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Are Jewish ghosts more valued than Jewish lives?


As she knows well, and demonstrates in her own work, Jewish literature typically skips the uplifting messages of grace that readers expect from Western, which is to say Christian, literary traditions. Instead, Jewish literature often invokes the horrors of the Jewish past. Unsurprisingly, then, she opens with Anne Frank. The first published editions of this teen’s diary were carefully edited to strip away too much Jewish specificity as well as her emerging sexuality. Her iconic words — “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart” — turned this adolescent into what Horn calls “Everyone’s (Second) Favorite Dead Jew.” (Everyone’s first favorite dead Jew is, of course, Jesus.) Refusing easy cheer, Horn instead juxtaposes “The Diary of a Young Girl” with the notebooks that Zalmen Gradowski, who had to drag the dead from the gas chambers to the crematoria, wrote and buried in Auschwitz before he revolted against the Nazis and was murdered.

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