On the Defensive: Reading the Ethical in Nazi Camp Testimonies

Front Cover
University of Toronto Press, Jan 1, 2015 - History - 220 pages

On the Defensive considers how our ethical responses to the Nazi camps have unintentionally repressed and denied the experiences of their victims. Through detailed readings of survivor narratives, particularly the works of political deportees Jorge Semprun and Charlotte Delbo, Sharon Marquart examines how well-intentioned people - including victims, their family members, and readers of witness literature - respond to such testimony in ways that are understood as ethical by their communities but serve instead to ignore victims' experiences.

As Marquart shows, collective disasters such as the Holocaust expose the limitations of our ethical theories. To cope with this instability we withdraw and defend ourselves through inattentive and formulaic responses that turn a blind eye to the plight of victims. Challenging contemporary theorizations of community, ethics, testimony, and trauma, On the Defensive is a far-reaching reflection on the ways in which communal understandings of our duties and responsibilities to others can facilitate the denial of an atrocity's horrors.


What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


On the Defensive Reading the Ethical in Witness Literature
Chapter 1 Literature Theory and Fraternity
Chapter 2 Speaking for Others
Chapter 3 Seeing Responsibility
Chapter 4  Irony and Community
This Has Been for These People
Works Cited

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2015)

Sharon Marquart is an assistant professor of French in the Department of Languages and Literatures at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Bibliographic information