The first generation of Canadian writers who responded to the Holocaust will be familiar to some readers: the poets AM Klein, Irving Layton, Eli Mandel and Leonard Cohen and novelists Mordecai Richler and Adele Wiseman.

Distant witnesses, they wrote of the Nazi genocide from the vantage points of Montréal, Toronto and Winnipeg – Canadian cities with the largest Jewish populations – and in English, a language that set them apart from European Jews.

Lesser known are those who wrote out of the lived experience, either in Yiddish or English as their adopted language. They wrote as survivors and to memorialise the six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis.

Literary exploration of the Holocaust grew proportionally as children of survivors came of writerly age.

As new research shows, there is a rich body of Canadian Holocaust writing that warrants study as a separate field of literature. To mark this Holocaust Education Week, let us attend to key works of Canadian Holocaust literature.

Chava Rosenfarb

Chava Rosenfarb (1923-2011) was born in Lodz, Poland. She survived Auschwitz, Sasel and Bergen-Belsen, immigrated to Montréal and wrote in her native Yiddish.

Rosenfarb was a prolific author of prose, poetry and drama. Much of her work has been translated into English by her daughter, Goldie Morgentaler, including the epic trilogy, The Tree of Life (1972). A rare work of fiction written by a survivor,…

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