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History and Memory

All individuals hate being lied to. We are always on a quest to find the truth. How do we discover what is real and what is illusion? We look for documented evidence of course, but this alone is not enough. We also need to discover eyewitness testimony and crave to find individuals whose memories will unlock the door to the mystery that lies before us. It is the memories of others that add substance to evidence, that fill in the blanks that cannot be captured on paper. Our legal system relies heavily on both memory and documented evidence, and so the two are inexplicably entwined.

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History needs memory, without it, we cannot create a whole picture. Mark Raphael Baker, a historian and writer discovered that History and Memory are inseparable in his search for the truth about the Holocaust, as shown in his biography The Fiftieth Gate. He needed both to make sense not only of his parents lives and that of the millions of Jewish people that died, but also his own. The documentary Nazi Hunters, produced by ________________ also reveals that any quest needs a combination of both History and Memory to forge an accurate image of past events.

Wilfred Owen’s poem Dulce Et Decorum Est, provides a powerful and moving indictment against war captured in his personal and documented experiences. His poems are not just recorded histories but also memories and evidence of the destruction of the First World War. Without memory, we cannot paint an accurate picture of our past. Mark Baker discovers this on his journey back to Poland with his mother Genia and his father Yossl. On Mark’s journey to Wierzbnik, he is confronted by the graves of his grandmother and aunties whom he never knew.

Baker creates a poignant and harsh image with his description of “his two younger sisters, here in this grain of sand, Marta. Here, Yenta… Buried in, their bones inside the tombstone. Beat it with a stick, and what will come out? Water? Bodies? A tune? Only memory. ” (p 12) The brutal reminder that all that is left of individuals once they are gone is just memory, highlighted by the two solitary words “Only memory”. The use of the word “only” also reveals Baker’s initial sense that memory is somehow not enough and certainly not significant, an idea that later changes when he realises the power of memory.


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