Narratives of The Auschwitz Experience

Fabio Girelli-Carasi

Auschwitz and by extension the Holocaust are the focus of narration of three works which I plan to examine, each belonging to a different area of expression and mode of representation. The works are: Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz Claude Lanzmann's Shoah; and Raul Hilberg1s The Destruction of The European Jews. They are respectively: an autobiographical account of captivity in the lager; a documentary film based on the memories of survivors; and a history book concerned with documenting the events that lead to the extermination of European Jews.

In addition to a common subject-matter, these three works share similar narrative strategies that manifest themselves in the structural organization of the events described. I claim that these strategies reflect the authors' conscious effort to render the reality of Auschwitz in a manner that is consistent with the events' intrinsic characteristics and structural logic. I will examine how the authors have avoided establishing a hierarchy of meaning and value among the exempla described, assigning identical relevance to seemingly insignificant details and major historical facts of the death-camp reality. The accounts also strive to reproduce the enormity of the events while maintaining the significance of the victims' own individual tragedies. This balance is achieved by recurring to the systematic repetition of identical individual stories resulting in the pre-emptying of potential involuntary symbolism and allegories.

My paper will attempt to identify in all three works the shared narrative devices which offset the creation of a textual paradigmatic reality, and which at the same time establish, through the written or visual text, the uniqueness of the Auschwitz reality as the embodiment of the logic instrumental in creating the archipelago of horror that the authors set out to document.