A recent graduate of UCF’s Burnett Honors College studied an important approach to Holocaust education — using literature to teach people about the atrocities. Tiffany Sidders ’21 will continue her research through a master’s in English literature at the University of Alabama this fall.
Her research was titled Vergissmeinnicht: An Interdisciplinary Study of Holocaust Trauma Literature, Medical Experimentation Discourse, And Narratives of Denial. Vergissmeinnicht is German for “forget me not.” The work was a culmination of several years of research, readings and an introspective look at gaps in her own knowledge about the Holocaust, Sidders says.
“The subject and the way students deal with it internally can be very complex,” Sidders says.
Seventeen states, including Florida, require Holocaust education as part of their secondary school curricula, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. That’s why the elements of literature are needed to help explain the atrocities to more students, Sidders says.
“This type of literature plays a large role in allowing people to understand what happened,” she says. “The stories they tell allow readers to take a step back from reality and connect and empathize with characters and situations.”
A work she would recommend based on her research is Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly because the book allows the reader to see three distinct points of views and three different periods of time — before, during, and after the war — she says.
For instance, in the book there is a 16-year-old girl, Kasia, who is a medical experiment victim at the Ravensbrück concentration camp; Herta, who is the doctor who operates on Kasia; and Caroline, an American philanthropist who helps survivors of the concentration camp and gives an American perspective.
“The intimate connection to fictional characters is vital,” she says. “It creates a base-point for students to grasp their emotional responses to the story and learn about reality simultaneously.”
Fayeza Hasanat, an associate lecturer in UCF’s Department of English, was Sidders’ Honors Thesis chair. She has a doctorate in English literature from the University of Florida and specializes in researching literature of the British Empire and stories of wartime sexual violence in the Southern Hemisphere. She said she is proud of Sidders’ work exploring how these difficult topics are presented in literature.
“Tiffany has written a brilliant thesis on representation of trauma in Holocaust literature,” Hasanat says. “She has taken an interdisciplinary approach in which she explores medical experiments and literary representation of trauma and denial.”