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"What Kind of Animal is the Nazi Beast?": Representations of Perpetrators in Narratives of the Holocaust.

Pettitt, Joanne (2016) "What Kind of Animal is the Nazi Beast?": Representations of Perpetrators in Narratives of the Holocaust. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.54326) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:54326)

Language: English

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This project seeks to explore representations of Holocaust perpetrators in literature. Such texts, often rather controversially, seek to undo the myth of “pure evil” that surrounds the Holocaust and to reconstruct the perpetrator in more “human” terms. Accordingly, significant questions of “how” and “why” are centralised and explored, providing fertile ground for examinations of the intersections between ethics, literature and history, and enabling ongoing discussions about the characteristics and obligations of perpetrator literature as a whole.

Of central concern, these humanising discourses place emphasis on the contextual or situational factors that led up to the genocide. Following these issues through to their logical conclusion, this project takes the question of determinism seriously. This is not to suggest that it disavows individual responsibility, merely that it engages fully with the philosophical problems that are invoked through allusions to external influences, especially as they relate to ideas of contingency.

A significant consequence of these discussions is the impact that they have on the reader. That is because, since situational aspects are featured so heavily in these narratives, questions are raised about his or her own capacity for wrongdoing. Consequently, the reader is drawn into the narrative as a potential perpetrator. The tensions that this creates constitutes the second major focus of this work. Ultimately, I hope to expose the challenges that face the reader when they encounter perpetrator narratives, and the ways in which these tensions impact upon our understandings of these figures, and of the Holocaust more generally.

In order to provide a more comprehensive overview this project makes use of a large number (in excess of sixty) primary sources, examining both fictional and non-fictional accounts. My aim is not to offer close literary analyses of each of the texts under consideration but, rather, to trace paradigms across the full spectrum of perpetrator literature. In this way, I hope to contribute to the growing body of literature that engages with this topic.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Staehler, Axel
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.54326
Additional information: The author of this thesis has requested that it be held under closed access. We are sorry but we will not be able to give you access or pass on any requests for access. 10/01/2022
Uncontrolled keywords: Holocaust; Perpetrators; Shoah; Empathy; Reader Response; Determinism
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II (1939-1945)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN851 Comparative Literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 29 Feb 2016 11:38 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2022 14:26 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Pettitt, Joanne.

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