On Listening to Holocaust Survivors: Recounting and Life History

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Praeger, Jan 1, 1998 - History - 199 pages
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How do Holocaust survivors find words and voice for their memories of terror and loss? This landmark book presents striking new insights into the process of recounting the Holocaust. While other studies have been based, typically, on single interviews with survivors, this work summarizes twenty years of the author's interviews and reinterviews with the same core group. In this book, therefore, survivors' recounting is approached--not as one-time testimony--but as an ongoing, deepening conversation.

Listening to survivors so intensively, we hear much that we have not heard before. We learn, for example, how survivors perceive us, their listeners, and the impact of listeners on what survivors do, in fact, retell. We meet the survivors themselves as distinct individuals, each with his or her specific style and voice. As we directly follow their efforts to recount, we see how Holocaust memories challenge their words even now--burdening survivors' speech, distorting it, and sometimes fully consuming it. It is "not" a story, insisted one survivor about his memories. It has to be "made" a story. "On Listening to Holocaust Survivors" shows us both the ways survivors can make stories for the not-story they remember and--just as important--the ways they are not able to do so.

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Tellable Beginnings
Survivors and Their Listeners
A Gathering of Voices

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About the author (1998)

HENRY GREENSPAN is a consulting psychologist and playwright at the University of Michigan. He originally came to Michigan in 1977 as a Fellow of the Michigan Society of Fellows and at that time began his interviews with Holocaust survivors, and his teaching and writing about their recounting, at that time. His plays include Remnants, a celebrated work that also draws on more than 20 years of listening to survivors.

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