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Chapters 28, 29, 30 & 31. 50 th Gate!. Chapter 28. Yossl , Mark’s father, recollects his arrival in Auschwitz- Birkenau and how it was the ‘worst day in his entire life’.

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chapter 28
Chapter 28
  • Yossl, Mark’s father, recollects his arrival in Auschwitz-Birkenau and how it was the ‘worst day in his entire life’.
  • Yossl saw the gas chamber and thought that himself and his ‘katzetniks’, his concentration camp inmates, were all going to be gassed and die.
  • His son and himself go to visit the barracks and Yossl leads his son to where he hid inside a toilet.
ideas about history and memory
Ideas about History and Memory
  • In Yossl’s act of hiding in a toilet, the author provokes the idea that his father was literally hiding from his fear.
  • The toilet may be viewed as a metaphoric shelter, where Yossl could escape and not have his Jewish identity burned.
  • In saying this, Mark Baker purposefully uses detached and staccato asyndeton sentences which imposes a sense of fragmentation within Yossl’s mind; “I hid in the toilet. I remember, it was a toilet outside the shower barrack. And everyone was crying. Maybe something will happen. Something good”. Here, we can witness the contradiction and confusion of Yossl’s mind as his memories are vivid, but his stained relapse of memory of the Holocaust still subsists, and will never leave him.
chapter 29
Chapter 29
  • In this chapter, there is a contrast between a Jewish parable, and Yossl and Genia’s experience of death and fire.
  • His parents remember; “the fire, the parchment burning, the bodies burned, letters soaring high, turned to ashen dust”.
ideas of history and memory
Ideas of History and Memory
  • Likewise in Chapter 28, the redundant motif of death and fire is prominent;

the fire

the parchment

the bodies burned

letters soaring high

turned to ashen dust

  • Here, the motif acts as a medium for us to feel a sense of sympathy and pathos for the victims of the Holocaust, as the harsh and repressive diction creates a metaphoric bricolage of the ‘bodies burned’.

The anaphora of ‘the’ could be interpreted as being a structural, or metaphoric, representation of the physical anaphora, or accumulation, of ‘the bodies burned’.

  • The ‘letters soaring high’ is symbolic of the Jewish Parables. These parables may be seen as the Jewish law, or way of life, and the personification of the ‘letters soaring high’ may be alluding to the message that all of the Jewish human rights, ethics and sanity have evaporated, and transformed into a blood thirsty Holocaust.
chapter 30
Chapter 30
  • With the typical fragmented structure of this novel, the chapter begins with Mark back in Jerusalem, as he collects ‘volumes of boxed files as if they are bricks for constructing a grand home’.
  • In this chapter, we learn that Mark wonders if he should tell his children about their grandparent’s lives, as ‘only a broken heart yearns to heal the world’.
  • Mark finds an entry from a man who witnessed an Aktion, a raid, who managed to escape, and it is a memoir of his experience of the Atkion.
ideas of history and memory1
Ideas of History and Memory
  • In attempting to understand and contextualise the memories of history, it is significant to attempt to actual feel and empathise with recollections of a certain event in history, which requires more than one personal memory. Mark communicates that the YadVashem archives in Jerusalem is ‘a theme park of memory’. Here, the didactic metaphor allows us to become collectively insightful as to the ‘theme park’ of memories, which teaches us that an event has more than one story behind it. Each personal memory of this ‘theme park’ is what symbolically makes up the entirety, or collective memory of the Holocaust.
chapter 31
Chapter 31
  • In this chapter, Ukrainians are parading down the street in the market square, where Yossl thinks that they are coming to take him away, where Genia and Mark have to join him as he orders them too.
  • This chapter revolves primarily around Yossl, as his son notices that he is stressed, cannot sleep, feels unsafe and just wants to escape the Warsaw.
ideas about history and memory1
Ideas about History and Memory
  • As Yossl frantically runs to lose sight of the Ukrainians, we can directly witness his personal memory of an event which he experienced similar to this during the Holocaust.
  • His symbolic state of hysteria didactically represents how memories are an ingrained attribute of mankind. No matter what we do to change personally, we can not escape memory or can forget memory, but we must deal with our memory.
chapter 36
Chapter 36
  • The chapter is an overview of how memory becomes history.
  • There are scenes from a concentration camp (Buchenwald) where Bakers father talks about where he was, and how he was transported.
  • Then on to Bakers mothers lack of a childhood and how all she has is her memories.
  • The chapter then contrasts Bakers life against his parents.
chapter 361
Chapter 36
  • Ideas about history and memory in the chapter are that a collective memory becomes the history. “central historical commission … begun the task of tabulating memory” (pg 231). Raising this idea that history is just a large collection of memories that someone bothered to write down.
chapter 362
Chapter 36
  • Baker shows the links between memory and history by using the technique anecdote. “we don’t know where we were going… I am much weaker now” (page 224-25). The anecdote allows Baker to tell his fathers memories, presenting the notion of a personal memory. The chapter goes on the say “ Fifty one was here… I've studied the maps of the camp”, “I was in 52 not 51”. Showing that history can be useful but the personal memory is the key to history.
chapter 37
Chapter 37
  • This chapter is about how people are recorded into the books of history. It focuses on holocaust victims and how they were ‘processed’ out of camps. By using historical evidence to document their ‘lives’.
  • It also talks about how Bakers mothers life may not have been the one she had memories of. Also that her father lives a totally different life to her.
chapter 371
Chapter 37
  • The use of historical evidence by Baker allows the book to raise the idea of History can be extremely different to personal memory. For example bakers mothers memory appears to be wrong when the historical evidence of her father has no mention of her.
chapter 38
Chapter 38
  • The chapter talks about the conflicting perspectives due to personal memory. Where Baker believes that his story is a dream and his mother is insistent that his dream is a story that she used to tell him.
chapter 381
Chapter 38
  • Baker creates conflict by using extremely conflictive perspectives that are certain about their personal memory. “I used to read it to you” , “its my dream”. The perspectives that are developed are contrasting as