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Fiction’s Archive: John Hersey’s Literary Construction of The Wall (1950)

Nancy Sinkoff, Beinecke Visiting Fellow
Thursday, December 17, 2009, 11:00 am
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 121 Wall Street, Room 39
Free and open to the public

This talk will explore the manuscripts and archival holdings related to one of the first English-language representations of the Holocaust, John Hersey's The Wall. Hersey’s interest in the Warsaw Ghetto and in Polish Jewry was a result of his journalistic career during and after World War II, when he visited liberated Warsaw as part of his duties following the Red Army's march westward. The human destruction at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen Belsen assaulted him shortly thereafter. Hersey chose to write a novel specifically about the Warsaw Ghetto and the struggle of its last Jews to rise up against the Nazis and his papers reveal the journalistic architecture that allowed him to create a novel known for its historical verisimilitude.

Nancy Sinkoff, a historian of early modern and modern East European Jewry, was educated at Harvard-Radcliffe College, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Columbia University, where she earned her Ph.D. in Jewish History in 1996. She is currently Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and History at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Sinkoff was a Dorot Fellow in the Skirball Department of Judaic Studies at New York University.