In Search of Myself
Autobiography, Imposture, and Survival in Wartime Croatia
Keywords:Second World War, Croatia, autobiography, Ustaša regime, survival, collaboration, Christa Wolf: The Quest, resistance
This article looks at the production of autobiography and imposture as survival techniques during the Second World War in Croatia. Focusing on the petitions of Jewish and Serb citizens wrote to the Jewish Section of the Ustaša Police Directorate and the State Directorate for Reconstruction the article considers the various ways in which Serb and Jewish letter writers who had been placed outside the law in wartime Croatia by the Ustaša regime used a variety of discourse and linguistic markers as well as the generation of idealised biographies in which they identified themselves as Croats in an attempt to escape deportation, ghettoization or stigmatisation and to write themselves into state ideology by asserting their difference from other members of their persecuted community. The article also explores the various ways in which victims who had survived by making compromises with the Ustaša regime sought to rewrite their biographies in the post-war period to identify themselves with the new socialist orthodoxies in the face of the threat of nation-wide campaigns of unmask- ing and ideological purification. Using for Christa T. as a frame, it asks how much the historian can ever really know about the biographies of indi- viduals, especially those who have felt the need to reconstruct their lives after traumatic events. At the same time it argues that in addition to the important insight these kinds of microanalysis can provide on everyday life and survival in wartime Europe during the Holocaust, they also bring ambiguity to seemingly distinct historiographical categories such as resistance and collaboration and force us, the readers, to confront our own subjectivity through reading their autobiographical petitions.
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