Sunday, September 29, 2013

Passing On Memories

This is my make-up post for Friday..the nice thing about this is that I already wrote this awhile ago, I just never posted it.  This is an essay that I wrote about the purpose of memory in honoring the Holocaust for my Coursera class. I am actually pretty proud of it so I share it here with you.

There are many collective events that people will always remember where they were and what they were doing when it happened or when they learned of the events. In the United States, for example, those alive in the 1960s can remember where they were when they learned President Kennedy had been shot.  In addition, many all over the world know where they were on September 11, 2001.  Over time though, the amount of people that have stories like this begin to dwindle.  We are approaching the time when the current freshman in high school are too young to remember what happened on 9-11 and we will be quickly getting to the point where none of them were born.  Because I remember, I share that with my high school history classes that I teach every year to help them understand the fear and terror of that day.  However, they will never fully understand it because they did not personally live through it.  As the generation that survived the Holocaust and lived during that time quickly start to leave us, it is vital to the understanding of future generations that these memories are preserved. 

First, this generation needs to talk about their story anyway that they can.  The younger generation needs to hear from these eyewitnesses to history.  As Kertész points out, the feeling and the soul needs to be there for the Holocaust to be fully understood. In my opinion, one of the best ways to express these feelings is in the individual words of those who lived it.  Dora Sorell shared her story with such passion, and has left her story for the generations that will follow her in her book.  This is a great resource for her family.  Families are how the memory of the Holocaust will continue to live on.

The next generation needs to pick up the torch from the current, and passing this torch through families will help to continue the need for the emotions involved in the story.  I had an assignment in college to do an oral interview with someone who had been a part of a significant historical event. My aunt introduced me to a neighbor of hers that had lived through the Soviet occupation of Hungary after World War II and had been sent to a concentration camp created by the Communists.  She experienced horrible atrocities, and I was honored that she was willing to share them with me for a simple school assignment.  However, after I had sat and talked with her for a while and was getting up to leave, I learned her daughter was in the next room.  She pulled me aside and thanked me for doing this, because her mother had never talked about her experiences before. This was the first time she, as a daughter, had ever heard her mother talk about it. I was glad that I was able to transcribe our conversation for their family’s history.  And now this family can always remember what happened in their history and talk about the importance of treating fellow human beings with respect—just as the Holocaust survivors do.

By sharing their stories now with the current generation, the memory of the Holocaust will continue to live after they have passed on.  Especially sharing these stories with family members allows for the experiences to continue to have a “human quality” to them.

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