Fact and Fiction in Holocaust Literature: A Comparison between Anne Frank and Settela Steinbach

Holocaust literature has given rise to broad controversy about representing the unrepresentable, seeing the Holocaust as a unique event in human history, which aimed at the eradication of Jewish presence in Europe. This controversy can be summarized in the belief that literature may fail to represent the facts of this historical event, and may even serve to falsify it. The major research problem revolves around the legitimacy of blending history and literature, the implications of such a blending, and the appropriateness and limits of representation . This paper aims to explore this problem in relation to fact and fiction in Holocaust literature. To this end, two literary texts on the Holocaust will be compared: Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, and Aad Wagenaar’s Settela. The comparison shows that confining the definition of the Holocaust to Jewish communities has imposed its limits on the supposed flexibility of literary licence. It also becomes clear that narrating the small story in each text (the life of each girl and her fate) is written within a grand story (the oppressed Jewish identity). The comparison also reveals the nature of memory politics or its double function; it can be an instrument of promoting icons or idols, empowerment or marginalization. Both texts, however, fail to go beyond the privatization of the Holocaust: the privatization of the Jewish experience (The Diary of a Young Girl), and the privatization of the experience of the gypsies in Europe (Settela). 

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Holocaust literature has given rise to broad controversy about representing the unrepresentable, seeing the Holocaust as a unique event in human history, which aimed at the eradication of Jewish presence in Europe. This controversy can be summarized in the belief that literature may fail to represent the facts of this historical event, and may even serve to falsify it. The major research problem revolves around the legitimacy of blending history and literature, the implications of such a blending, and the appropriateness and limits of representation . This paper aims to explore this problem in relation to fact and fiction in Holocaust literature. To this end, two literary texts on the Holocaust will be compared: Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, and Aad Wagenaar’s Settela. The comparison shows that confining the definition of the Holocaust to Jewish communities has imposed its limits on the supposed flexibility of literary licence. It also becomes clear that narrating the small story in each text (the life of each girl and her fate) is written within a grand story (the oppressed Jewish identity). The comparison also reveals the nature of memory politics or its double function; it can be an instrument of promoting icons or idols, empowerment or marginalization. Both texts, however, fail to go beyond the privatization of the Holocaust: the privatization of the Jewish experience (The Diary of a Young Girl), and the privatization of the experience of the gypsies in Europe (Settela). 

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