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History and Memory Essay

In: English and Literature

Submitted By XOXOTashK
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Explore how the fiftieth gate and one other related text of your own choosing represent history and memory in unique and evocative ways.
The interplay of history and memory combine to provide greater insight into events.
Through the manipulation of textual forms and features, Mark Bakerʼs hybrid text “The
Fiftieth Gate” expands and humanizes oneʼs understanding of the Holocaust in unique and evocative ways. A unique feature of the text is clever fusion between personal accounts and documented history using mediums such as, interviews, official documents, poetry and song. This enhances the stories of the authorʼs parents, Yossl and Genia, whilst evocatively capturing the atrocities of the Holocaust. The relationship between history and memory is further explored in Kevin Ruddʼs “Sorry apology to Stolen Generations”.
Bakerʼs “The Fiftieth Gate” suggests that memory humanises historical events, juxtaposed by the emotionless discourse of history in unique and evocative ways. Baker provides insight into the historical events associated with the Holocaust,emphasising number of deaths that occurred during the genocide. In Gate 26, Baker explores the deaths Geniaʼs parents witnessed in the lines, “Among 1380 people, one family survived by chance. They were Leo Krochmal and his wife Rosa who witnessed the shooting,” The impersonal tone and simple language in the lines underscores the straightforward and detached nature of history. In contrast, the recount of Genia hiding from Germans in Gate 6 is markedly more confrontative, “we could hear the footsteps, the shots, the screams”. The alliteration of
“shots” and “screams” accentuates Geniaʼs fear and trepidation. The sensory imagery positions the reader as Genia, struggling to survive, humanizing the atrocities of the
Holocaust. The inclusion of song, particularly a confessional prayer forcibly recited by
Jews highlights members of the Nazi regime as an oppressive force, evidenced in the lines, “For centuries weʼve cheated the people.../We heave but tricked and lied and cheated/ With either dollars of with German marks.” The use of words with negative connotations such as “cheat” conveys the profound impact the Holocaust had on its survivors and victims. It evokes the powerful image of Jews forced to sacrifice their identity for the amusement of the Hitler Youth. Thus, memory humanises historical events, evidenced in “The Fiftieth Gate” in unique and evocative ways.

In unique and evocative fashion, “The Fiftieth Gate” questions whether memories validate history. Throughout the novel, Baker actively pursues his quest to validate his parentʼs

memories. With marked success, he find historical documents that verify his fatherʼs stories. In Gate 14, “the Judenrat reports in its census of the town completed on my fatherʼs thirteenth birthday, there are 3569 Jews resident in the areas of StarachowiceWierzbnik” proves that his father spent his childhood in Wierzbnik prior to being sent to concentration camps. However, Baker has limited success with his mother. In Gate 24,
Baker questions the importance of using history to validate memory, identified in the lines,
“Wonʼt she recognise the shameful truth that I doubted her.. that I only recognise suffering in numbers and lists and not in the laments and pleas of a human being, on a mother, screaming for acknowledgment?” The use of rhetorical question indicates that Mark Baker realises the power of history to recognise the experiences of an individual. The reflective tone augments a feeling of disillusionment about the realities of history and memory.
Further, the non-linear sequence of events replicates the dispersed nature of history and memory. The novel is structured in fifty gates, with each gate representing the journey to towards unlocking the past using history and memory. Therefore, the unique and evocative use of documented evidence and personal accounts questions whether memories validate history. Similarly, “The Fiftieth gate” frequently mediates between history and memory as a means of reaching the truth in unique and evocative ways. The clash between history and memory demonstrates that the past is not straightforward and conclusively established.
Baker employs repetition to reiterate the power of history to illuminate memory and shed light upon it, identified in lines,
“It always begins in blackness, until the first light illuminates a hidden fragment of memory”
The strategic placing of the phrase at the beginning and end of the book mimics the cyclical nature of memory. The binary opposition of “light” and “darkness” stress the symbolic representation of history as a light in the darkness. The inconsistency of history and memory is prevalent through the conflicting sources in Gate 22 regarding Yosslʼs age.
The variation in birthdate, evidenced in the lines, “ ʻBorn in 1929ʼ he tells the doctor at
Auschwitz...ʼ Born in 1926ʼ....ʻBorn in 1928ʼ he tells the American military-officer....ʻBorn in
1929ʼ..which grants him a childʼs visa to Switzerland.” The recurring use of documented evidence humanises the measures taken by Yossl to survive the Holocaust. In addition, this highlights the unreliability of history and the importance of memory to find the truth.
Hence, the mediation between history and memory in depicted in “The Fiftieth Gate” in unique and evocative ways.

The link between history and memory is further represented in unique and evocative ways in Kevin Ruddʼs speech “Sorry apology to Stolen Generations”. The “Sorry apology to
Stolen Generations” marks a milestone in Australian history by acknowledging the injustices suffered by Indigenous Australians. Both, “Sorry Apology to Stolen Generations” and “The Fiftieth Gate” explore the concept of injustice suffered by a racial/religious group.
Whilst Baker uses documented evidence personal accounts to depict the past suffering of
Holocaust survivors, Rudd explores the past injustices and conjures hope for the future.
History and memory intersect when Rudd recounts the story of Nanna Fejo, “...she remembers the coming of the welfare men. Her family had feared that day and had dug holes in the creek bank where the children could run and hide.” Rudd uses rhetorical devices such as anecdotes to personalise the history behind the Stolen generations.
Therefore, Ruddʼs “Sorry apology to Stolen Generations” explores history and memory in a unique and evocative manner.
Overall, the inextricably link between history and memory is thoroughly explored in “The
Fiftieth Gate” in unique and evocative ways. This is achieved using the combination of documented evidence and personal accounts, illuminating the stories of Bakerʼs parents and capturing the atrocities of the Holocaust. History and memory is further represented in
Kevin Ruddʼs speech “Sorry apology to Stolen Generations”.

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