History and Memory

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Memories are more important than history in showing us our past. Do you agree with this statement based on your reading of the Fiftieth Gate?

History alone is insufficient in understanding the past as it discounts the personal perspective that memory provides. However, this distinctiveness results in varying viewpoints of individual or collective memories, making memory alone insignificant as it does not have a singular truth. Memory forms the basis of history, while history clarifies certain aspects of memory. Undoubtedly, history and memory are dependent on each other and equally valid. This notion is further explored in the set text 'The Fiftieth Gate' by Mark Baker, as throughout the journey, Baker comes to realise the equal significance of both history and memory. The ‘truth’ is represented in The Fiftieth Gate through the use of both history and memory to construct the picture of the past.

Throughout the text, Mark Baker seeks the truth of his parents' past and the Holocaust and questions the authenticity of history and memory through cross referencing personal or collective stories and experiences with historical facts and documents. Baker acknowledges the importance of memory in the creation of a reconstructed history by using the quote 'it always begins in blackness, until the first light illuminates a hidden fragment of memory' at the beginning and end of his journey.

The Fiftieth Gate explores how individual recollects history, where it opens and closes with 'blackness', representing the lack of knowledge, which can only be 'illuminated' by memory. In order to have a meaningful historical discussion, there must be some form or memory included to 'illuminate' the stories in historical sources. However, the text also explores the gap that appears in memory, the memories that are forgotten. This is shown in Baker's construction of Genia's story in particular when they visit her hometown. 'It should be here. I remember it was opposite the town...
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