Coming to Terms
To the Editor:
I would like to counter what I consider a terribly muddled conclusion to A. Alvarez’s otherwise clear and moving article [“The Literature of the Holocaust,” November 1964]. By ending with the quotation from Rawicz, Mr. Alvarez seems to be endorsing a view of the concentration camps as human crimes, rather than as specifically German crimes. . . .
Rawicz, as quoted by Mr. Alvarez, says that “the events that [the author] describes could crop up in any place, at any time, in the mind of any man, planet, mineral. . . .” Aside from the purely rhetorical value of the last few words, it should be added, in the light of Mr. Alvarez’s article, that this was a historical situation, and it must remain one if we are to come to terms with it. Whether this is possible I do not know, but I am certain that it is essential that we try. The events “cropped up” only in one place and in only one time. Whether or not man is capable of imagining such things in the future or in the present does not change the need for his trying to come to terms with their actual occurrence in the past. . . .
The camps must speak to the mind and the heart as well as to the imagination. They must provoke us to thoughts that lead to action as well as thoughts that lead to fiction, articles, and letters to the editor. . . .
Don Eric Levine
Princeton, New Jersey
Mr. Alvarez writes:
Mr. Levine has misunderstood my article. The whole point of it is that it is vitally important to come to terms with the camps as a psychic, as well as an historical event. If he looks at the piece again, he will find that I set out my reasons for this attitude in some detail.