The Holocaust was a time of inexplicable devastation whose effects transcend both time and history. As a result of the impact that its events had on both those directly and indirectly affected, numerous Holocaust literatures have been produced in commemoration to the lives lost in an attempt to show how the devastation continues to affect all who experienced it or have knowledge of it. This literature has taken many forms in various books, movies, short stories, and poems, where each medium of remembrance gives a different perspective that illuminates a unique aspect of the genocide.
Holocaust poetry, for example, ambiguously describes the genocide in terms of imagery and representative explanation – it gives the writer a chance to pay tribute to the horrors of the Holocaust without overwhelming the reader with harsh description (Friedman 553). One such poem is Andrew Hudgins’ “Air View of an Industrial Scene” in which he, as a non-affiliated person to the Holocaust, describes the last moments of those soon to be burned alive.
It is intriguing how Hudgins had the insight to describe the moments that he did not experience firsthand. Since Hudgins was not directly affected by the Holocaust, he was in need of a source of previously written literature that could aid him in developing a realistic and accurate portrayal of the concentration camp horrors. In fact, it has been argued that each piece on the Holocaust should be read in comparison to other such works, rather than as an individual statement (Parmet, 33). With that in mind, the similarities between Elie Wiesel’s Night and Andrew Hudgins’ “Air View of an Industrial Scene” are something of which to take note.
When comparing the two sources of literature, it is evident that Wiesel’s and Hudgins’ accounts share much in common, even though Wiesel’s is much more straightforward while Hudgins’ remains ambiguous and indirect. This, in essence, is a result of Hudgins following the “unwritten rules” of Holocaust poetry to which all non-affiliated poets must adhere – these rules become evident when analyzing Hudgins poem in combination with literary criticism of other Holocaust poetry. Therefore, it can be argued that Hudgins’ “Air View of an Industrial Scene” is a product of inspiration from Elie Wiesel’s Night when placed in the similar patterns of the Holocaust poetry that has been produced by those who were neither victims or survivors of the genocide. This, of course, can be seen through a close analysis of “Air View of an Industrial Scene.”
To begin, one must first take notice of the title of Hudgins’ poem and how it purposefully misleads the reader into thinking the poem is going to be about an “Industrial Scene.” However, as soon as the poem commences, a picture is alternately painted of a train “unloading people who stumble from the cars toward the gate.” This, in essence, could be part of an industrial foreground, but it instead leads most readers to be reminded of similar portrayals of concentration camps – and this idea is later solidified by Hudgins’ reference to “Birkenau,” which was a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
The misleading aspect of the title was incorporated by Hudgins in order to hint directly at the misleading ways the Germans tricked the Jews into following their orders. This can be seen is Wiesel’s Night when it explicitly describes how in the beginning, the “impressions of the Germans were most reassuring” and “they never demanded the impossible, made not unpleasant comments, and even smiled occasionally at the mistress of the house (Wiesel 7).” Unfortunately, this deception of the Germans soon withered into the despicable genocide that proceeded not long after after; just as the deception of Hudgins’ “Industrial Scene” dissipated at the start of the actual poem.
The way in which Hudgins describes in the opening line people being unloaded is also something of which to take particular note. The scene directly correlates with the description Wiesel gives, but in Wiesel’s account it is much more tangible when he describes how the German soldiers “held out electric torches and truncheons” and “began to strike out to the right and left, shouting: ‘Everybody get out!
Everyone out of the wagon! Quickly!'” In contrast, when Hudgins describes the same situation, everything is silent and almost calm. It is at this point that it becomes clear that Hudgins’ is utilizing the rules of Holocaust poetry; one of which is silence. It is argued that poets who did not personally experience the Holocaust should somehow use “silence” while at the same time describing in words what happened during this tragedy (Lang, 23). There are many possible approaches to this, but Hudgins’ way of utilizing the respectful silence was through his “wordless” description of unloading the people, as opposed to verbalizing it the way that Wiesel did.