'Oh Earth, Do Not Cover My Blood!': Eastern European Jewish Identity and the Material Culture
Jewish material culture in Poland today not only finds vestiges of the pre-Holocaust world, but also finds memorials to the destruction of the Jewish world during the Holocaust. Recognition of these past memories, as evidenced in the material culture, assists in preserving a ‘continuity with the past’ – a phrase noted by Galicia Jewish Museum creator and director Chris Schwartz when he writes, “It is right and proper to acknowledge that it [Jewish life] has found new sources of inspiration, as well as being in continuity with the past” (Photographing Traces of Memory, 164). Drawing on representative examples from Poland, this paper looks at the nature and extent of pre-Holocaust Jewish material culture, the extent and proprieties of Holocaust memorializing, and the current ‘new sources of inspiration’, with the intent of engaging the question: In what is Jewish identity past and present anchored? And how does this identity ‘make memory’ for the future – a memory that will heed the Joban plea: “Oh Earth, Do Not Cover My Blood!”(16:18).
Keywords: Jewish Material Culture, Jewish Identity, Poland, Holocaust, Memory
Dr. Heidi M. Szpek
Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Central Washington University