The Importance Of Memory And Atonement In The Emigrants

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Spencer King English 2120 Summer 1 Memory and Atonement One thing I noticed when reading The Emigrants is that three of the four major characters commit suicide. I’m going to focus on Dr. Henrey Selwyn and Paul Bereyter. I picked these two, because they have a couple things in common. First of all, both of their suicides were pretty symbolic and have a deeper meaning behind them in the way they were performed. Secondly, they both tended to gardens that were for a time very run-down, which is also symbolic. The gardens can be seen as the men making an attempt to atone for their earthly sins. Both characters carry a lot of pain from the memories of the wrong they believe they had wrought in regards to the Second World War and anti-Semitism.…show more content…
Selwyn, the life and death of Paul Bereyter is a lot more straightforward in terms of what he thought his sin to be. During WWII Bereyter fought in Germany’s military. He was in “motorized artillery, variously stationed in the Greater German homeland and in several countries that were occupied. He was in Poland, Belgium, France, the Balkans, Russia, and the Mediterranean and doubtless saw more than any heart or eye can bear.” (Pages 55-56) Paul was only one quarter Jewish, or as far as the Germans were concerned, three quarters Aryan. He was part of a group of men that were also not completely…show more content…
While being a part of the Nazi army is Bereyter’s sin, there are two major events within his life that make his sin an even greater one personally. First of all, would be the death of his father and mother. His father, “Theodor Bereyter died on Palm Sunday, 1936” (Page 53). The official “cause of death was given as heart failure” (Page 53), but this was caused by “fury and fear that had been consuming him ever since, precisely two years before his death, the Jewish families, resident in his home town of Gunzenhausen for generations had been the target of violent attacks.” (Page 53) His mother, Thekla Bereyter, lost his father’s emporium, because she was half Jewish and not allowed to own a business. She “had to sell it for next to nothing to Alfons Kienzle” (Page 54). She then “fell into a depression and died within a few weeks.” (Page 54) The second of these events would be the deportation of his wife, Helen Hollaender, and her mother. “there could be little doubt that Helen and her mother had been deported in one of those trains that left Vienna at dawn, probably to Theresienstadt in the first instance.” (Pages 49-50) No doubt “special trains” means they were taken to a concentration camp, where they most likely died. These events must have left Bereyter a broken man haunted by his past for the remainder of his life after the

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