Page 120 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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Mirsky
112
Spangler. “The other kingdom” is turned into Graustark by this
Black Pimpernel of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the location of his cli­
mactic heroic foray. The effect, even if not intentional, is to ro­
manticize the mind-numbing reality and transform the
unspeakable horrors of extermination camps into a deliciously ex­
citing background against which the hero’s exploits shine more
glowingly.
That it is possible to write a thriller based on the Holocaust ex­
perience, or better said, the after-experience of the Holocaust, is
demonstrated by Frank de Felitta’s
Oktoberfest
(1973) which uses
the form to probe the continuing agony and the ultimate devasta­
tion which the Holocaust visited on the world. But such works are
few. The majority of them are properly described by Jane Larkin
Crain: Ought the atrocities of the Nazi death camps be trotted out
in lurid and titillating detail to aggrandize a routine novel of sus­
pense?”, she asks. “It is . . . altogether cheap and noisome.”2
But the pornographication to which I wish to draw attention
goes far beyond such comparatively innocent tawdriness. The re­
lationship between Nazism and pornography and the exploitation
of this relationship by those whose aim is titillation and sensation
has been noted. Ernest Pawel has pointed out that “among other
things the concentration camp also represents the archetype of the
pornographic fantasy come true: it affords total power over de­
fenseless human beings”.3Many, among others William Pechter
and Bruno Bettelheim,4 have discussed the degradation of the Ho­
locaust in film, and Lucy Dawidowicz has remarked that “pornog­
raphy and Nazism have mutually reinforced each other over the
decades. Today a sizable population views the Third Reich’s ter­
rors and murders only through a prism of pornography”
(TheJew­
ish Presence
, p.224).
2.
New York Times Book Review,
December 10, 1978.
3. “Fiction of the Holocaust,”
Midstream,
June/July 1970, p. 26.
4.
Commmentary,
May 1976, pp. 72-76;
New Yorkers,
Aug. 2, 1976, pp. 31-52.