Vol 32 (2012): Special Issue: Making Educational Oral Histories in the 21st Century

Between Art and Testimony: Transforming Oral Histories of Holocaust Survivors into Young Adult Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction

Karen A. Krasny
York University


Works of historical fiction and creative non-fiction written about the Holocaust continue to occupy an important place in both the literary and history curricula in K to 12 schools. In discussion with author Kathy Kacer, I describe the particular challenges of transforming oral testimonies of Holocaust survivors into young adult (YA) narratives including the ways in which these narratives are mitigated by the adult desire to educate and protect and by the undeniable influence of the publication of the diary of Anne Frank. By taking up the problem of bearing literary witness as a mode of pedagogical address through Spargo’s notion of vigilant memory and his reformulation of Levinasian ethics into terms of mourning, I demonstrate how oral histories directly or indirectly embedded in YA Holocaust narratives, might address the epistemological consequences of the Holocaust, specifically for invoking an ethical and social responsibility for the other through a resistance to consolation as a conventional form of commemoration.