The first part focuses on the struggle of the poets of the Hebrew symbolist school in Eretz-Israel to represent the violence perpetrated against Jews in Europe at the beginning of World War II. The overruling aesthetic approach of Hebrew symbolism transforms during the war into a national commitment, favoring the national symbol of the living-dead as a discursive tool. Nathan Alterman's Joy of the Poor, the most important book of poetry of the period, established itself as an ideological and poetic source of influence for many Hebrew literary works of the literary generation of the 1940s.
This part focuses on the surprising manner in which Nathan Alterman dealt with the Holocaust in his book The Poems of the Plagues of Egypt (1944). The fact that Alterman fully internalized the annihilation of the Jewish people in Europe created a revolution in his patterns of poetic representation. By writing The Poems of the Plagues of Egypt Alterman changed his poetics dramatically—from one dominated by the symbol to one dominated by allegory.
During World War II and right after, there was a noticeable effort by some members of the symbolist school led by Avraham Shlonsky to return to what had been the dominant nationalist symbolism. Influenced by a labor-movement culture, these writers and other artists produced images of national sovereignty during the war and in its wake. This part of the book includes a detailed discussion of the political and literary relationships between war reportage and war poetry, as well as an analysis of women's war poetry and the way it uses representations of the human body to subvert the hegemonic literary representations of the war.