Literary Themes and Symbols of the Holocaust

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Literary Themes and Symbols of the Holocaust

Although Holocaust literature focuses on a specific period in world history, it also contains some common themes and symbols that help to define this era. The butterfly, for instance, is a symbol for the ephemeral lives of Holocaust children. A child, Pavel Friedman, wrote a poem titled "The Butterfly" during his time in a concentration camp. Since then, the butterfly has been a Holocaust theme for the large number of children who did not survive. A book,I Never Saw Another Butterfly, compiled by Inge Auerbacher, a Holocaust survivor at Terezín, features artwork, poems (including Friedman's poem), and words from many of the young children who died inside Terezín's walls. Patricia Polacco'sThe Butterfly also connects to this symbol as a butterfly gets crushed in a fist, helping show young children the horrors that occurred during the Holocaust in ways that could easily be understood.

The theme of voice is also prevalent in many works. Some literary pieces, likeThe Diary of a Young Girl, explore how the absence of a voice keeps families safe; others show the power of the voice as they speak out against the atrocities of the time. Trains are also a main symbol in Holocaust literature, especially inNight. These modes of transportation are what carried Jews from their old lives to their new ones. Some were on trains escaping persecution; others were on their way to concentration camps; both had uncertain futures. God and the
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