Hungarian Women’s Holocaust Life Writing in the Context of the Nation’s Divided Social Memory, 1944-2014

Louise O. Vasvári

Abstract


In this paper, in commemoration of the seventieth anniversary year of 1944 in Hungary, I explore selected women’s Holocaust diaries, memoirs, letters, and other less studied documents, such as recipe books, all written during the war, which can provide invaluable resources for understanding the experiences of the victims of war, by personalizing the events and helping to write the obscure into history. At the same time, such documents allow historical voices of the period to provide testimony in the context of the divided social memory of the Holocaust in Hungary today.  I will first discuss several Hungarian diaries and “immediate memoirs” written right after liberation, among others, that of Éva Heyman who began writing her diary in 1944 on her thirteenth birthday and wrote until two days before her deportation to Auschwitz, where she perished. I will then discuss two recently published volumes, the Szakácskönyv a túlélélésért (2013), which contains the collected recipes that five Hungarian women wrote in a concentration camp in Austria, along with an oral history of the life of Hedwig Weiss, who redacted the collection. Finally, I will refer to the postmemory anthology, Lányok és anyák. Elmeséletlen történetek [‘Mothers and Daughters: Untold Stories’] (2013), where thirty five Hungarian women, some themselves child survivors, others daughters of survivors, write Holocaust narratives in which their mothers’ lives become the intersubject in their own autobiographies, underscoring the risks of intergenerational transmission, where traumatic memory can be transmitted (or silenced) to be repeated and reenacted, rather than worked through.


Keywords


Hungarian Holocaust, War and Life Writing, Women’s Diaries, Women’s Memoirs, Recipe Books, Postmemory, Politics of Memory, Social Memory

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/ahea.2014.139

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