Two new memoirs illuminate Germany's changing relationship to the Holocaustby Ben Mason / October 25, 2012 / Leave a comment
Survivor: Auschwitz, the Death March and My Fight for Freedom
by Sam Pivnik (Hodder and Stoughton, £20)
Not Me: Memoirs of a German Childhood
by Joachim Fest (Atlantic Books, £20)
The past is populated by people we will never meet and customs that are foreign to us, but it is not some alien land with no bearing on the present. Our relationship with the past is crucial to how we understand ourselves today. So we engage in a kind of dance with the past. Different facets are emphasised, mythologised and polished, their new shape reflecting back a different image of who we are today.
In this process of refashioning the way things were, the memoir is pivotal. The broad narratives we create must still be reconciled with the “way it really was” according to those who were there. This applies especially to the memoir by Sam Pivnik, an 86-year-old Jew living in London, with the self-explanatory title Survivor: Auschwitz, the Death March and My Fight for Freedom.