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Document Type

Article

Abstract

This work is a philosophical and historical exploration of religious transformation among Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. The research includes a substantial amount of unique survivor testimonial material from the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive. These recorded interviews provide a variety of anecdotes from eyewitnesses, which require a certain caution when utilizing as source material. Although some Jewish survivors obtained a newfound spiritual strength through their experiences, this particular investigation focuses on those who were at one point connected with their religious traditions and have since abandoned their belief in God completely. For contextual coherence, the testimonial material is organized alongside the historical events of World War II, specifically the rise of Hitler, the escalation of the Nazi occupation in Europe, and the mass extermination of the Jews that followed.

This exploration highlights the dramatic modifications and additions to Jewish spiritual thought, especially in regards to the notion of theodicy. This work discusses various positions of Holocaust theology, and how survivor testimonial information can serve as an outlet for interpretation in the effort to answer the difficult questions surrounding the concept of faith in light of the Shoah. Analyzing the personal experiences and convictions of Holocaust survivors allows for a deeper understanding of their religious metamorphosis. Prior to the Holocaust, Jewishness was defined much more precisely than how it is today. This work argues that Jewish atheism, however contradictory as it may seem, assuredly deserves to stand among any other recognized philosophy. First-hand experiences with utter inhumanity have led many Jews to reject the validity of God’s covenant. This work demonstrates how the horrors of genocide have provided a transformational vessel towards the abandonment of faith.