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February 24, 2009

Charlotte Delbo's _Auschwitz and After_

Image Source: http://www.cheminsdememoire.gouv.fr/image/Biographies/DelboAuschwitz.jpg

Delbo, Charlotte. Auschwitz and After. Trans. Rosette C. Lamont. New Haven: Yale UP, 1997. ISBN-10: 0300070578


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Posted by lhobbs at February 24, 2009 11:36 PM

Readers' Comments:

Sarah Tatko
Dr. Hobbs
3 March 2009
Delbo Response
In the introduction by Lawrence Langer, he discusses the difference between external memory and sensory memory. External memory is connected with thinking and recollection of events. Sensory memory is an “imprint of the ordeal” (xiv). One is focused on facts while the other is focused on feelings. Delbo explores both of these memories in her book Auschwitz and After. She uses both short story narrative and poetry to express her time in the concentration camp.
In order to relate what she experienced she recreates things in a more cognitive manner instead of straight piece by piece. This is what makes her account different than the others we have read so far. The closest one she models is Frankl and some of the experiences she mentions even reflect Frankl’s idea of meaning and life. In “Arrivals, Departures” at the beginning she mentions that arrival is a “one way street” (Delbo 7). This is an interesting way to phrase this because many of the new transports are unaware of this fact. Arrival is a euphemism for final road.
In the poem “O you who know” she redefines what life is inside the concentration camp. It is no longer about “what is the purpose of my life?” it is about “what is the purpose of living anymore?” She helps to illustrate this through some wonderful imagery that really makes you think: “did you know that a day is longer than a year a minute longer than a lifetime O you who know did you know that legs are more vulnerable than eyes nerves harder than bones” (Delbo 11). The idea that a minute is longer than a lifetime is foreign to me because it goes by in a flash and I do not even recognize it is gone. The women inside the camp watch the minute inch slowly by and would be able to reach out and grab it if they wanted to.
In the short recollection “Lulu” Delbo connects to Frankl’s idea of the meaning of life: “The women who had stopped believing they would return were as good as dead. One had to believe, against all odds, incredible as it might seem” (102). This is what Frankl said; people need to have a future and a purpose for living in order to give them the strength to carry on. It is interesting to see this demonstrated in another work.

Work Cited
Delbo, Charlotte. Auschwitz and After. Trans. Rosette C. Lamont. New Haven: Yale, 1995.

Posted by: Sarah T. at March 2, 2009 08:10 PM

Jamison Whitney
Dr. Hobbs
English 340
March 2, 2009
“Response to Auschwitz and After”

The most interesting aspect of this book to me was not the subject matter itself but the way in which it was presented. Throughout the class we’ve read several books which use differing narrative styles, from the novel to the journal. But Delbo’s somewhat disjointed narrative of the events brings a new understanding to the events because she did not try to chronicle what happened in the camps but rather to convey how the experience felt.
Her use of poems and small scenes allowed the reader to experience the events of the camp more from a gonzo journalistic style, as though the events were written as the author saw them as they happened. Rather than reflect on the events and record them as stories and present them in a polished form (which denies the nature of the events) Delbo expressed them as they had appeared to her at the time. This gives the reader a much better chance of understanding the true nature of the atrocities which occurred. The seemingly disturbed flow of the text in analogous with the mentality of the prisoners who have to cope with the horrors of Auschwitz and then assimilate into conventional society after release.

Posted by: Jamiso Whitney at March 3, 2009 10:15 AM

Jessica P.
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 323

Reflections on Auschwitz and After

Auschwitz and After by Charlotte Delbo is different than other holocaust books our class has read this semester as it deals with not only with Delbo’s experience at the camps but her and her comrade’s experiences with readjusting to civilian life. One does not often think of the after effects of the war, thus arousing the question of what lasting effects the holocaust had on people. After reading this book, readers realize that most people did not recover completely from their camp experiences. Instead of being able to forget the past, their experiences haunted them and had lasting effects that continued throughout the rest of their lives.

“The Measure of Our Days”, the third part of Delbo’s book, related Delbo’s and her comrades’ experiences with readjusting to life outside of the camp. All of the stories had one element in common; they could not forget the past. Although how they rebuilt their lives differed, as whether who remarried and had families and who remained single, all could not leave this horrific life-changing event pass. Thus, the concentration camps left the prisoners permanently physically and emotionally scarred.

In particular, the stories of the third section gave particular details concerning what effects the prisoners were left with. Fatigue, night-mares, sickness, flashbacks, no desire to live, and insomnia were some of the problems that the prisoners faced while rebuilding their lives in the outside world. In fact, Delbo somewhat scoffed at the idea of being able to rebuild her life after coming back and resuming life without her husband, who was killed by Germans.

To start life over again, what an expression…If there is a thing you can’t do over again, a thing you can’t start over again, it is your life. You could erase and begin anew…Erase and cover with writing the words that were there before…It doesn’t seem possible. How did they do it, those who did it? Graft a new heart upon a bloodless one…Where do you find the blood you need to have that patched heart beat again?” (348).

However, the released prisoners did start over again. In the story about Marceline, she commented on how the prisoners were ready to begin living fulfilling lives again. She also stated that some married and had children while others chose militant action instead. Personally, Marceline began living an active busy life through starting work and marrying. On the surface, this young woman seemed back to normal as she entertained, worked, and enjoyed herself; however, she could not escape her past as an Auschwitz prisoner. Often, Marceline found herself utterly fatigued. Additionally, every year she became very sick with an unexplainable sickness. She called it her annual “typhus sickness” of which perplexed the doctors, who could not find a cure. Thus, from reading Auschwitz and After one understands that the prisoners did rebuild their lives; however, they were left with physical and emotional trauma.

Works Cited
Delbo, Charlotte. Auschwitz and After. Trans. Rosette C. Lamont. New Haven: Yale UP, 1995.

Posted by: Jessica Pall at March 3, 2009 12:14 PM

Erin Kollar


Holocaust Studies

2 March 2009

Reply to Auschwitz and After by Charlotte Delbo

This book is a great way to see the inner turmoil of an Auschwitz survivor who doesn’t really seemed to have survived at all. Delbo basically says that you can’t really see what a survivor saw. But she writes so well that we can feel her pain and are unnerved by what we read/see. This book, at least to me, provided more of a real feel than any of the other books. I didn’t think her poetry was outstanding, but it did prove a point and forced the reader into her memories. I highly enjoyed her washing at the stream where she said she enjoyed the stream, but can’t remember what happened and only recalled the stream. The stream was water, life/cleansing, and Delbo was glad to find joy in such a simple thing, such a simple act. The confusion she felt is expressed well with the reader even being confused. Not by sloppy writing, but by the emotions being confusing themselves. When the woman is attacked by the dog in the snow she told how it felt like everyone was screaming, but only the woman really was.

One of the most disturbing chapters, for me, was when the two boys are playing the game when one is “The Commanding Officer”. It’s disturbing because it shows children playing games about a very serious subject and having fun while doing so.

Posted by: Erin Kollar at March 3, 2009 01:05 PM

Emily Belvo
Dr. B. Lee Hobbs
ENG 340
March 3, 2009
Review on Charlotte Delbo’s “Auschwitz and After”
In our Holocaust class, we have read four different perspectives of survivors from the Holocaust. Charlotte Delbo’s journal, “Auschwitz and After”, is now by far my favorite book covering the horrific events that had occurred at Auschwitz. The style in which Delbo uses in her journal is very poetic and metaphorical that it gives a deeper meaning to the trials and tribulations she suffered. It also, in my opinion, gives the audience a close emphatic look at the suffering that Delbo had to witness. Her imagery in her stories are so precise and her poetry is so moving that I had a better time understanding the atmosphere of Auschwitz than any other book I have read. Delbo has three sections in her journal. The first section is called “None of us Will Return”. In this selection, Delbo writes poetry and short stories about the beginning stages of her life in Auschwitz. The second section is called “Useless Knowledge”. In this section, Delbo offers her work inspired by the time after getting use to the camp and the way she felt during this time. The last section is called “The Measure of our Days”. In this section, Delbo recounts her days after her time in Auschwitz and how freedom from the camp is not how it was supposed to be. I remember in this section, Delbo states how during her time in Auschwitz, everyone survival was the thought of returning back to their normal life. She states, “The return, we did not see beyond that point….The return had not solved anything,” (Delbo 307). The three selections of her book helped break down the process of a person who had to go to Auschwitz.
Throughout her poetry and stories, the internal and external questioning of “Where are we going” continuously appears. Her use of imagery with the dummies is another reoccurring object that Delbo relates herself and her comrades to. The harsh treatment and survival of impeccable events are also known throughout Delbo’s stories and poetry. It is interesting how something as simple as a tulip can shine a light of hope, and how a plain and a wheel barrel can be seen as a resemblance of death. Delbo had a gift of using imagery with her words that quite amazingly made you feel like you were with her. Her words of encouragement to those who did survive this horrific event are true and comforting. Delbo’s “Auschwitz and After” is truly an amazing journal. I truly enjoyed this book.

Posted by: Emily Belvo at March 3, 2009 01:54 PM

Monefa Furlongue
Dr. Hobbs
Eng 430
March 3, 2009
Auschwitz and After by Charlotte Delbo was different from the other books we have read so far. Yes, she wrote about the same experience as the rest of the authors we have covered so far, but she was not as graphic about what she witnessed. I think the reason why her book did not seem as bad as the others is because of the way she wrote the book. She wrote poems which had a lot of meaning in them but also mad the situation seem not as bad as it really was.
I think this way of explaining what happened is a good way to expose what happened in Auschwitz and the Holocaust. This book could be used on the high school level in schools to learn about the Holocaust instead of using the Diary of Anne Frank. Since Frank’s story ends when she is captured and does not go into detail about what actually happens in the camps. Delbo’s has a way of telling stories of the other people she was close with while in the camp. She tells their stories in a way that lets you connect with them in a way. I would have to say that I enjoyed reading this book more than the other’s since it was not as graphic as the others we have read.

Posted by: Monefa Furlongue at March 3, 2009 03:00 PM

Jennifer Merrigan
March 3, 2009
ENG 340
Delbo Response

Auschwitz and After is a combination of works created by Charlotte Delbo based on her experiences of her life and her survival in Berkinau. The first and last volumes deal with life inside the concentration camp, and the middle volume deals with life after they were turned over to the Red Cross.
This has probably been my favorite works out of everything we have read so far. It really takes a step into a creative fiction way of looking into the Holocaust. In her piece entitled “Oh You Know,” you realize her feelings on the people who have read pieces like hers and say that they really understand what had happened. She is telling us that we will never fully understand what has happened during the Holocaust. It’s impossible to understand something that tragic. She takes a step further than most authors writing their experiences in the Holocaust by giving us a more personal and intimate feel of exactly what happened then. We can really, to a point, feel the pain that she felt when she was in Berkinau. Along with Maus, by Art Spieglman, this is the most creative piece that we have read.
Delbo, Charlotte. Auschwitz and After. Trans. Rosette C. Lamont. New Haven: Yale UP, 1995.

Posted by: J.Merrigan at March 3, 2009 03:10 PM

Renee Forero
Auschwitz and After
By: Charlotte Delbo

The book was very emotional and raw. It was very open and real about what went on while in Auschwitz. This book is not just a book but it is a journal, as most of these books have been but it deal more personal than the rest. Delbo talks about what goes on during the day as well as how it affects her after all the events happen.
Delbo talks about going into the camps, while being in the camp and life after the camp. Delbo expresses the sadness, anger and later on jealousy towards couples after her husband dies. Delbo is from France and she is not of Jewish decent but she still has resentment towards all of the Germans as if she was one of the Jewish people. From arriving to the camp like animals to being treated like animals, and degraded to just about nothing, Delbo captures every moment and how everyone felt and captures the humanity that was not seen to the German people.
Delbo’s daily journal entries are just like other Holocaust stories that we have read before. What makes Delbo’s book different is the poems that she writes and what she talks about. From talking about the tears that people cried about Jesus to the pain that they are going thru now. Delbo’s poems come across as anger to people who will later on read her stories. She shows every emotion that goes through one’s head at these camps. She writes about all of the things that they see but she never gives the names of anywhere they are or who she talks to. While reading this story one of the events that I thought were very interesting was that even though they were all scared and unsure about what happened. They still kept their faith and did everything they could to practice and celebrate the Sabbath.
One of her poems talks about the fear of dying but then they want to die because of the pain and torture that they all endeared. Delbo also write about the day when they were getting released from the camp, she also talks about the fears that they even went through because they were confused and were unsure about what was going on as they were being set free.
Towards the end of the book, just like most people who survived, Delbo didn’t understand why she lived. She still felt that a huge part of her was still in the camp even though she was free, she felt as if not just a part of her died there but that she did die there. The old her died there one could say and now that she is free, she feels that she doesn’t deserve to be free and still feels like she is still a prisoner in her life because of all that she went through.

Posted by: Renee Forero at March 3, 2009 10:48 PM

Monefa's response:

I totally agree with Monefa in that they can teach this book to students in high school. Delbo talks about the situations that the woman had to go thru. From being captured, to the work, labor and struggle they dealt with at the camps.

I really enjoyed how Sarah analyzed Delbo's state of mind, comparing her state of mind to the other authors that we read. The way that she questions life, the lengths of it and how everything has changed. Time is no longer limited, opinions are no longer just opinions. Sarah points out some real good points in the book that show how Delbo's mind works.

Jamison made a good point in the delivery of the book. The way it goes from talking about events to Delbo's expression of opinion in a poem and just the way that the book is written. Making it easier for the reader to understand it and make it more relatable.

Posted by: Renee Forero at March 9, 2009 12:18 AM

Sarah Tatko
Dr. Hobbs
10 March 2009
Delbo Peer Review
Jessica Pall:
Jessica’s paper is strong because it focuses on the section of Delbo’s life concerning life after the war. She mentions how life in Auschwitz haunts the prisoners throughout the rest of their lives. This is a good point because it can be seen with Borowski who killed himself by gas because he could not live with the experiences every day. She also does a good job by giving specific examples of the lives that some of these women led once they got out. It is interesting to see how different people can be affected in different ways. They all experienced something different and this is something I think Jessica’s paper is trying to illustrate. Well written and well supported.

Emily Belvo:
Emily’s paper takes an interesting approach because she incorporates Delbo’s style to how it helps to tell her story. Emily mentioned that through the different techniques of poetry and extended metaphors she was better able to comprehend and relate to Delbo’s story. While reading this it made me think that not everyone’s experience is the same, therefore, how can it be told in the same manner? Such as standard narrative. This does not effectively illustrate the events of the Holocaust; it is not a realistic representation. I think it was because of this technique that Emily was able to create a relationship with the work. This can be seen in the way she is able to pick out recurring themes and motifs used by Delbo throughout her book.

Renee Forero:
Renee’s reflection is strong because she focuses on the emotional quality of Delbo’s work. This is similar to Emily’s because, she too, was able to identify with these emotional scenes due to the poetry. Poetry is a good release for people and it makes the events more available to the reader. I am able to determine this through Renee’s response because she talks about the fears of the prisoners of when they arrive and when they are released and also of their degradation that they went through.

Posted by: Sarah T. at March 9, 2009 09:39 PM

Response to Jennifer:
I agree that this is by far one of my favorite books we have read thus far. It does take a different step and maybe a much needed step into creative fiction. The poem "Oh you know" not only focuses on what other people might have written about, but also the hypocrisy and lunacy of the whole situation at hand. Delbo does respond to the fact that we the audience will never understand the horrors that took place in front of her and thousands, but her writing does, as you stated, give "a more personal and intimate feel of exactly what happened then".

Response to Jamison:
I understand what you mean with the way she presented her short stories and poetry. It was a very creative idea. You actually stated "disjointed narrative" which is an interesting perception. I never thought of it in that sense and by reading your response it became clear to me. You also mentioned how her short stories and poems were written in such a way that it felt as though she was writing as these events were happening. Very good observations.

Response to Monefa:
In your response, you stated that Delbo was not as graphic as the other authors we have encountered. I do agree that her imagery is a little softer, however, i believe that the way that she portrays imagery through her poetry gives a graphic and almost uncomfort "too close for home" feel to it. Do you think that this is a strong point or a weak point for her? I agree fully that she has a way of writing that connects the audience fully with the circumstances.

Posted by: Emily Belvo at March 9, 2009 11:40 PM

Jennifer Merrigan
March 10, 2009
ENG 340
Delbo Responses

I agree when you say that she survived the Holocaust, but she didn’t at the same time. At points in the story she feels like she can’t get back to “normal life.” I also enjoyed how you pointed out the symbolism of the stream in her journal. She has a lot of symbolism like that and it’s good that you noticed.

This was also my favorite book we have read so far. I really enjoyed the poetic essence she had throughout her piece. I like how you pointed out that none of the people there really thought about life after Auschwitz, just the idea of them getting out.

I like how you pointed out the large spectrum of poetry she wrote. She didn’t just write about her sufferings, but also about her anger towards the people who didn’t have to endure this. This is a very important part of the book because others have talked about their anger at people who haven’t endured this, but you don’t get this kind of emotional turmoil that the other authors we have read have expressed.

Posted by: J.Merrigan at March 10, 2009 10:19 AM

Jessica P.
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 340

Feedback on Reflections of Charlotte Delbo’s Auschwitz and After

Sara Tatko

Sara begins her reflection with commenting on material covered in the introduction--the external and sensory memory. Basically, she explains how one focuses on facts while the other concentrates on feelings. This proves interesting as Delbo’s book contains poems relating Delbo’s memories of her Auschwitz experience. Knowing the different types of memory proved useful while trying to attain the most out of the reading. Pointing out Delbo’s poem about time was also interesting. I agree with Sara in that time goes by so quickly! Time is such a vague and abstract concept and seems to take on many forms. People experience time in different ways as demonstrated by my and Sara’s differance of opinion than that of the prisoners in the concentration camps.

Jamison Whitney

Jamison gave interesting feedback from his reading that I enjoyed. First, he commented that the subject matter of Delbo’s book was more interesting than the subject matter itself. Although I do not think it was any less important, I agree that the style of journal type writing infiltrated with poetry made the book interesting to read. Jamison also commented on how the book expressed Delbo’s memories with how they appeared at the time, giving readers a true sense of the prisoners’ experiences. This moment to moment interaction did provide readers with the emotions of personal experience.

Erin Kollar

“This book is a great way to see the inner turmoil of an Auschwitz survivor who doesn’t really seem to have survived at all.” I think this is an amazing reflective statement. I did not have this perspective before, but I completely agree with Erin. Delbo and the other prisoners never forgot or fully recovered from their concentration camp experiences. Although some of the prisoners continued their lives and rebuilt their families, the past continued to haunt them. Erin also commented on how the poetry was not outstanding but proved a point. I particularly enjoyed the poetry. I thought it gave the book a different format that was interesting and enjoyable to read. Especially because the book was dealing with memories and feelings, poetry is an excellent format to use with for expressing these elements.

Posted by: Jessica Pall at March 10, 2009 12:45 PM

Jamison Whitney
Dr. Hobbs
English 340
Response to Monefa on Auschwitz and After

I agree that the story was presented in a more palatable way but I don’t think that her writing style made the situation seem “not as bad as it really was”. The writing style just obscured the deeper meanings of some events through artful representation and poetic license. But that multi-dimensionality does lend itself to the end of being taught in high schools. Teachers can choose which points to emphasize based on the specific maturity and sensitivity of the individual class, unlike The Diary of Ann Frank which has only one inflexible interpretation.

Work Cited
Delbo, Charlotte. Auschwitz and After. Trans. Rosette C. Lamont. New Haven: Yale, 1995.

Posted by: Jamison Whitney at March 10, 2009 02:28 PM

Jamison Whitney
Dr. Hobbs
English 340

Response to Renee on Auschwitz and After

The idea that she died in the camp despite having literally lived is a very interesting concept. That is what makes the Nazis even more terrifying than if they had just killed all of their prisoners: they destroyed their minds as well as their bodies. This book really did portray the emotional experience in the camps more vividly than the other books we read.

Response to Jennifer on Auschwitz and After

I agree that this is a much different story than the others we have read. Both the presentation and the addressing of the audience of outside observers are unique to this holocaust journal. The role of the audience in this whole situation is the piece of the story which I felt needed to be addressed and I’m glad that something we read finally did.

Posted by: Jamison Whitney at March 10, 2009 02:50 PM

Jamison Response:
I agree with Jamison. Delbo did have a unique way of telling her story. It was different from what we have read before. How she writes her experiences down as she remember them not so much as how the actually occurred.

Erin’s Response:
Erin brings up a good point about how Delbo states that you cant see what a survivor saw, but that the reader can feel their pain through the books. This is true because the reader only knows the information that they are getting from the author since they were not there to witness it first hand.

Jennifer’s Response:
I like the way Jennifer breaks down Delbo’s book and how she picked out the section “ Oh You know”. That section was a powerful section since she talks about how she feels about people who read Holocaust literature since they will never know what it was truly like.

Posted by: Monefa Furlongue at March 10, 2009 02:50 PM


*NOTE* The deadline for this particular assignment has now passed. Any comments listed below are *ONLY* for the reposting of comments that I specifically asked to be revised or are ones from non-student posters. Any 'student' posts below that missed the assignment deadline will not get credit for the assignment.

~ Dr. Hobbs

Posted by: Dr. Hobbs at April 5, 2009 09:54 PM

Renee Forero
ENG 340
Final Exam answer

2. The most interest work that we went over I thought was Delbo’s book. I thought that it captured the emotion not just from a novelists point of view but also goes into the poetic nature of how she felt. I thought it was an interesting take that it was such an emotional event for her, as it was for everyone, but she just put out her emotions and feeling more when she expressed it in poetry. When writing poetry there are many angles and different interpretations that can be made and the way she wrote it was very cut to the point and full of emotional. She expressed how things were not only in a physical point of view when describing how everything was but also what was going through peoples head, mainly hers but I’m sure others felt the same way she did.

Posted by: Renee Forero at April 22, 2009 11:27 AM

2. My favorite work which I read this semester was from Charlotte Delbo. At first I found her book dry and uninteresting, but by the end I found it compelling and interesting in every way. I enjoyed how she added how it was seeing her comrades that she hasn’t spoken to in years, and seeing where they had been and what they were doing. It was interesting to see that many of them lived sedentary lives and didn’t do much if anything after all the work they were forced to do at their work camps. The inclusion of poetry between stories and accounts breaks up the monotony of reading and makes you take a break and look at another perspective.

Posted by: Lori Perreault at April 28, 2009 12:51 PM

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