Writing the Holocaust: Identity, Testimony, Representation

Writing the Holocaust: Identity, Testimony, Representation

Writing the Holocaust: Identity, Testimony, Representation

Writing the Holocaust: Identity, Testimony, Representation

Synopsis

Arguing against the prevailing view that Holocaust survivors (encouraged by a new and flourishing culture of "witnessing") have come forward only recently to tell their stories, Writing the Holocaust examines the full history of Holocaust testimony, from the first chroniclers confined to Nazi-enforced ghettos to today's survivors writing as part of collective memory. Zoe Waxman shows how the conditions and motivations for bearing witness changed immeasurably. She reveals the multiplicity of Holocaust experiences, the historically contingent nature of victims' responses, and the extent to which their identities--secular or religious, male or female, East or West European--affected not only what they observed but also how they have written about their experiences. In particular, she demonstrates that what survivors remember is substantially determined by the context in which they are remembering.

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Załman Gradowski

There is now an enormous literature attesting to the magnitude of the Holocaust. From the beleaguered witnesses writing in the ghettos and the concentration camps, to the émigré survivors committed to remembering the dead, countless attempts have been made not only to document the atrocities but to retrieve some meaning from what the Jews were forced to endure. Increasingly, historians, philosophers, and theologians are being left to confront this daunting task. As they inherit the diaries and other documents written by those who knew they would not survive, or the memoirs produced by those who have dedicated their lives to educating future generations, they have to decide how these testimonies should be comprehended and represented. For example: as testaments to the strength of the human spirit; as historical documents; as attempts to describe the ineffable. To answer such questions, it is necessary to resist the tendency of recent Holocaust scholarship to universalize or collectivize Holocaust testimony, and instead to revive the particular by uncovering the multiple layers within testimony. It is only by exploring the social and historical context of Holocaust testimony that we can appreciate the sheer diversity of witnesses' experiences.

Three main theses emerge during the course of the present study. First, Holocaust testimony has a history—a history that has been largely ignored because testimony is usually treated as a separate, homogenized, self-contained canon. Secondly, Holocaust testimony . . .

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