Sunday, November 23, 2014

What was it like?

I've always been fascinated by tales from another era. When a person speaks about a particular time and place in their personal experience, I'm even more intrigued. I try to picture the setting, the sights and smells and try to envision myself there with the morals and norms of the time and culture, but without the insight given by history at this distance. It's hard to strip away who I am and consider who I might have been during that time.

Among the most amazing resources I found during my research of 1938 Germany are the oral histories documented and shared with the world by those who lived through the time in that place. The United States Memorial Holocaust Museum and the Holocaust Memorial Center in Michigan are two of many who have created these priceless archives, available for free. When we ask ourselves, "What was it like to live there then?" we can turn to these preserved accounts.

I've heard it said that historical fiction is like time travel, but without the hazards. The implication is that as the traveler, you later re-emerge in your own time intact and unchanged.

But our experiences shape us. If we allow ourselves to go back in time with a story and view the experiences of others, real ones in oral histories or fictitious ones in books, we can be shaped by them as well. Their experiences will serve an ultimate good.

And that makes me smile.

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