From the first reports about the concentration camps in newspapers to the recent publications of the Institute for Historical Review (which say that the Holocaust never occurred or never involved gas chambers and crematoria), disbelief and denial have haunted attempts to deal with the Holocaust. As literature about recent historical events that still strongly influence the lives of many people, Holocaust narratives are read as more than imaginative literature. The statements they make about the past are judged partly on grounds of historical accuracy. Since most readers have at best a partial knowledge of the events, the credibility of Holocaust memoirs and novels is an important issue. Many events depicted in Holocaust literature seemed unbelievable to the prisoners when they were experiencing them and often still seem incredible after survival. The writer who strives to describe such events has the difficult task of evoking both the otherness of the Holocaust and its reality. To accomplish these ends, Holocaust literature must rely not only upon facts but also on such literary elements as generic devices of authenticity, characterization and dialogue, description, and the use of subjectivity. A reader's willingness to grant authenticity to Holocaust literature depends in large measure upon the skill with which a combination of literary techniques is handled, thus eliciting reader involvement and emotional response.
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Publication information: Book title: Gender and Destiny:Women Writers and the Holocaust. Contributors: Marlene E. Heinemann - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1986. Page number: 117.
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