There are so many texts in Holocaust literature about survival in captivity, which gives us a prisoners perspective of Holocaust experience. Yet, there are many works that concentrate on the aspect...

There are so many texts in Holocaust literature about survival in captivity, which gives us a prisoners perspective of Holocaust experience. Yet, there are many works that concentrate on the aspect of hiding during the war. In what ways does writing about hiding change our perspectives on the Holocaust? 

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Holocaust is a profound concept on many levels.  One distinct way in which it is philosophically profound is how nearly every basic transcendental notion of identity was repudiated as a result of the Holocaust.  While this becomes very evident in the narratives of captivity and oppression, it is sharply present in the narratives of hiding, such as with Anne Frank.  In these narratives, one recognizes the fragile balance of life that existed within the Holocaust. Narratives that emphasize this condition of hiding convey a reality in which lives could not plan a second in advance for fear of discovery. It helps to change our perspective in adding a level of depth in the reader's understanding of the true horror of the Holocaust.

When reading narratives of hiding during the Holocaust, one recognizes how the struggle to simply live was a monumental task.  The absolute terror of the world is conveyed.  It is a terror bound by a reality in which individuals find themselves abandoned.  These narratives embody what it means to be forlorn. Hiding in between floor boards or in walls became an exercise of survival predicated upon the most basic of luck:

My parents, my brother, and I ran through the kitchen into the pantry outside. In an open bicycle shed behind the house, we tried desperately to hide on the floor between bicycles and pieces of wood. Our luck had run out. Within minutes the house was surrounded by Nazis.

Anita Mayer's description of hiding illuminates the arbitrary condition of consciousness that reveals a horrific aspect of the Holocaust.  The notion of "our luck had run out" is something that constantly haunts those in hiding.  The narrative of those in captivity is one that rightfully features a lack of hope. The fervent activity reveals hope, something that might not be as present in the captivity narrative.  Those who were captured realized that they were one step closer to death.  Yet, those who were hiding did so in the authentic belief that they could escape the reach of the Nazis and the Holocaust.  To read their narratives, filled with a tragic hope that is to be undermined by a persecuting world is something that casts a sad light in the reader's imagination.

Another example of how the hiding narrative expands the depth of sadness to Holocaust literature can be found in the poem "I Believe."  This poem was found etched on a cave in Cologne, France where Jewish people were hiding.  In the poem, one grasps how the hiding narrative evokes the painfully brutal balance between hope and despair:  "I believe in God/ though he is silent." This poem reflects how the struggle for life is best represented in the words of those who were in hiding.  Their need to live is met with the countervailing force of a world that wishes to hunt them down.  When one reads "I believe in the sun/ though it is late in rising," it becomes clear that the moments spent in hiding was a struggle to live, but one in which there was an absolute terror in every waking moment.  

These experiences widen the reader's scope of understanding.   They help to expand the moral and ethical imagination of the reader because of the imagination of the experience's palpable terror. The arbitrary nature of life becomes so very clear in the narratives of those in hiding during the Holocaust, resonating in the mind of the reader.  The hiding narrative adds a psychological depth to the Holocaust, constructing a forlorn reality in what human beings can do to one another.

Read the study guide:
The Diary of a Young Girl

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