During the course, of which this series of diaries is a continuing reflection, historical narrative (Dr. Kenez) was followed by interlacing Holocaust writings designed to expand our understanding with significant reading/experiencing the collected literature of the Holocaust. Dr. Baumgarten proved to be a really wonderful guide through this maze, and he was ever-conscious of the welfare and safety of his student charges along this journey.
I am, to be honest, a bit perplexed as to how to begin the literary survey this course required/suggested. I will offer the titles, and some brief reflections on what I gleaned from them as I experienced them. I hope this will entice you to venture toward the course, the topic, and your own orientation of understanding of this subject.
Follow me just below the
squiggledoodlethingey fold, and I'll give you a beginning list.
With both the author and title, I will offer separate, but relevant links. Don't miss them! :) Then I will speak to the learning, revelations, etc. I got from them in relation to the course on The Holocaust, which is the thesis of this series of writings. Wherever possible, I provide to the exact same links I used during the course.
References in Literature (Beginning)
I have to say that, as you can tell from the references above, these three individuals (Bauer, Tec, Lansmann) are all extremely intelligent, capable tellers of a very personal story. They do so very, very well as you might choose to read. I'd like to reflect a little bit on my "interactions" with both the principles, and their work.
1. Yehuda Bauer comes across to me as the pure historical academician. He has a very dry, and usually absent sense of humor. He does not suffer fools well, and is not shy in refuting any person or point of history with which he disagrees. "Don't challenge me! It is very dangerous!" This he said to Dr. Daniel Goldhagen, upon the conference which evaluated Goldhagen's newest book. We will visit this event later.
Bauer comes to the distant lens of historical perspective in a unique way. Trying to speak dispassionately, he cannot help a pointed reference often, usually in some perambulation of "I was there! That's how I know!" Part historic exercise, part personal narrative told from the first person POV, I was impressed with his work, while having some personality issues with the provider--but never with his report.
It took me a little time to get beyond the presence of the man, and get to the history of his work. He is a terribly significant player in the written history of the Holocaust (as can be seen simply by his biography referenced above). Within Holocaust Study circles, for instance, he holds a first position among several equals. His reporting travels gamut from quiet reflection to fiery retort throughout the volume, which makes it a strangely pleasurable read. Incidentally, I learned a view of the Holocaust in an entirely new way. This book had a powerful impact on me as I began the course. I found myself using Bauer's book constantly throughout the course for verification or defense. Despite my less than stellar opinion of the person, the work is beyond equal. I do highly recommend it (and any other title under Yehuda Bauer's authorship) to you.
2. Tec "Dry Tears"
To his credit, Dr. Baumgarten warned us in advance of our first interaction with this writing. This is a personal narrative of a Holocaust survivor from Lublin, Poland. She takes us carefully through the necessary transition of her country, her community, her family and herself. Quietly, Tec reports on life which begins for her, as a teen-aged girl in Lublin ("My Town") just shortly before the German invasion of Poland in 1939.
Her first lines in the book prepares (or at least notifies the reader of) what is to be soon coming in this literature:
"Shortly after the occupation of Lublin in 1939, Jewish children were forbidden to attend public school. Private tutoring was prohibited, and any person found to be in violation of these edicts would immediately face the most severe punishment, including death. "
The history she experiences is told within the text, as "every dayness", reflecting her daily experience as the beginnings of Nazi occupation slowly at first, then with decided acceleration carries Tec into the Holocaust. She tries to conclude a reasonable answer to a question asked of her: "How can a Jew be Polish?" We follow her personal narrative simply, as she tells it.
I found myself transformed somewhere after the completion of this reading. I had truly begun to understand "in depth" a term which I now recognize clearly: the "every dayness" of the Holocaust. I came away from the book wanting to be her friend. I would love to sit and ask her questions, and listen to her stories. Luckily, most of what, according to Tec at least, she would say is already written. She has a long list of published titles that I intend to add to my library. This is a difficult read, but only because if you are truly invested in the words, they will affect you. I do hope you will read this amazing book, and I do highly recommend it to you.
3. This was my first foray into the video testimony of Jewish Holocaust survivors. (There would be many to follow, as I will explain as we go along.) Having read this seminal work by Nachama Tec, I found it possible to listen "live" to her recount the significant events which led to the book "Dry Tears" being written. This could be compared to a "Director's Cut", I suppose.
But it really isn't; it is a separate and different universe where you are cordially invited to sit, listen, and reflect. While the recorded testimonies of survivors does tend to go long, I did not notice the time spent watching. I was glad it was completed, but I felt a sense of loss in the leaving. Tec is gentle, quiet, unassuming, and willing to help the listener figure out and understand her words. She is, of course, a treasured University Professor, yet her pedagogical style displayed in this video testimony is not only personal, but personally directed to the viewer. As I would discover along the way through this course, it was most often the interviewers/questioners which upset me most, but they too had a very important job to do. They did it (for the most part) with the greatest respect and reverence for the interviewee, and the words they spoke.
Some of the interviews would be more strictly scripted.
Luckily in this one, the script seems to quickly disappear, and a revealing conversation takes place. It is not so often we readers get the opportunity to come to know the authors of such magnificent work. This was a pleasure.
4. Nine hours. Imagine the requirements necessary to hold the rapt attention of a movie creator's audience for more than nine hours! Could it possibly be done? Well, yes...in my case. But, there were rest breaks for me. "Shoah" is a very bold and daring production. It has no script. It has no actors. The stories are strictly the words of the players on the screen. The players vary, as well. There are survivors, victims, and perpetrators who tell us their stories. Impact is not too strong a word. Some of the film includes portions of survivor testimonies. While one could make out duplicity here, I did not come away with that feeling. Rather, the snippets of the video testimonies added fulness to a moment of explanation or exploration with the movie, while not taking away one moment of the power of the survivor's testimony. Placement, explanation and understanding helped me thread together persons with places, and events.
I have heard it said that "Shoah" is THE definitive Holocaust movie. I understand fully the sentiment. I disagree with the statement. There were other movies which revealed more to me, or gave me greater moments of reflection and clarity than this epic. I say that taking nothing from this work. It is amazing work, by a most talented director. Bulk up, and rest up. Then, watch this movie.
First week! As I saw the list of books, films, and other associated reference work, I felt completely overwhelmed, and doubted seriously that I would actually complete the assigned reading--not to mention the additional recommendations. I felt like I needed a really stout book bag, a trip to the Campus Bookstore, and a fat credit card. I made it entirely through the course without spending a dime! The resources online are incredible, readily (or nearly so) available, and free for the asking.
There WERE other resources recommended which do, in fact, cost money. Also, if you actually want a physical book (I do, because that is how I prefer to read), they are all currently available somewhere. Amazon is a really good place to start. US-CS Bookstore, or the Holocaust Museum Bookstore are also great resources.
One classmate reported today that she ordered a book online (Used), and found it in pristine shape--with the author's personal note within! How cool is that?
Literature does that to me. I want personal relationship with the author, with the story and characters, and to experience in my own way, in my own world, what the author delivers. Here, in this particular part of the Library, that can be a very dangerous proposition. The recommendations seldom landed on the "Easy" options. In fact, I generally felt the taste of the recommenders to be more 'Four Alarm Chili". But, by the end of this first week of experiencing the course on The Holocaust, I was invested. It obviously was going to take me completely out of my personal comfort zone, challenge what I had come to believe and understand, and require of me what I well might not willingly give.
But, I had come to immensely respect, appreciate and especially trust the course staff and our faculty lecturers. Our Teaching Fellow, Shawna Vesco, slowly integrated (and ingratiated herself, as well) into our class by directing us to the course Forums, where questions were waiting our consideration, conversation, and interaction as fellow learners. This was, for most students (including myself) "crossing the Rubicon" for this course. Friendly, engaging, and TOUGH!
Presumption of completeness of the assignment did not exist here. In fact, the only way the students COULD complete the assignment was, among several other things, direct interaction within the Forums.
This is a known quantity with the MOOC. It is not the only interaction modality, but it is one of the most common. Question, reply, comment, reply to comment--all significant and substantive responses which moved the discussion forward, and often into previously uncharted territory. How are you going to argue with a 75 year old retired Russian soldier in THIS course? (Yes, it really did happen.) At the final count, more than 18,000 students were actively involved in this course section during the time I was included. They were from 170 countries, and they all brought with them questions, opinions, stories, questions, debate topics, reading or viewing suggestions...did I say they had questions? Wow! What a powerful experience. I interacted with active Professors (2 of which I came to realize I knew professionally!), teen students, adult survivors, a few perpetrators (or their apologists), and just other interested students from every available walk of life. For Shawna, I am relatively sure her preparation included Masters level training in the herding of cats, but she did a remarkable job of keeping things relatively peaceful (most of the time), respectful (every moment of the time!) and forward moving. She made us feel as if we had permission in the Forums. Ask questions! State your case! Ask someone who knows! Get opinions. It's okay, that's why we are here!
There was just a ton of ground to cover, yet many students (including myself) committed the additional days and hours to arrive at the completion of the week with work in-hand.
It surely was worth it. It would very definitely NOT get any easier. That's when I knew I was in it for the long haul. If Im gonna sweat, I'm gonna get some bodacious reward!
I would. I did. I hope you will, too.
PS: For those interested, here is a relatively short speech by Dr. Bauer dealing with the Holocaust, Holocaust deniers, and co-relative discussion of other genocides among us today.
The Introduction to this series is here.
Part I of the series is here.