Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the "final Solution"

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Saul Friedlšnder
Harvard University Press, 1992 - History - 407 pages
2 Reviews

Can the Holocaust be compellingly described or represented? Or is there some core aspect of the extermination of the Jews of Europe which resists our powers of depiction, of theory, of narrative? In this volume, twenty scholars probe the moral, epistemological, and aesthetic limits of an account or portrayal of the Nazi horror.

These essays expose to scrutiny questions that have a pressing claim on our attention, our conscience, and our cultural memory. First presented at a conference organized by Saul Friedlander, they are now made available for the wide consideration and discussion they merit.

Christopher Browning, Hayden White, Carlo Ginzburg, Martin Jay, Dominick LaCapra, and others focus first on the general question: can the record of his historical event be established objectively through documents and witnesses, or is every historical interpretation informed by the perspective of its narrator? The suggestion that all historical accounts are determined by a preestablished narrative choice raises the ethical and intellectual issues of various forms of relativization. In more specific terms, what are the possibilities of historicizing National Socialism without minimizing the historical place of the Holocaust.

Also at issue are the problems related to an artistic representation, particularly the dilemmas posed by aestheticization. John Felstiners, Yael S. Feldman, Sidra Ezahi, Eric Santner, and Anton Kaes grapple with these questions and confront the inadequacy of words in the face of the Holocaust. Others address the problem of fitting Nazi policies and atrocities into the history of Western thought and science. The book concludes with Geoffrey Hartmans's evocative meditation on memory.

 

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Simply put, this is the place to start if you are interested in Holocaust historiography. These essays are often dense, but the issues they plumb are reverberant. If you have read Friedlander's "Nazi Germany and the Jews," this book (and the conference which produced it) had a significant effect on his approach to writing that monumental work.
Too often, collections of academic essays rely on one or two big names to initiate the interest of the reader, which is quickly lost in a series of sub-par essays. This book however is filled with the biggest names in the field and many of the essays actually refer to each other, resulting in a discussion rather than a number of essays with a loose common theme.
 

Contents

Introduction
1
German Memory Judicial Interrogation and Historical
22
Historical Emplotment and the Problem of Truth
37
Two Kinds of Ruin
54
History Counterhistory and Narrative
66
Just One Witness
82
Of Plots Witnesses and Judgments
97
Reflections on
108
Science Modernity and the Final Solution
185
Postmodern
206
Whose Story Is It Anyway? Ideology and Psychology
223
Unbound Metaphors
259
Language Silence
277
The Representation of Limits
300
The Book of the Destruction
318
Notes
337

Some Thoughts
143
Habermas Enlightenment and Antisemitism
155
Progressive History and
171
Contributors
399
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