Not a Historical Record

Earlier this week, Ruth Franklin wrote about sharing a stage with Yann Martel and discussed whether anything new can be said about the Holocaust. She is the author of A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction.

One of the demoralizing things about writing a book about Holocaust literature is how much of it there is out there.  Continue reading here.

One response to “Not a Historical Record

  1. Each Holocaust book based upon facts is a treasure. Facts are judged by empirical evidence. If the author presents carefully researched data, surrounded by persuasive fictional characters, the reader will experience a compelling story while at the same time learning critical facts about the Shoah.

    From the 1935 Nuremburg Laws to the Wannsee Conference records, to Nazi concentration camp records, the evidence is overwhelming. Nazis planned the “Final Solution” which was “to rid Europe of Jews.” The SS were placed in charge of the death camps, primarily in Germany and Poland. Millions of Jews were systematically murdered. The records are faultless hard evidence. Nazi leaders testified that the records are accurate. That is accompanied by the fact that millions of Jews vanished and were never heard from again, as well as physical and anecdotal evidence of gas chambers, Einsatzgruppen and crematoria.

    Much of this was presented in Holocaust non-fiction. There are many examples of such solid research and excellent writing. However, non-fiction can capture on so much of the public’s appetite for reading. Many of us prefer a driving romance to a dry non-fiction book. Lost in between is the public’s real knowledge of what happened during the Holocaust. Many Holocaust facts are trapped within books that the public does not desire to read. Therefore, other options must be examined to teach the world about the Shoah.

    The door has thus been opened for Holocaust fiction. There are many ways to teach the world about the Nazi genocide. We must accept that a large percentage of readers are not interested in learning from non-fiction. We also know that the same group will flock to Holocaust films, primarily non-fiction. Therefore, if fiction captures the imagination of our hearts, we should produce such stories about the Holocaust, as long as they are factual in framework.

    This was my desire with Jacob’s Courage, a coming-of-age romance during the Shoah. Like Forrest Gump, my fictional characters float from one historical point to another. This required several years of research to produce. My hope was to capture the hearts of readers with ordinary characters who performed heroic acts of courage during unimaginable circumstances. In this way, the reader learns facts about the Holocaust within the scope of an epic love story.

    Thus the Shoah can be presented with equal effectiveness by non-fiction and by fiction. As long as the author presents compelling characters that exist in factual circumstances, the reader (or viewer) can learn a great deal about the Nazi extermination of European Jews.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, Jacob’s Courage

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