History, Memory and Identity

The non-fiction picture book, Erika’s Story represents the power of history and collective memory to shape personal history and experience even in the absence of direct individual memory.  
Ruth Vander Zee provides an “Author’s Note” which explains her “chance meeting” with Erika and utilises collective memory metonymical icons to represent and foreshadow the narrative focus on the Jewish survival of the Holocaust. The date of their meeting is “the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War 11”; Erika states “with longing in her voice, that she had always wanted to visit Jerusalem but had never been able to afford the trip’; the author “noticed she was wearing a Star of David around her neck”;   and Erika further states “that she had one time gotten as far as the entrance to Dachau but could not bear to enter.”
Zee then adopts Erika’s first person narrative point of view to represent her true autobiographical recount of surviving the Holocaust.   The opening statements cites   widely accepted historical ‘facts”: “From 1933 to 1945, six million of my people were killed. Many were shot. Many were starved. Many were burned in ovens and gas chambers. I was not.” This use of anaphora emphasises Erika’s deep awareness of the number of Jews killed and the number of methods utilised to obliterate her race.

Using spare, eloquent, straightforward narrative widely spaced on cream pages to represent the gaps in Erika’s history, Zee again uses anaphora to emphasise the fact that Erika has no direct individual memory of the Holocaust. “I was born sometime in 1944. I do not know my birthdate. I do not know my birth name. I do not know in what city or country I as born. I do not know if I have brothers or sisters. What I do know, is that when I was just a few months old I was saved from the Holocaust.”

Erika was thrown from a train onto grass and rescued by “witnesses” who took her to a woman who risked her life to care for her. She gave her the name Erika. This woman...