Representing Nazi Crimes in Post-Second World War Life-Writing

2015-06-18T14:05:32Z (GMT) by Victoria A. Stewart
As the concept of the ‘Home Front’ reflected, the war against Nazism was conceived in Britain as a collective endeavour, and in biographical accounts of wartime experience, this collective aspect is held in tension with the individuating details of the protagonist’s own war. When the story told involves extreme danger, hardship, or even torture, questions of authenticity become increasingly pressing. This essay captures a particular moment in the ongoing construction of the British narrative of the Second World War, addressing how authors of biographies of female Special Operations Executive agents attempted to encompass Nazi atrocities within narratives that are principally intended to laud the heroism of individuals who had direct and in some cases prolonged contact with the Nazis during the conflict. I will consider the strategies employed by authors to give credibility to what might seem to be unbelievable events, a process complicated by the fact that these authors are in most cases writing after the death of their subject, and I will ask how such atypical stories might fit into existing narratives, however fragmented these might be, of the war.