restricted access Rescue Narratives by Central European Holocaust Survivors from Carpatho-Russia
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

67 Rescue Narratives by Central European Holocaust Survivors from Carpatho-Russia Ilana Rosen Although in recent decades scholarly interest in Holocaust narratives is ever growing , the narrative of so-called ordinary people—interviewees of research and documentation authorities, participants in communal memorial books, and authors of singular Holocaust memoirs—have not yet received due attention in this research. Here, I present an analysis of what might be called the central theme of all Holocaust narratives, namely, the narration of rescue acts or events. I analyze twelve narratives told by six survivor-narrators of Carpatho-Russian origins in terms of the relationship they maintain among these elements: dangerous or challenging predicament , narrator's response or nonresponse, degree of risk-taking involved in response, elements of evaluation or conceptualization of the event in both real time and in retrospect. The twelve narratives analyzed here present various events of rescue, whether of the narrators themselves, or their partners in suffering, or even of an entire group of prisoners they are part of. In most narratives the rescuers are camp authority figures such as a Blockälteste, a Kapo, a camp doctor or nurse, guards, or interrogators . Otherwise, it is rare or unusual for rescuers to be the prisoners themselves. The meaning or essence of rescue in all the narratives is survival or help in the effort to survive in the long run. The manner of rescue is different in almost each narrative, but it is never supernatural or heavenly, as is typical in Orthodox-Hasidic Holocaust narratives (see Eliach). Rescue here derives or is enabled by the daring or instinct of the person in need of help, or by an unexpected gesture of an unexpected rescuer, or by unexpected circumstances. In addition, in most of these rescue narratives it is stated or suggested that the rescue entails a risk-taking, that is, an action whose result cannot be anticipated and that can lead to either positive or negative results. Following the act or event of rescue, most narrators express retrospective evaluations and conceptualizations concerning the meaning and significance of the rescue or the 68 Ilana Rosen nature of rescue in the Holocaust in general. In addition, some narrators express realtime evaluations and conceptualizations that touch upon the immediate situation and are therefore related to the element of risk-taking. In his first narrative, Zeev Peleg is a teenager employed in construction work at the Melk (Austria) forced labor camp (see Rosen 83-84; all translations from the original narratives in Hebrew and Hungarian are mine). In this camp, premium is given to those who "appear[ed] to be good workers" (Rosen 83). As for the nature of reward, extra food or cigarettes are vital means for survival, but no one is ever sure about being able to keep and consume them. The Blockälteste, whom Zeev also calls "my Commander" and "murderer" (83-84) demands that young Zeev give him the cigarettes he received for working well, claiming that he (Zeev) does not smoke anyway. In the camp world, one does not even think in terms of justice, which is why Zeev never protests, neither in real time nor in retrospect, about being deprived of the cigarettes he earned. Moreover, by the phrasing "I gave them to him readily" (84) he expresses satisfaction at being able to gratify the "murderer Commander," and thereby already escape possible harm. As for the Blockälteste, he does not promise to compensate Zeev for his sacrifice, thus the compensation is perceived as an unexpected but welcome surprise. Now Zeev receives, in return for the cigarettes, the thick part of the otherwise watery broth. He is strengthened by this broth as well as by his work in the heated carpentry in the winter, and both contribute to his ongoing struggle to survive. The motif or element of risk-taking in this narrative is expressed not by the action itself that took place but by the variety of possibilities hinted at as potential alternatives. For example, young Zeev could have refused to give up his cigarettes, claiming that he won them for his hard work and would exchange them himself, as camp prisoners often did. Or, the Blockälteste could have confiscated the cigarettes without giving Zeev anything in return, then or later. Or, he could have promised Zeev all sorts of rewards without fulfilling his promises, and still have Zeev's cigarettes. In the light of these possibilities, Zeev turns out to have been lucky, which makes his...


pdf

Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Persecutions -- Europe, Central -- History.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Hungary -- History.
  • Kertész, Imre, 1929- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Europe, Central -- History.
  • Hungary -- Ethnic relations.
  • Europe, Central -- Ethnic relations.
  • Jews -- Persecutions -- Hungary -- History.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access