‘Rivers of ink’: searching for authentic representations of the Holocaust – words, pictures and the stories they tell
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The Holocaust haunts the European mind, and its reverberations continue to this day. However, for those of us who were not there, all our knowledge, understanding and experience of this event is expressed in representations of one form or another. We need to understand how these representations operate and how they impact on our sense of the event. The Holocaust is confused with other, similar programmes run by the Nazis. It is frequently seen as a new kind of evil, or a special case in the terrible history of human violence. However, we must be wary of how we designate it. The evil at the heart of the Holocaust is profoundly human. Any other categorisation risks making it seem non-human and therefore beyond the world ethical evaluation. Representations are texts like any other, and so operate in contexts. Using Derrida, Zelizer and Benjamin, forms of representation are explored. We seek an authentic representation of the lived experience of the Holocaust. There is a discussion of authenticity and how it can operate differently for different cohorts of people. There is also a discussion of the critical demands that seek to limit how we discuss or what we say about the Holocaust.The thesis considers the nature of factual, fictional and photographic representations. Each is subject of a critical appraisal that discusses their modes of operation, and how these impact on the representations they offer. Examples are explored to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches, which includes a discussing of gendered suffering and the dangers of falsifying what happened.No one form of representation is sufficient to represent the breadth and scale of the Holocaust. The only way to measure the authenticity of a work is against a context of other works and other formats dealing with the same issue.