Memoirs of Genocide: From Poland to Sudan

Jasmine Angelini-Knoll
Under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Waltzer, Jewish Studies Program

For this project, related to my research assistance for Dr. Kenneth Waltzer in his work on "The Rescue of Children and Youth in Buchenwald," I will look at several different memoirs rooted in experiences of mass violence undergone by children and youth. I want to draw parallels between memoirs of youthful survivors who lived through the Nazi Holocaust in Europe, and the “Lost Boys,” who survived recent violent conflict in Sudan. My sample of memoirs includes works in French by Polish Jewish boys who survived the Holocaust in ghettos and work camps, finally winding up in Buchenwald. The Sudanese memoirs trace the paths of boys as they fled from destroyed homes to refugee camps. They are written in English, often involving the collaboration of American authors. Besides engaging each story individually, the exploration of these works urges broader questions about memory of horrific violence. How is memory presented and organized in memoir? What is emphasized and why? What are the motivations for speaking as witnesses of horror and survivors of violence? What are the implications of personal memoir for the larger task of preventing violence and genocide? These stories are diverse—they take place in worlds and times apart, they involve different actors and contexts. Yet they are also connected, involving experiences by youth of mass violence, survival, and finally efforts to represent memory years later as warning, as remembrance, and as an effort to help others understand.