This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

'From Darwin to the Death Camps': A Collage of Holocaust Representation Focusing on Perpetrator Atrocity Discourse in Literature, Drama, and Film




Brodie, Mark

Type of Degree





In this dissertation my plan is to take a collage of representational forms that deal with the subject of the Holocaust and to point at the discourse of the perpetrator as possibly a more postmodern form of representing an event that many would term unrepresentable. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once stated that the holocaust defies imagination, and when he was queried about the problem that arises from perpetrator discourse his response was “the perpetrators are someone else’s concern.” This dissertation tends to concern itself with the perpetrators and how they used the language of atrocity to do something that is still today viewed as horrific, for most of the perpetrators saw their tasks-the genocide of the Jews-as simply as a task that had to be completed. By this “task” I mean, as for example, in one of the films chosen for this project Conspiracy and a text, Commandant of Auschwitz, shows us is the completely normal bureaucratic essence of the Nazi architects of genocide and the banality and completely “normal” chain of command that they all followed in the destruction of European Jewry. This “normalcy” of the chain of command is evident in all the texts, films and plays chosen for this dissertation, and all show in the discourse of the perpetrator a tenet of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of a Prison, that tenet being, the “legal process of judge, jury, and executioner are proved valid and those who rule are to be obeyed” (10). This dissertation wants to show that for representative art dealing with the Holocaust a view at the institutions that allowed for the language of discipline and punishment to be rationale for eugenics, nationalist fervor and governmental anti-Semitism as the political platform for national socialism, could serve as a more representative model than what we usually get when one represents the Holocaust, that being a story told completely from the victim standpoint and then what we get too much of is helpless Jews and monster-Nazis. This dissertation shows the only too frightening nature of the un-monster-like Nazis and when this project does use certain victim testimony in literature, drama and film, it shows then victim’s trauma more in the sense of survivor guilt and outsidedness more than any type of helpless victim. In the larger area of perpetrator discourse in literature, film and drams this dissertation hopes to evince the representative need for future art forms dealing with the holocaust to understand that if the Holocaust is the paradigmatic event of all discourse on atrocity then those who attempt to approach it in future art and discourse should be forewarned that this event defies representation but also screams to be remembered from beyond the barbed wire of Auschwitz. A great deal of criticism of representation of the Holocaust in the areas of my collage center on the presumption that what actually happened in the death camps of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Birkenau etc., can be known, understood and communicated., This dissertation argues that what “cannot be communicated,” the type of signifying evil that can only be demonstrated in the covert language “inside the language” of national socialism and Hitler allows readers a better forum for possible representation. It would be too easy to view the “Final solution of the Jewish Question” as the machinations of Hitler--the modern “Mephistopheles”--and his Nazi minions as just a nation of jack-boote