Self-Portrait of a Holocaust Survivor by Werner Weinberg
The breadth of Werner Weinberg’s scholarship was prodigious, yielding monographs on ancient Hebrew epigraphy and biblical exegesis; the syntax of Rabbinic Hebrew; medieval grammars; and numerous studies on various aspects of Modern Hebrew. Both Weinberg and Lisl, his wife, survived internment at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
This collection of essays reprinted here, a little more than three decades after it first appeared, conveys Weinberg’s ongoing struggle to put into words something that might offer understanding to post-Holocaust generations. But they are also about a survivor’s own desire for meaning and sense in a senseless world. Most essays are framed around a series of questions which constitute Weinberg’s “prison,” and each time he attempts to pass through its portal, he finds himself “held back at the threshold.”
Self-Portrait of a Holocaust Survivor fuses together Weinberg’s most personal reflections alongside careful analysis by an erudite theologian fully-versed in traditional Jewish sources and historiography. He moves between resisting and acquiescing to the implications of Bergen-Belsen, never shying away from the most painful questions about God, morality, virtue, and the individual’s potential to do good. While today there is a vast literature penned by holocaust survivors and historians, this collection grapples with the concept of survivorship from a unique perspective.