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Holocaust Narratives

Holocaust Narratives. Narratives of the Jewish Holocaust are abundant: They have emerged out of a need to make meaning out of the horror of World War II and have found expression in words and images that have somehow been cathartic to their authors. Countless testimonies have thus been produced by and collected from survivors, in all sorts of media, by numerous organizations and, privately, by individuals bearing witness to atrocity and wishing to document as historical instances of hatred, persecution, mass murder, resilience, and survival. Our goal is to understand the power of narrative in trauma and atrocity; and to complicate such understanding with visual history. In this six-week course, we will read excerpts from a few Holocaust narratives in book format. Tentative titles include (in order of publication): Maus: A Survivor's Tale (first volume, "My Father Bleeds History") by Art Spiegelman (1986); Flory: A Miraculous Story of Survival by Flory A. Van Beek (2008); If this is a Man (but title in the US Survival in Auschwitz) by Primo Levi (1947). We will supplement this material with narratives in other media, namely in letters, videos, oral testimonies, documentaries, memoirs, (auto)biographies, diaries (by adults and children), letters, photographs, or drawings. Our course will examine familial narratives of the Holocaust-memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, and tributes-highlighting the agency of its authors and placing their testimonies against institutional/funded recoveries. The multilayered experiences in these narratives vary according to the authors' gender and age; the stages of their ordeal-ghettoization, transportation, camp imprisonment, murder, liberation. Some accounts are hybrid-at once fictional and non-fictional, or discursive and representational. They are all, however, grounded in intentional memory, a revelation of humanity at its best and worst. Simon Schocken is an Adjunct Professor of Economics at Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave, Virginia, where he teaches Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Finance. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Universidad of Chile (Santiago de Chile); and a Master of Science in Policy Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a student of the Holocaust, he has taken courses for educators sponsored by the University College London, Yad Vashem, the Anti-Defamation League, the University of Southern California, and the Shoah Foundation. He is also an avid reader of books on the Jewish Holocaust; and has a keen eye for finding documentary films on the topic-the well-produced, the foreign-made, the lesser-known. Both his parents have written memoirs on their experiences: His father (as a 10-year-old child) fled Nazi Germany (Berlin) in 1939 along with his parents and his older teenage brother and was one of the few ones in his extended family to survive the Holocaust. His mother, born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1938, remained hidden in several locations, including a neighbor's apartment, a Catholic convent, and a Swedish "shelter" in Budapest organized by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Once in the line to be selected to Auschwitz, one of her mom's clients saved her life during the Hungarian Holocaust late in 1944.

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