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The public memory of the Holocaust is formed under the impact of writers of Holocaust literature. At that, the most prominent writers are Elie Wiesel considering the issue from the Jewish perspective and Primo Levi and Jean Amery following the non-Jewish one.
Levi, an Italian Jew, was released from Auschwitz in 1945 by the Soviet troops. In addition to his pain, Levi concerns the increasing temporal distance and habitual indifference of hundreds of millions of people towards the Holocaust and the survivors1 It causes the feeling of anxiety that was fuelled by the sense of responsibility of survivors. Levy concerns of the alarming and rapidly coming oblivion speaking of it as of a new fear – a sign of solidarity inherent in victims of the Holocaust.
Describing the feelings of many victims after their liberation, Levi, above all, pinpoints shame for guilt which lies on others, but victims tend to consider themselves to be involved in these events. Levi and others sharing his point of view understand: what had happened around them, to them, and in them is irreversible.2 It would never be washed off proving that humankind has the potential to create infinite grief, and grief is the only power that grows out of nothing without effort. As Levi states, it is enough not to see and hear.
Amery was in Auschwitz along with Primo Levi, yet they never met. Before he was caught and tortured by Gestapo, Amery participated in the Belgian Resistance. After the liberation, Amery and Levi discussed their experiences in letters. Levi appreciated Amery but criticized his manner to respond with a blow. This was the position of Amery which remained after the Holocaust as well. Initially, it was a conscious protest against the perverse world of the fascist regime. Furthermore, the writer held his position after Auschwitz and became so rigid and inflexible that he couldn’t find any joy in life, in the very process of existence.3
Those who meet the difficulties panoplied gain dignity but pay for it too high a price as they cannot escape destruction. At that, he points out that torture in the concentration camp resembled rape – sexual intercourse without the consent of one of the partners as the attack in which there is no hope or possibility of resistance. Being one of the representatives of the Ethics after the Holocaust, Amery argues that one of the most important results of the concentration camps for survivors is a feeling of loss of confidence in the world.
The cultural prerequisite of a moral human being is the confidence that in the event of a crisis other people will protect them or rather will respect personal individuality. However, as Amery states, the first hit leads to the sensation of helplessness after which nobody could help the prisoner, be it mother, wife, brother, or friend – their efforts are likely to be in vain.
However, according to the reflection of some people who survived the concentration camps, the fear can be caused not only by the lack of assistance from the others but also by the victims’ inaction about the beloved ones. Wiesel describes a situation where he was in the concentration camp witnessing the beating of his father4 The writer confesses that he felt nothing. Being a representative of the Jewish perspective, Wiesel states that Auschwitz was the refutation of Christ and the Christian religion in general. In particular, he believes that Christian understand that not Jewish people died in Auschwitz but Christianity.
According to the research by Roskies and Diamant, Jewish writers of Holocaust “have the mania of trying to tell you about the killing – by the hot stream, mass-electrocution, and live burial”.5 Why is it necessary to allocate Jewish victims among others? Wiesel claims that although fascists killed many nations, and not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims. Holocaust is not only a point in the historical flow of insults but also trampling and destruction of human dignity. It was organized and planned with reckless care performing the destruction of the people that made it an exceptionally cruel phenomenon.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that there are two points of view on Holocaust catastrophe, in particular, non-Jewish and Jewish ones. Both of them consider that those tortures, pain, and shame significantly affected victims and, above all, their hope and belief. However, the non-Jewish perspective focuses on the victims in general, especially on their moral sufferings and emotional state while Jewish writers tend to emphasize religious component and sufferings of their nation.
Answering the core question of can we still believe in God, man, or both, it is possible to note that some of the non-Jewish writers, namely, Amery can hardly believe in the humanistic beginning and future of humanity. Others, like Levi, did not lose their virtue and faith even after the harsh events of the Holocaust. It also became evident that the Jewish representatives believe in God and the strength of the Jewish nation as before.
Langer, Lawrence L. Art from the Ashes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Roskies, David G., and Naomi Diamant. Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide. Waltham: Brandeis University Press, 2012.
- Lawrence L. Langer, Art from the Ashes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 8.
- Ibid., 9.
- David G. Roskies, and Naomi Diamant, Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide (Waltham: Brandeis University Press, 2012), 25.
- Ibid., 27.
- Ibid., 29.