Fiction is the fruit of one’s imagination and can be fascinating. It can also serve to help people understand others better–to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Fiction writers often do research and include historical fact and context to their stories.
But there are several reasons why I think that when it comes to an historical event like the Holocaust, true stories should be the first resource.
First, although fiction writers often do extensive research for their books, they often take license with the truth to help the dramatic element of their story. That is okay, as long as readers know it is fiction. But fiction is not interchangeable with nonfiction for the purpose of learning the true facts, or as close to the facts as an author can get.
Even writers with the best intentions sometimes get their facts wrong when writing history. Writers often have to make assumptions about how a person would feel or what they would think in a given set of circumstances, but the reality could be quite different. Who better to provide that understanding than people who lived through the event?
The third reason is something particular to Holocaust survivors, which is that all too often we have not been allowed to speak for ourselves. For a long time, it seemed that there was an emphasis on the people who died, as if those of us who had survived did not count. Others, out of good intentions or bad, have tried to appoint themselves a spokesperson, though they were not there.
We, the survivors, should be shown respect for being living witnesses and be the first resource to learn the truth. For all these reasons, I believe that a survivor’s story should always be included in any Holocaust curriculum.
Why should teens study the Holocaust? Well, there are the obvious reasons that I think most people understand: that teens should learn this history, should learn the evil that comes from prejudice and hatred.
But with my book, I am trying to do more and give them a message of hope. Growing up can be very hard in and of itself, and kids and teens often have tremendous difficulties in their lives.
My message to my readers: to never, ever give up. They can survive and they can thrive. They can be anything they want to be.
I never dreamed that I would live to be a person who has met heads of state, who has spoken publicly in front of thousands of people–adults and children–nationally and internationally.
If I can survive Auschwitz, they can survive their own circumstances. If I can become somebody, they can become somebody. If I can forgive the Nazis and heal myself, they too can let go of hurt and become happy and healthy. I want to help them bring peace–into their own lives and into our world.
From the promotional copy:
Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor and Lisa Rojany Buccieri (Tanglewood, 2009).
Eva Mozes Kor was 10 years old when she arrived in Auschwitz. While her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, she and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man known as the Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele.
Mengele’s twins were granted the privileges of keeping their own clothes and hair, but they were also subjected to sadistic medical experiments and forced to fight daily for their own survival, as most of the twins died as a result of the experiments or from the disease and hunger pervasive in the camp.
In a narrative told with emotion and restraint, readers will learn of a child’s endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil. The book also includes an epilogue on Eva’s recovery from this experience and her remarkable decision to publicly forgive the Nazis.
Through her museum and her lectures, she has dedicated her life to giving testimony on the Holocaust, providing a message of hope for people who have suffered, and working toward goals of forgiveness, peace, and the elimination of hatred and prejudice in the world.