A confronting subject within Holocaust fiction?
I am still in the process of finishing my compilation of short stories in the Holocaust fiction genre, Tiergartenstrasse 4. My anticipated completion date (as if I am completely in control of this) is now the end of November. I thought that, as I have spent many hours of planning, these Holocaust fiction short stories would come together easily. But this has not been the case, and the one main reason for that is what I would like to share with you.
The subject matter of Holocaust fiction is just hard to deal with, as simple and as profound as that.
Although it borders on inappropriate to differentiate, my area of focus seems even more difficult. Unlike the historical victims, I know where my stories end, for better or for worse.
I have composed this ‘relatively simple’ framework, I would have thought, with the same emotional connection as I have had with the more lengthy crafting of the storytelling itself.
I am certainly no stranger to these events. These stories arose from a depth of study but the work has touched me far more deeply.
Intimacy with the past
There is historical film footage of a Nazi soldier, separating a toddler from his mother in some kind of deportation. It could be an ‘aktion’ against Jews in the East or it could be for conscripted labor.
The toddler is separated by the soldier in the village, then he runs with all his might to reach his mother. In his great effort he trips and falls, the shot ending as the guard takes advantage and the toddler’s mother is taken, and we are left to ponder whether it was forever or not.
Once I started to ‘put flesh’, as it were, to the characters that I had created to vicariously represent the historical truth, it started to change for me personally.
Although they are fictional, they became my close brush with the facts, a vehicle to immerse me deeper than ever before into the situations that, to humanity’s great shame, were repeated many times over.
And from that point, the challenge was now to take that enhanced familiarity with these regrettable instances, and do them justice in the medium of the written word alone.
If I had written about the little toddler (I did not) I would have needed to do him historical justice, capturing at least some measure of the experience with which he had been so needlessly and cruelly confronted.
The reality test
Otherwise, what am I actually achieving?
It would be impossible to fake the authenticity and I am not tempted in the least to do so, for ethical and professional convictions alike.
You, the reader, will know if I have actually confronted these stark truths through the characters that my mind has thrown up from a myriad of accounts and historical realities, as archetypal representations of that dark hour.
However, regarding my personal talent and as anyone who writes will agree, I’m sure, there are other factors which come into play. By setting a date, I want to attempt to cultivate and maintain a certain creative momentum, as it were, an element of constructive pressure to enhance and not hinder.
I attempted to do so this month but it was not to be. This is not unusual as any composition has an indefinable element as to when its time has finally come. I am hoping it is finally as I have planned this time because the underlying message of the stories seem more apt for today with every passing news bulletin.