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Memoir Historical Investigation for Fragments Memories of a Wartime Childhood by Teresa Villamin


1. Primary Source

This photograph took place in Majdanek the death camp, the same place Fragments took place in, and was photographed around July in 1994. The photographer was not mentioned in the database. This photograph shows men holding other prisoners’ skulls on their way to burn the skulls and not raise suspicions around the area. I chose this photograph because it showed how during the war, lots of people were forgotten. Germans knew that Hitler was sending Jews to work camps but few were aware of the harsh states the Jews were actually in. They, the murdered Jews, were just erased from the world. But then people like a “real life” Binjamin (, because he, Binjamin, the author of Fragments didn’t really go through what he wrote,) which would be Anne Frank, brought back these people to life. Survivors who tell their stories bring back a voice to people who were nothing to the world. But then so do photographs. By looking at the bones and the skulls in the picture you think about the heads that were being held. They were actual people. And although you don’t know the name of the skulls or the people in the photo, you remember all those six millions Jews who died and how they’re still not forgotten because of the books and photographs showing people of their existence and experiences.


2. Secondary Source The first reason I chose this article was to get to know more about Majdanek. Things I found interesting in the article found on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website was one, Majdanek was part of Operation Reinhard, it had a storage for all the stolen possessions from the Jews and before it had also contained Soviet prisoners of war. Operation Reinhard was the plan to kill Polish Jews and gave the idea to the death camps. Bełżec, Sobibor and Treblinka were the main death camps but some were sent to Majdanek as well. Another role Majdanek played in the Operation Reinhard was that it stored all the clothing and personal items of the Jews before they got sent off to Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka II killing centers. Last, Soviet prisoners of war were also held here. I found that interesting because Binjamin, in the story, was sent there by Soviets which leads me to the second reason I chose the book. To find ways to counter the fake memoir with the facts I gathered. The first reason I spotted was a paragraph in the article which said : “ Most of the Soviet prisoners of war at Majdanek were too weak to work; virtually all were dead by February 1942.” Binjamin was a Soviet prisoner of war at Majdanek and he wasn’t dead around 1942. Binjamin actually got up to the point when they started using Zyklon B the gas for gas chambers. The Nazis started using Zyklon B around 1942 which doesn’t make sense because Binjamin should’ve been dead by then. Which then leads me to my next point. He says that he escaped a gas chamber through this hole that was big enough for him to fit through. They were all undressed, biting, scratching each other and two people managed to lift him up. He then goes on to talking more about the harsh conditions he was in. The moment I found out this was a fraud the more I got disconnected from the book and the more I felt like I was cheated on and how the real survivors or dead Jews were given a fake voice. The author stole their lives and made it his own and he was even dumb enough to double check his facts.


3. Review: Your review should try to persuade another grade 8 student to read it. a. Begin with a brief summary of your book. The book Fragments Memories of a Wartime Childhood by Binjamin Wilkomirski will give a glimpse of what could’ve happened during World War II. Not what happened, but what could’ve had. If you don’t enjoy reading biographies or memoirs, you might as well read a fake one or what claims to be one but really isn’t. This story takes place in Poland, a country greatly involved with the Second World War, where a boy talks about his childhood. Growing up in Riga everything was perfect, until one day Binjamin’s family got invaded by soldiers and then Binjamin had to get shipped to Poland. There, he stayed in an orphanage and then eventually got transferred again to Majdanek, one of the main death camps in Poland. Supposedly all grown up now in Switzerland, Binjamin talks about his past experiences there and how he and 2,000 were supposed to be killed but weren’t. More and more, you’ll get to find out the cruelty and harshness the soldiers were filled with and the greatly poor conditions the captives were kept in. Fragments is touching but sadly the author ,who is actually Bruno Grosjean, is a big liar but a good writer. b. What are at least 2 reasons why you think someone else would enjoy this memoir? There are two reasons why I think people would enjoy this memoir. Although it isn’t really a memoir the author uses strong verbs and details to make this book captivating and interesting. A great book for readers interested in the Second World War. An example of this is found in page five. Here, Binjamin explains why they survived. “I survived; quite a lot of other children did too. The plan was for us to die, not survive. According to the logic of the plan, and the orderly rules they devised to carry it out, we should have been dead. But we’re alive. We’ re the living contradiction to logic and order.” Another reason other people, here in Warsaw, might enjoy it is that it takes place in Poland during the Second World War. Proof of this is found on page three. “My language has its roots in the Yiddish of my eldest brother, Mordechai, overlaid with the Babel-babble of an assortment of children’s barracks in the Nazis’ death camps in Poland.” This will be interesting to people that live in Poland since it’s interesting to know the background of the place you currently live in.


The Leaking Truth Right after the gunshot, I sprung up. The events that followed were cut by my consciousness. Like curtains drawn, it forbade me from seeing what was on the other side, seeing what happened next. But I already knew what happened. My dad died. Thankfully, my mind knew I've been through too much to go remind me of my past. That's why I woke up. After the same disturbing nightmare, I woke up. I didn't need to know my dad died. He's already dead and back then, I was all I had. Like always, I was the second one awake. Binjamin was first. I looked around. The women and children lay on their beds, peace in their minds. Sleep was a way to escape reality. It was a chance to get away from the war that went on outside us, and inside our minds. The lofty grey walls that surrounded us were supposed to make us feel safe, but honestly, their lifeless color was just a constant reminder of our numbered days in the death camp. But you’re still alive, my mind replied. Binjamin waved, snapping me out of my thoughts. Remembering our plan, I mouthed, “Today.” Binjamin nodded. Suddenly, the doors to the barracks burst open. Immediately, everyone jumped from their beds and formed a line down the hall. A wicked pair of blue eyes scanned the room. Arms at his side, the sturdy guard marched down the line inspecting us for attendance. Trying to avoid eye contact, I bowed my head. Behind him, two prisoners collected bodies from the pile placed near the door. One at a time, they heaved a body on a wheelbarrow. The “Pile of Death” grew taller every day. Even worse, the stench spread throughout the room and stuck to everyone. A leech that clung on, refusing to leave. In our group, Ella held the record for dying the youngest. She was just three weeks old. Although she’s gone, during her lifetime, she represented hope. Our hope to live in contrast to all the people dying, due to the tremendous amount of hate a person could contain. After Ella died, Mrs. Kathrin tossed her on top of the pile. She was garbage. No funeral. We didn’t have time for that. After I found out we could go outside, I squealed with delight jumping up and down. Binjamin joined in. Then I remembered I was ten, the start of maturity, and I was still being held in a death camp. I snatched my worn-out coat and together with Binjamin and Jankl, we headed out. The chilly air greeted us with a slap. We shivered. Although they weren’t my brothers, the three of us had backed each other up since our stay here. Jankl was the eldest and our protector. Binjamin was the youngest and the one who cheered us up. Finally, I was the “brain” otherwise known as common sense. But at that age common sense meant something different. : “I have to admit I’m scared,” I told them shaking. “Oh, come on Agnes,” Binjamin pleaded, his hands together, eyes wide. “If we cheer him up, he won’t kick us anymore.” He rolled up his pants and pointed to the bruise. “He might even take us home.” “But what if it doesn’t work out?” I said both hands on my head, pulling my hair. “What if he’s still mean? It’s not like he’s going to change just because of — “Enough,” Jankl sighed rolling his eyes. He was eleven. Much wiser. “We’ve already discussed this. It will work. Trust me, it will.” I always trusted Jankl and that was one of my biggest mistakes. The plan began. “Come on!” Binjamin urged. Slowly, Binjamin approached the guard and skipped around him while singing a Polish tune. Binjamin laughed. Suddenly, I remembered the times when everything was perfect. Like my tenth


birthday with Mama, Papa and my sisters. Those were the golden moments. Not the murky brown ones we had scattered with blood and intolerable pain. The guard stood still. No emotion, empty like an abandoned house. When Binjamin knew that wouldn’t work he sprinted toward the guard. Then, Binjamin reached out his hand, touched him, and ran away. I bit my bottom lip. Blood tried to escape forming a crack in my lips. I was letting Binjamin get close to a monster. A monster who was part of a military of more monsters who, according to Jankl, murdered innocent people. “Oh come on!” Binjamin yelled, once more. Then what happened after was a miracle. It lasted for a minute. A smile had been smacked right on top the guard’s lips. It was there. Dumbfounded, people watched. All the children formed a circle around the guard while they danced around. The guard laughed like Santa. Slowly, he bent down, put Binjamin on his shoulders and galloped pretending Binjamin was a king on stallion. Binjamin giggled. Maybe because of Binjamin, we could all get out of here and return to our homes. The guards would know that we’re just normal people and we didn’t deserve to be here. We never did. Hope ignited in me. That’s when the guard started dashing towards the wall. Confused, I looked at Jankl. A second after, I heard a loud bang. I was never able to witness the moment, but I knew something was wrong. I spun around. Binjamin was on the ground, his body a twisted up pretzel. He lay on the floor while blood sprinkled all over his face. The guard guffawed along with a female warden who grinned. She went over and tossed a cloth at Binjamin. I stood up in disbelief. Jankl rushed over Binjamin’s side and put him up against a wall. Then, Jankl began cleaning the blood that scattered around. A mess that all started because of kids who ignored the truth. The truth was we could and would never be able to escape the dreadful place holding us back from the life we deserved.


4. Works Cited "LUBLIN/MAJDANEK CONCENTRATION CAMP: CONDITIONS." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. <http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php? ModuleId=1000519> Prisoners' Skulls/Majdanek/1944. 1944. Photograph. Lublin. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. EncyclopĂŚdia Britannica Image Quest. Web. <http://quest.eb.com/images/109_129026? subjectId=0&collectionId=0&keyword=majdanek&localizeMetaData=false>.

Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood. N.d. Photograph. Goodreads. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. <http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/444802.Fragments Wilkomirski, Binjamin. Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood. N.p.: Schocken, 1997. Print.


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