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Between Witness and Testimony

The Holocaust and the Limits of Representation

Richard Glejzer, Michael Bernard-Donals

Publication Year: 2001

Examines the ethical and pedagogical stakes of representing the Holocaust in books, films, and museum exhibits. The Holocaust presents an immense challenge to those who would represent it or teach it through fiction, film, or historical accounts. Even the testimonies of those who were there provide only a glimpse of the disaster to those who were not. Between Witness and Testimony investigates the difficulties inherent in the obligation to bear witness to events that seem not just unspeakable but also unthinkable. The authors examine films, fictional narratives, survivor testimonies, and the museums at Yad Vashem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in order to establish an ethics of Holocaust representation. Traversing the disciplines of history, philosophy, religious studies, and literary and cultural theory, the authors suggest that while no account adequately provides access to what Adorno called “the extremity that eludes the concept,” we are still obliged to testify, to put into language what history cannot contain.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-xviii

To what extent can a disaster, or an individual's attempt to respond to it, be considered redemptive? This is a particularly dangerous question to ask in connection with the events of the Shoah. How is it possible to redeem one of the most horrifying events of the century, to bear witness to the nearly six million Jewish lives destroyed, the millions of Roma, gay...

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pp. xix-xx

We are grateful for the support of many institutions and individuals who have made this book possible. Albertson College of Idaho provided a generous grant to support initial research at Yad Vashem during the summer of 1997 that served as groundwork for our thinking on trauma, history, and identity. During the fall of 1998, the graduate school at the University...

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1. Sublimity, Redemption, Witness

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pp. 1-22

There are obvious risks involved in using the word "redemption" when talking about the Shoah: it seems counterintuitive that we could redeem the suffering of the millions who were systematically rounded up and killed during those years, or that there might be a way to somehow retrieve the lives, or even the traces of the lives, that...

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2. History and the Disaster: The (Im)possibility of Writing the Shoah

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pp. 23-48

On the afternoon of August 3, 1942, the liquidation of the ghetto in Warsaw had been under way for nearly two weeks. On July 19, Himmler had sent a directive to the head of the police forces in the Polish General Government that set the deportations in motion, but the policy of deportation and liquidation had been set six months earlier...

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3. The Epistemology of Witness: Survivor Narratives and the Holocaust

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pp. 49-78

I n the last several years, a number of groups and individuals have made an effort to record the memories of those who survived, in one way or another, the utter burn of history. Two of the most notable are the Fortunoff Video Archive tor Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University, established in 1982,1 and the Survivors of the Shoah Foundation, established...

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4. Literatures of Presence and Absence: Borowski, Appelfeld, Ozick

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pp. 79-102

It is the numbers, the facts of the Shoah that should speak for the event, not fiction representing it: "Keep literature out of the fire zone," is a phrase that Aharon Appelfeld recites as the imperative for writers of fiction. This imperative seems to be imposed most clearly upon those writers of fiction whose generation did not know, firsthand, the experience...

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5. Film and the Shoah: The Limits of Seeing

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pp. 103-129

In the winter of 1993-4, on the release of Schindler's List, Steven Spielberg offered the film free to any school that wanted to use it for the purposes of Holocaust education. He did so in the midsts of a flrestorm of controversy over the film. In its most simplified form, that controversy revolved round the film's use of realist techniques-black-and-white...

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6. Museums and the Imperative of Memory: History, Sublimity, and the Divine

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pp. 131-155

Outside the Hall of Remembrance in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), just before visitors leave the exhibit and proceed down the long stairway to the main hall of the museum, there is an open, loose-leaf binder in which visitors are asked to record their thoughts. These thoughts range from the sublime ("I cannot...

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7. Conclusion: The Ethics of Teaching (after) Auschwitz

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pp. 157-174

We want to start this chapter by asking a simple question: what do we hope to accomplish when we teach, or write about, the Shoah? In the years since 1945 we've heard a lot of answers: so that we never forget; so that something like this could never happen again; so we remember those who perished; so that we can heal or redeem...


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pp. 175-181


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pp. 183-188

E-ISBN-13: 9780791489673
E-ISBN-10: 0791489671
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791451496
Print-ISBN-10: 0791451496

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2001