Anne Frank and After: Dutch Holocaust Literature in Historical Perspective

By Dick Van Galen Last; Rolf Wolfswinkel | Go to book overview

VII
The Epilogue

It has happened,
and so it can happen again;
it can happen,
everywhere
( Primo Levi)

I did not study the question, but I believe it (i.e. the Holocaust) is but a small detail (statement by Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the French right wing party Le Front National, on 13 September 1987)

The difference between 'history' and 'literature' is sometimes interpreted as the difference between 'fact' and 'fiction', or even between 'truth' and 'fantasy'. We would like to argue here that in order to begin to understand the events we call the Holocaust, the literature of those events must be seen as an important historical source. If we want to penetrate that mystery of collective behaviour, ordinary knowledge of history does not suffice. Bare facts, horrific though they are, are meaningless unless they are given significance by personal testimony. The personal experiences of Gerard Durlacher, Jona Oberski and all the other writers we have met were set in the context of 'the history'. The experience of the Holocaust transcends the limitations of both traditional disciplines of history and literature.

The Polish/American author Louis Begley, author of the pseudo-autobiographical novel Wartime Lies, stated in an interview 1 that he found it difficult to talk about himself. Therefore, he invented a 'hero' and made him live through the same kind of experiences he had lived through himself:

I needed the intervention of a literary form to make use of personal recollections. The literary form enables one to add things, to idealize them or to change them. I was looking for an artistic truth that would not violate historical truth. (own translation)

Begley needed an invented artistic truth to supplement what he considered to be an incomplete historical truth. To a certain extent this might be true for all literature, but we feel that it is within the field of Holocaust literature that these questions are particularly relevant.

The literature of the Holocaust is often referred to as a 'literature of silence' or a 'literature of the unspeakable', meaning that silence can be the only appropriate answer to the events in the death camps of Nazi Germany.

-147-

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Anne Frank and After: Dutch Holocaust Literature in Historical Perspective
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Table of Contents 5
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • Introduction 'Statistics Don't Bleed' 9
  • I Dutch Jewry Before 10 May 1940 15
  • II From Aryan Declaration to Yellow Star - The Antechamber of Death 33
  • III Deportation or into Hiding 53
  • IV The Transit Camps 75
  • V The Railroad of No Return 91
  • VI The Paradox of Silence: Survivors and Losers 121
  • VII The Epilogue 147
  • Notes 155
  • Chronology 165
  • Short Biographies 167
  • Bibliography 173
  • Sources 179
  • Index 181
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