Date of Award


Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Germanic Languages and Literatures

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Coloring Catastrophe: De/Coding Color in Representations of the Holocaust is an investigation of color and its literal and metaphoric use in literary and visual works on the Holocaust, specifically as a response to the crises of language and art in the aftermath of genocide and National Socialist terror. The analysis focuses on German, American, and Polish works from three generations and demonstrates how color as an aesthetic and narrative strategy variously and complexly challenges basic expectations about the look and structure of representations of the Nazis' million-fold murder of European Jewry during the Second World War. The first chapter provides the scaffolding for the project with an analysis of specific examples of black-and-white dichotomies in Holocaust writing and film. These dichotomies serve as a springboard for thinking about the ubiquity of black, white, and their intermediary gray in philosophical, historical, literary, and visual attempts to understand and depict the events of the Holocaust. The discussions in the following three chapters demonstrate how color is integrated into the visual and rhetorical structure of works by Cordelia Edvardson, Ida Fink, Miriam Katin, Nelly Sachs, Jurek Becker, and Dariusz Jablonski. In the second chapter, in which texts by Edvardson, Fink, and Katin are the subject of investigation, discussion focuses on how the authors create chromatic metonymies that function like language in order to describe events that many survivors and critics maintain resist a traditional lexicon. The third chapter on Nelly Sachs is an analysis of the recurring image of the rainbow as both a biblical and mystical trope in her poetry and what possibility there is for rejuvenation (tikkun ha-olam) in a post-Holocaust world. The final chapter of the dissertation pivots from survivor responses to responses of subsequent generations. A comparison of Jurek Becker's essay "Die unsichtbare Stadt" and Dariusz Jablonski's film Fotoamator reveals whether something beyond a postmemorial visualization of the Holocaust is possible and how color can aid this endeavor. This dissertation addresses particular aesthetic questions regarding the ethics of representing and remembering genocide and considers how these negotiations continue to dynamically shape our understanding of the events of the Holocaust even today.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Erin McGlothlin

Committee Members

Lutz Koepnick, Jennifer Kapczynski, Paul-Michael Lützeler, Miriam Bailin, Tabea Linhard


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Available for download on Sunday, January 15, 2113