3: Interview excerpt, Cynthia Ozick with Kim Heron, 1989, and text excerpt, William Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," 1960.
Ozick has repeatedly told interviewers that the inspiration for "The Shawl" was a line in William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, as in the first resource here. But it seems that there is no mention in that book of babies being thrown against electrified fences, as Ozick has recalled; the closest moment in Shirer’s book is the second resource here. (No one has yet been able to find a line in Shirer’s very long book that conforms to Ozick’s description; the scholar Eric Sundquist has also noted, in the essay cited in the "Reading and Background" section above, that he was not able to find such a moment in Shirer’s book.)
Suggested Activity: Ask students how they feel about Ozick’s having told interviewers, not once but many times, that she was inspired by something that she likely misremembered. Was Ozick lying? Does Ozick’s mistake matter, or is the line in Shirer’s book close enough so that it doesn’t? What does this discrepency suggest about the value of people’s memories of events as compared to documentary sources?
Sources: Kim Heron, “‘I Required a Dawning,’” New York Times (September 10, 1989), 39.
William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1960), 948.