Approaching an Auschwitz Survivor: Holocaust Testimony and its Transformations
OUP USA, Aug 27, 2009 - History - 224 pages
Among sources on the Holocaust, survivor testimonies are the least replaceable and most complex, reflecting both the personality of the narrator and the conditions and perceptions prevailing at the time of narration. Scholarship aims to challenge memory and fill its gaps. At the same time, scholars often use testimonies uncritically or selectively--mining them to support generalizations. This book is a departure, bringing several scholars together to analyze the testimony of one Holocaust survivor. Helen "Zippi" Spitzer Tichauer was sent to Auschwitz in 1942. One of the few early arrivals to survive the camp and the death marches, she met her future husband in a DP camp. They moved to New York in the 1960s. Since the end of the war, Zippi devoted many hours to talking with a small group of scholars about her life. Zippi's testimony covers a wide range of human experiences in extremis and spans fifty-odd years. It is thus uniquely suited to raise questions on the meaning and use of survivor testimony. What do we know, sixty years after the Nazi era, about the workings of a death camp? How willing are we to learn from the experiences of a survivor, and how much is our perception preconditioned by standardized images? What are the mechanisms, aims and pitfalls of story-telling? Can survivor testimonies be understood properly without guidance from those who experienced the events? This book, written by established Holocaust scholars who have known Helen Tichauer for years, attempts to approximate survivor testimony and probe the limits of its representation and understanding. Contributors include Atina Grossmann (author, Jews, Germans, and Allies: Close Encounters in Occupied Germany, Princeton, 2007), Konrad Kwiet (co-ed., Contemporary Responses to the Holocaust, 2005), Wendy Lower (author, Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memory, Indiana UP, 2007), Nehama Tec (author, Resilience and Courage: Women, Men, and the Holocaust, Yale, 2003, and Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, OUP, 1993). The book will be of interest to both Holocaust scholars and oral historians.
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