By Michael F. Bernard-Donals
The Holocaust provides a huge problem to people who could symbolize it or train it via fiction, movie, or old bills. Even the tales of these who have been there offer just a glimpse of the catastrophe to those that weren't. among Witness and Testimony investigates the problems inherent within the legal responsibility to endure witness to occasions that appear not only unspeakable but in addition unthinkable. The authors research motion pictures, fictional narratives, survivor tales, and the museums at Yad Vashem and the us Holocaust Memorial Museum to be able to identify an ethics of Holocaust illustration. Traversing the disciplines of historical past, philosophy, non secular reports, and literary and cultural concept, the authors recommend that whereas no account appropriately presents entry to what Adorno known as the extremity that eludes the idea that, we're nonetheless obliged to testify, to place into language what historical past can't contain."
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Additional resources for Between Witness and Testimony: The Holocaust and the Limits of Representation
The intentionalist/functionalist debate, in other words, is a debate over whether it is ultimately possible to avoid the metonymic substitution of document tor the act or event beyond 28 Between Witness and Testimony the document, and the resolution of the debate turns on the ability to identify the presence of an event as it disrupts the logic or rhetoric of the documents. The same is true for the debate between the subjectivists like White and the pragmatists like Vidal-Naquet: both groups of historians eventually require a language tor historical writing that leaves room tor the presence of an event to bleed through the writing or method of the historian.
But in the case of what Blanchot has called the "disaster," the "force of writing [which is] excluded from [testimony] is beyond the pale of writing or extratextual" because it is what writing comes after, while at the same time it is the thing which writing hopes to bring to the present (Blanchot 7). The force of writing-the moments of the lives of the six 20 Between Witness and Testimony million Jews of Europe and the innumerable millions of others, the words of prayer uttered before the gas silenced prayer altogether, the moment of realization that comes with the closing of a van door in Kulmhof that you are the last one alive-is itself so inconceivable that any attempt to testifY to it is altogether doomed to failure.
And, in Gilbert's case, those histories provide accounts of eyewitnesses whose language is a sometimes breathless narrative of survival and of terror that has been tiltered through the years of amazement that accompany the experience of survival of what was assumed to be inescapable death. But what to make of an account like Lewin's, which is written at the time, and whose language is the language of abbreviation? "A night of horrors. Shooting went on all night. I couldn't sleep .... " And how to account for the language that lists the events of a life in terms only meaningful for the writer, and for whom the presence of those events, even in the shorthand of one who breathlessly writes while gazing out the window at the object of representation, is lost even to him at the moment of writing?