Page 41 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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postwar story both of Barbara, one of the child refugees, and
of the child rescued from a Nazi lampshade factory, P.S., whom
she adopts and brings up. He is named P.S. for the initials
stamped on his buttocks, which are variously interpreted during
the series of degradations and humiliations to which he is sub­
mitted. Barbara, like the author, married a non-Jew and
brought up her children far from the Jewish community in
Southwest England. This attempt to escape the inferiority com­
plex of the Jew indoctrinated by the Nazis and to shield her
children from anti-Semitism proves to be a terrible mistake. A
fake Colonel Schroeder realizes P.S.’s secret fantasy that he is
not Jewish and reveals that he is the son of Hitler. The tattoo
turns out to be the mark of Cain. The switching of identities
is a theme of much writing about the Holocaust, especially when
false papers and Aryan identities had to be adopted in order
to survive, and here it is suggested perhaps not so much by
radical or feminist politics but by the controversial question of
the morality of the victims which was raised by Hannah Arendt’s
book on the Eichmann trial
Eichmann in Jerusalem
(1963). The
fantasy of P.S. is an exciting ploy which plays with disturbing
questions such as whether all Germans are to be thought evil
and responsible for the sins of the fathers, or even whether
Germans have some claim to
(to be the son
of Hitler is for P.S. to be chosen Permanent Scapegoat!). How­
ever, the overall effect is spoiled by dragging in the well-worn
scenario of an Israeli Mossad team out to trap Eichmann in
the South American jungle and it is spoiled by deflating the
ambiguities of fantasy to the level of incredible possibilities.
Saul Friedlander has spoken of the exorcism, in all senses
of the word, of the Holocaust in contemporary Western culture,
with reference to the “new discourse” — the proliferation of
films and novels reflecting the Nazi period — that defends
against and denies the impact of the past.12 For the Jew writing
after the end of the Second World War, the Holocaust is a
12. Saul Friedlander,
Reflections o f Nazism: An Essay on Kitsch and Death,
York: Harper & Row, 1984), p. 115. For a survey o f contemporary literary
treatment o f Nazism see Alvin Rosenfeld,
Imagining Hitler
Indiana University Press, 1985).