I have chosen the theme of survival and the Holocaust. The three books I’ve chosen to study are The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (John Boyne), In my Hands (Irene Gut Opdyke), and If This Is A Man (Primo Levi). They are linked together by World War Two but connected most strongly by the subject of the Holocaust. Through reading each book they inevitable provoke questions about the “Jewish Solution”, and you find yourself wanting and needing an answer. These events are historical, in the past, and I am glad for that. However, it is said that we should try to understand our past. I want, if possible, to discover some morality, some understanding of the Holocaust, and through these books try to find, and explain, an answer.
'Holocaust' comes from the Greek, meaning ‘completely burnt’ and is in general the term used for the mass planned extermination of about six million Jews during the Second World War by the Nazis led by Adolf Hitler. Am I supposed to understand and make sense of this? I don’t know, but that’s why I titled this project ‘To Decipher’, meaning to try and make sense of the senseless.
In each book there are survivors, and those that don’t survive, or in other words Sommersi ei Salvati (The Drowned and the Saved, another book by Levi). I want to focus and see what allowed the survivors to be saved, and the drowned to drown. What were the environments, so to speak. For this I will look at innocence and childhood, loneliness and other aspects of what made the books contain their stories. I want to examine also the guilt and the path to acceptance, if present, and their overcoming and returning to life after the War ends.
Read Sophie's full essay here.