The Role Of History And Memory In The Fiftieth Gate, Schindler's List, And The Send Off

1114 words - 4 pages

The strong relationship created between history and memory is one of a vexing nature due to deliberate selection and emphasis. It does however result in a confluence of different representations, that is, personal stories (memory) and public stories (history). Mark Baker’s biography and autobiography ‘The Fiftieth Gate: A Journey Through Memory’, explores his parents’ memories which are both verified and contradicted by Baker’s historical findings, as each asserts their claim through these different theories of representation drawing on such established criteria as evidence, accuracy, authenticity, authority and detail. Steven Spielberg’s horror-psychological thriller film, ‘Schindler’s List’ shows how amongst the abhorrence of the Holocaust, one man can make a difference for the better and leave a legacy of his generosity but it is also a question of what else he did that wasn’t emphasised due to the context of the film. Lastly, the poem ‘The Send-Off’ by Wilfred Owen expresses Owen’s personal feelings towards war which is enunciated through his strong emotive language.

Mark Baker’s ‘The Fiftieth Gate’ creates a struggle between memory and history as each represents the Holocaust but through different means of representation. The language of memory is partial, subjective, and emotional and experiences confusion and doubts. Baker provides the historical facts of the Aktions and slave-labour camps in historian terms, that of numbers of deaths, survivors and prisoners, and is criticised by his parents. “Fecks, fecks” Joe says dismissively and Genia describes his work as “shopping lists”. This demonstrates how Baker believed his parents’ pasts were represented through history, and Joe and Genia felt their experiences were represented through memory. It is the contrast between the cold facts of history and the intimate details of survival that gives ‘The Fiftieth Gate’ its meaning. Baker uses the technique of polyphony, having originally been inspired by the form of the Jewish Talmud, to allow the story to be told from each person’s perspective and personal experiences. At times the voices compete against each other, which is shown through Mark Baker’s many voices, and include his voice as a historian, son, storyteller and Jewish intellectual. As a historian he seeks the ‘truth’ which can be no absolute version, for example he instantaneously believes Elzbieta’s version of his mother’s hiding over his own mother’s story, and also aims for objectivity, accuracy and validity while always trying to find proof. Baker’s voice as a historian can be challenged by his voice as a son. This voice involves his personal interpretations and has emotional attachment as he wishes to record his parents’ stories for the future and understand their past while also protecting them. This protection affects the context as it results in deliberate selection and emphasis, with the emphasis been on their sufferings and particular discoveries been left out which includes...

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