Redeeming the past?

Lawrence Langer explains in Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory that written accounts of life in the Nazi concentration camps often seek to integrate the Holocaust experience into a larger structure of meaning. Holocaust then becomes a testimony to the “indomitable human spirit,” an example of growing through suffering, a proof that moral integrity is possible even under extreme duress, a source of a more informed sense of ourselves as human beings, and so on. (Langer’s book is based on videotaped testimonies located in the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University.)

Oral testimonies, on the other hand, show that in the lived memory of the survivors, the Holocaust experience refuses to be tamed and appears, instead, to be something that cannot be integrated into a larger narrative of meaningful life.


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