presents light moments. If they do not give the full extent and scope of the destruction, they at least provide a clear picture of its nature. " As in all complex solutions, it was felt necessary to employ a multitude of methods and tactics. In line with the Nazi plan of reducing the Jewish population was the forced reduction of the fertility rate through segregation of the sexes, marriage bans, and compulsory abortion.

Beyond that, an analysis of play and the role that individuals and the Jewish community attributed to it and envisaged for it might document times and mentalities in the Holocaust as richly and vividly as political, social, and economic analyses can. Whatever validity one assigns to this interpretation of play in society and history, it is glaringly evident from surviving descriptions that play activities in ghettos and camps, and the attitudes associated with them, reflected the historical, cultural, economic, and psychological milieu.

I consider myself fortunate to have been given the opportunity and time to write about children in the Holocaust. In writing this book there were no dull moments and no disappointmentsthe material I stumbled upon, tragic and fascinating as it was, had never been explored. The writing of a book, any book, is a complex and demanding task. During the process of researching and composing this work I came to appreciate this fact more and more. I was put to the test both emotionally and professionallypartly by the subject matter and partly by the realization that only a wholly interdisciplinary approach could provide a broad understanding of the Holocaust.

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