As Meredith noted recently, the Holocaust film industry is experiencing (even by Holocaust film industry standards) a very successful run, at the moment.
Holocaust literature, on the other hand, not so much. The revelation that Herman Roseblatt’s memoir Angel at the Fence was actually fictitious put the genre on perilous ground, but Ben Greenman’s “My Holocaust Memoir” in this week’s New Yorker surely ushers in a new era for thinking about Holocaust books.
Greenman’s satirical piece is written as a letter to Oprah Winfrey. In it, he summarizes his Holocaust story.
I was born in Chicago in 1969. Shortly afterward, in 1941, my entire family was rounded up by the authorities and sent to the Theresienstadt camp, along with tens of thousands of other Jews, who hailed principally from Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Germany. The first few days there, separated from my family, denied even the most basic creature comforts, I was in a state of shock. I could hardly eat or sleep, and, to make matters worse, I had misplaced my cell-phone charger. I felt powerless. (This would not be the first time that a metaphor appeared in time to help make sense of a difficult situation.)
Unlike Tova Reich’s novel My Holocaust, which I thought utterly missed its satirical mark, Greenman’s piece is both appropriate and very funny (let’s just say that Terry Bradshaw plays a pivotal role in the climactic scene).
Indeed, when the Holocaust memoir becomes worthy of high-quality satire, its general worthiness has been seriously questioned.