Reading the memoirs, diaries and works of fiction written by Holocaust survivors provides another dimension to an understanding of the Holocaust. These works personalize a crime which has has no equal in its enormity and inhumanity in the course of human history. They relate details about the survivors’ daily life before the Nazi storm and then during the time of great persecution, and they describe the aftermath not told by history books. They reveal the writers’ passion to let the world know their tragic stories and their inner strength to carry on. They also reveal people’s determination, ingenuity, compassion, and goodness toward others in the face of absolute evil and terror.
The memoirs and diaries seem to fall into several categories. The largest category is comprised of memoirs written after the Holocaust experience. These memoirs are straight narration, with the writer telling the reader his or her story. Western European writers such as Michael Blumenthal, Victor Klemperer, and Ida Vos, while nominally Jewish, think themselves very assimilated into the Gentile societies of their native land. German Jews in particular point out their long family history in the fatherland. When the Nazi terror strikes, they are shocked to find those neighbors they once thought friendly turn on them, although quite a few remain sympathetic. They try to escape deportation. Olga Drucker narrates the agony of leaving her parents on the platform as she boards the Kindertransport to England alone. Ernest Heppner finds refuge, as do 20,000 other German and Austrian Jews, in Shanghai, China, where Japanese overlords admit them freely. Outside the greater Reich some Jews