Reading the Holocost

Reading the Holocost - Picturing rather than Reading the...

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Picturing rather than Reading the Holocaust Inga Clendinnen, in her novel Reading the Holocaust, attempts to grapple with a question that seems to plague the so-called civilized world since the horrors of the Nazi’s Final Solution came to light at the end of World War II. The question of why and how such atrocities could be carried out by a cultured and refined modern society has puzzled historians, philosophers, sociologists, and the layman, since the allied forces entered Germany over sixty years ago. Clendinnen tries to attack the issue by not examining the whole act at once, but by breaking it down into its many parts and attempts to decipher the inspiration and experience of the individual at every level and in every role. By systematically picking apart the actors in the Holocaust she attempts to analyze the situation as a historian searching for an answer, but can never separate herself from the ever present duality of the genocide of the Jewish population being both a human and inhumane act. The pictures of the Jewish victims seem to create a common experience that haunts her throughout the text. She cannot control her desire to empathize with the individuals in the pictures and to feel guilt that she can do nothing to save them from the fate that she knows lies ahead. It is this duality and the creation of a common experience with the victims through photographs that prevents both Clendinnen and all who examine this low point in our human history to gain a complete reading of the Holocaust. The pictures and video that exist of the Holocaust disturb all who see them. The skeletal forms being placed in mass graves, the bellowing smoke of the crematorium, and most of all the hopelessly blank stares that look out from the photos of the prisoners of the concentration and death camps are some of the first visuals which come to mind when this dark event in history is mentioned. When attempting to understand the reasoning -1-
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This note was uploaded on 09/13/2008 for the course EUS 201 taught by Professor Bess/werner during the Spring '08 term at Vanderbilt.

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Reading the Holocost - Picturing rather than Reading the...

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