Re -viewing the Holocaust through a new lens: Memory, language, and identity in the autobiographical texts of Cordelia Edvardson, Ruth Klüger, and Elizabeth Trahan
The following examination of Cordelia Edvardson's Burned Child Seeks the Fire: A Memoir, Ruth Klüger's Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered, and Elizabeth Trahan's Walking with Ghosts: A Jewish Childhood in Wartime Vienna explores how three German-speaking, Jewish women remember their childhoods by creating a new lens through which the Holocaust can be viewed. The authors compel their readers to accompany them on their journeys into the past and to witness particular events by using language to zoom in and focus on childhood experiences—like a camera bringing an image closer through a telephoto lens. Their narratives remain translucent in that the reader is always aware of the authors' contemporary, critical perspective.
Edvardson's, Klüger's, and Trahan's writings are similar in how they transmit memory; they break from the traditional, nineteenth-century form of autobiography by constantly interrupting the chronological framework of their narratives to oscillate between past and present as memories occur to them. This process of interweaving memory into narrative challenges readers to re-view in a new way the making of testimony about events with which they (the readers) may already be familiar. By using James Young's Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust: Narrative and the Consequences of Interpretation as a theoretical foundation, I approach these narratives as a viewer with the intention of documenting the transmission of memory rather than merely examining the events that the authors recalled.
These texts offer us access to an extraordinary perspective in Holocaust literature—an uninhibited view of daily life through the eyes of three young girls who came of age during the National Socialist era and who were persecuted for being Jewish.
0311: Germanic literature
0453: Womens studies
0751: Judaic studies