Witness as Study: The Difficult Inheritance of Testimony
Geoffrey Hartman notes “there is no lack of serious attention to the Shoah; after a slow start, after a stunned reaction, historians, philosophers, psychoanalysts, and artists have entered what has been characterized as a period of obsession” (1996, 1). What is not at issue—at least in the midterm—is whether or not the Shoah will be forgotten. However, what is very much a practical and urgent concern, a matter of considerable debate and controversy, is how and what of the Shoah will be remembered through contemporary practices of Holocaust history, memorialization, and education. No doubt it would be best if this question remained interminably current. If one takes seriously Walter Benjamin’s (1969, 255) warning that each generation must beware the conformism that is about to overwhelm its traditions,1 one must persist in reopening the question of how one is to face the historical period known as the Holocaust. It is the necessity of this persistence that animates the memory work put forth in this chapter. Without pretense that Holocaust remembrance could or should be reduced to fixed terms and methods,we address what it might mean to renew practices of public remembrance of the Shoah. This renewal takes place in the recognition of the human need for hope and the obligation not just to learn about the past, but to learn from attempts to face the traces of lives lived in times and places other than one’s own.
KeywordsHistorical Consciousness Terrible Thing Public Remembrance Holocaust Remembrance Ghetto Resident
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.