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The Victim’s Voice

1. What is it?

The victim’s voice is the story of suffering, as told by the victim.

It can apply to individuals who have suffered a particular crime or injustice, or to victims of a persecuted group.

2. How is it made?

Exposition in which the victim’s pre-incident life, social background, or any relevant political or social situation are introduced.One or many incidents in which acts of evil are inflicted upon the victim. This includes violence, imprisonment, or bullying.
Further physical or psychological suffering is inflicted.The victimisation points to wider social injustice.
The victim shows determination or human spirit.The victim gets some relief, justice or freedom, allowing the story to be told.

3. Examples in literature

The Diary of a Young Girl 
by Anne Frank

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Title: Het Achterhuis (*trans: The Diary of a Young Girl)
Author: Anne Frank (1929-1945)
Published: 1947
Language: Dutch
Genre: Non-fiction; diary
Synopsis: Anne Frank, a German-Dutch Jewish girl living in Amsterdam during WWII, receives a diary on her 13th birthday. She begins recording her life as the Nazis invade the Netherlands. Soon, however, her family’s Jewish heritage means they must go into hiding. They move into a small annex hidden behind a bookcase at her father’s company. Here they live for two years, hoping not to be discovered.
Setting: Amsterdam, during Nazi Occupation; 1942-1944
Characters: Anne Frank; Otto Frank; Margot Frank; Edith Frank; Peter van Pels (*name changed in book)

Excerpt, October 9th 1942 (translated from Dutch):

Dearest Kitty,

Today I have nothing but dismal and depressing news to report. Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo is treating them very roughly and transporting them in cattle-trucks to Westerbork, the big camp in Drenthe to which they’re sending all the Jews. Miep told us about someone who’d managed to escape from there. It must be terrible in Westerbork. The people get almost nothing to eat, much less to drink, as water is available only one hour a day, and there’s only one lavatory and sink for several thousand people. Men and women sleep in the same room, and women and children often have their heads shaved. Escape is almost impossible; many people look Jewish, and they are branded by their shorn heads.
If it’s that bad in Holland, what must it be like in those faraway and uncivilized places where the Germans are sending them? We assume that most of them are being murdered. The English radio says they’re being gassed. Perhaps that’s the quickest way to die.
I feel terrible. Miep’s accounts of these horrors are so heartrending, and Miep is also very distraught. The other day, for instance, the Gestapo deposited an elderly, crippled Jewish woman on Miep’s doorstep while they set off to find a car. The old woman was terrified of the glaring searchlights and the guns firing at the English planes overhead. Yet Miep didn’t dare let her in. Nobody would. The Germans are generous enough when it comes to punishment.
Bet is also subdued. Her boyfriend is being sent to Germany. Every time the planes fly over, she’s afraid they’re going to drop their entire bomb load on Bertus’s head. Jokes like ‘Oh, don’t worry, they can’t all fall on him’ or ‘One bomb is all it takes’ are hardly appropriate in this situation. Bertus is not the only one being forced to work in Germany. Trainloads of young men depart daily. Some of them try to sneak off the train when it stops at a small station, but only a few manage to escape unnoticed and find a place to hide.
But that’s not the end of my lamentations. Have you ever heard the term ‘hostages’? That’s the latest punishment for saboteurs. It’s the most horrible thing you can imagine. Leading citizens – innocent people – are taken prisoner to await their execution. If the Gestapo can’t find the saboteur, they simply grab five hostages and line them up against the wall. You read the announcements of their death in the paper, where they’re referred to as ‘fatal accidents’.
Fine specimens of humanity, those Germans, and to think I’m actually one of them! No, that’s not true, Hitler took away our nationality long ago. And besides, there are no greater enemies on earth than the Germans and the Jews.

Yours, Anne

Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension

1. What is Westerbork?
2. Why did Miep not let the old woman into her house?
3. What is Bet’s boyfriend’s name? 
Identifying Techniques

4. How does first person narration help the passage?
5. To what do the euphemisms ‘hostages’ and ‘fatal accidents’ refer?
6. Anne Frank’s diary states the horrors of the situation. In what way is ethos present? In what way logos? In what way pathos?
7. What examples of sarcasm does the writer use? 
Text Analysis

8. As well as physical torture and death, the passage describes psychological torture. What manners of psychological torture are described?
9. ‘The English radio says they’re being gassed. Perhaps that’s the quickest way to die’. What do you think Anne Frank’s opinion of being gassed is?
10. The temptation to make ‘gallow’s humour’ jokes about Bet’s boyfriend are ignored. Why?
11. In the final paragraph, Anne reflects on the fact she is German and Jewish. What are her feelings about this? 
Theme Exploration

12. In what ways does Anne Frank represent the voice of a victim? 
Provoking Opinion

13. Anne Frank began writing her diary after people were asked to write down their experiences of the war and she received a diary for her 13th birthday. Why is it important that people write about their experiences?
14. Anne Frank called her diary ‘Kitty’. Why do you think she named the book?
15. As well as the atrocities of war, Anne Frank’s diary includes discussions, jokes, arguments with family members and the other people in hiding, and thoughts about puberty and growing up. Why are these elements also important for the book?
16. The Anne Frank House is one of the most visited destinations in the Netherlands. Some have said it is a necessary reminder of the evils of the time. Others have said it creates a hero of one person, leaving other victims overlooked. What is your opinion of remembering a famous victim?

To the Edge of the Sky 
by Anhua Gao

Know Your Book

Title: To the Edge of the Sky
Author: 高安华 (Gao Anhua) (1949- )
Published: 2003
Language: English
Genre: Non-fiction; autobiography; survival story; revolutionary; scar literature; memoir
Synopsis: Gao Anhua is the daughter of revolutionary heroes in Mao Ze Dong’s China. However, after her parents die and ideology shifts during the Cultural Revolution, Anhua’s own sister labels her a counter-revolutionary. A marriage results in Anhua suffering domestic abuse, and a further accusation by an employer labels her an enemy of the state. Years of imprisonment and torture follow. Meanwhile Mao, Red Guards, and local officials engage in political purges that brutally alter China.
Setting: Nanjing; 1926-1994, but primarily the Cultural Revolution
Characters: Gao Anhua

Excerpt from Chapter 15 ‘Digging Out the 5.16 Elements’:

Our factory revolutionary committee hastened to form a leading 3.20 Group in its headquarters and a subordinate 3.20 Group in every company. The old class enemies who had been or were currently in detention were the first to be branded 5.16 Elements. They were forced, by the worst possible methods, to ‘confess’ and to name as many people as possible. It wasn’t enough for them to name a few: the list had to be a long one. At first nobody confessed, so the 3.20 Group took turns to interrogate their prisoners twenty-four hours a day. If a prisoner dozed off, the interrogator dropped eucalyptus oil into his or her eyes. The terrible pain ensured that the victim did not fall asleep again. Punching, kicking and worse were inflicted on the prisoners constantly until they were prepared to confess to anything. The tormentors triumphantly displayed the false confessions, with each group trying to outdo the rest in the number extracted. Those named in the confessions were taken into detention and the campaign snowballed. In less than a month, several hundred 5.16 Elements were dug out in our factory. The same thing was going on all over China.
Human dignity was non-existent. If prisoners complained of being hungry, they were made to eat sewage. It was rumoured that when they asked for water, their nostrils were sliced open and urine was poured into their lungs. When they coughed up blood, the only thing they heard was laughter. It was easy to believe such stories as we watched the bundles of wretched bloodstained humanity being paraded before us at the meetings. We heard daily of those who had died in detention.
Production halted again in our factory. Every day we had meetings or mass rallies to listen to the latest confessions. After a while a strange thing happened: those taken in for questioning began to name the members of the 3.20 Group themselves! And so in seconds their status changed from victimizer to victim. Nobody was safe and we all went about our daily lives in fear. Nobody knew what would happen to them from one hour to the next. It was the time when the ‘Red Terror’ spread over China.

1.Which phrase best describes the actions in the passage?

Revenge
Rebellion
Blind justice
Witch hunt
Carpe diem

Answer
d
2. The term ‘confess’ is placed in inverted commas to suggest

the accused were certainly guilty
the confessions were forced and therefore not genuine
the findings were preliminary before going to a genuine court
the accusers were more interested in punishment than law
the government had ordered a percentage of people be found guilty

Answer
b
3. ‘Those named in the confessions were taken into detention and the campaign snowballed.’ The use of the word ‘snowballed’ suggests the campaign

became more violent
was met with hostility
was a farce
quickly escalated
fell apart

Answer
d
4. The epithet given to this period suggests the predominant feeling at the time was

fear
anger
excitement
hope
comradeship

Answer
a
5. Both the accounts in The Diary of a Young Girl and To the Edge of the Sky mix first-hand experience with

fictional stories
statistical proof
official documents
comparisons to other conflicts
second-hand reports

Answer
e
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