Page 51 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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ous conditions un d e r which hum an beings were forced to live, the
to r tu res to which they were put, the sadism o f concentration
camp commanders and guards, the brutality o f Kapos, the starva­
tion, the beatings, are there , bu t they form a backdrop fo r the
romanticized exploits o f Spangler. “T h e o th e r k ingdom ” is
tu rn ed into Graustark by this Black Pimpernel o f Auschwitz-
Birkenau, the location o f his climactic heroic foray. T he effect,
even if no t intentional, is to romanticize the m ind-numb ing
reality and transform the unspeakable ho rro rs o f exterm ination
camps into a deliciously exciting background against which the
h ero ’s exploits shine more glowingly.
T h a t it is possible to write a thriller based on the Holocaust
experience, or be tter said, the after-experience o f the Holocaust,
is dem onstra ted by Frank de
(1973) which uses
the form to probe the con tinu ing agony and the ultimate devasta­
tion which the Holocaust visited on the world. But such works are
few. T he majority o f them are properly described by Jan e Larkin
Crain: “O ugh t the atrocities o f the Nazi dea th camps be tro tted
ou t in lurid and titillating detail to aggrandize a rou tine novel o f
suspense?”, she asks. “I t is . . . altogether cheap and noisesome.”2
But the pornografication to which I wish to draw attention goes
far beyond such comparatively innocent tawdriness. T he rela­
tionship between Nazism and po rnography and the exploitation
o f this relationship by those whose aim is titillation and sensation,
has been noted. Ernest Pawel has pointed ou t tha t “among o ther
things, the concentration camp also represen ts the archetype o f
the po rnograph ic fantasy come true: it affords total power over
defenseless hum an beings”.3 Many, among o thers William Pech-
ter and B runo Bettelheim,4have discussed the degradation o f the
Holocaust in film, and Lucy Dawidowicz has rem arked that “p o r ­
nography and Nazism have mutually reinforced each o the r over
the decades. Today a sizable population views the T h ird Reich’s
te rro rs and m u rders only th rough a prism o f po rnog raphy”
Jewish Presence,
p. 224).
One o f the first novels to exploit this relationship between the
concentration camps and pornograph ic fantasy was Edwin Sil-
N.Y. Times Book Review,
December 10, 1978.
3 “Fiction o f the Holocaust,”
June/July 1970, p. 26.
May 1976, pp. 72-76;
New Yorker,
Aug. 2, 1976, pp. 31-52.