Death and life of two Holocaust survivors: Memory, narrative and life study
This dissertation is about the impact of facing death—both in its immediacy and in its finality—by examining the lives of two individuals who, during the Holocaust, were only seconds away from death. It is an investigation of how the almost-dead can inform the living. This inquiry enables us to learn from these two individuals what matters most in life, and how their actions, words, agency, and goodness might help teach others. Usually, it is at the end of life that one gains the clarity that comes from confronting one's own mortality. When the sequence is standard, such end-of-life wisdom comes after years of living. But what happens when one faces death at the beginning of life, and when one lives with such precious knowledge, prospectively, with a life yet to live, rather than retrospectively, with a life already spent? The significance of investigating these two lives—Henry Skorr and Lunia Backenroth/Gartner/Schaffer/Weiss—allows us to investigate not only the impact of death upon these two, but also to observe the impact of a life lived after such knowledge is gained and applied to years left. Using ethnographic, semi-structured interviews, open-ended questions and quotes from the informants, this dissertation explores life lessons gleaned after facing one's own mortality. This study re-examines Holocaust narratives, overlaying Life History/Life Study research methods on Holocaust (and non-Holocaust) memoirs. It premieres an original "Taxonomy of Memory Patterns," created and developed by Ann Weiss, included in a detailed discussion of Memory. This dissertation studies the lives of two individuals, who first faced death and then went on to live their lives with purpose, with goodness, with a sense of agency, perseverance, humanity, and optimism. By studying not only who Henry and Lunia were, but also how they became the people of goodness and optimism they grew to be, we might consider how to inculcate such values of optimism, humanity, ethics, and goodness, in our children and classrooms as well. In so doing, this investigation will, hopefully, inform the search for meaning in our own lives, as we try to create a more civilized, more humane, society as well.
Biographies|European history|Social studies education
Weiss, Ann, "Death and life of two Holocaust survivors: Memory, narrative and life study" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3261006.