The Era of the Witness

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Overview

What is the role of survivor testimony in Holocaust remembrance? Today such recollections are considered among the most compelling and important historical sources we have, but this has not always been true. In The Era of the Witness, a concise, rigorously argued, and provocative work of cultural and intellectual history, Annette Wieviorka seeks to answer this surpassingly complex question. She analyzes the conditions under which survivor testimonies have been produced, how they have been received over time, and how the testimonies shaped the construction of history and collective memory. Wieviorka discerns three successive phases in the evolution of the roles and images of the Holocaust witness. The first phase is marked by the testimony left by those who did not survive the Holocaust but managed nevertheless to record their experiences. The second, most important, phase is centered on the Eichmann trial, which for Wieviorka is the moment (1961–1962) when a broad cultural deafness to survivors' stories was replaced by the image of the witness as "bearer of history." The author follows the changing nature of the witness into a third phase, which she calls "the era of the witness." Especially concerned with the pedagogical and political uses to which survivor testimony has been put, Wieviorka examines factors that determine when and how survivor testimonies are incorporated into the larger narrative of the Holocaust, according it a privileged place in our understanding. By exploring the ways in which the Holocaust is remembered, The Era of the Witness also deepens our understanding of how testimony can help to define not only twentieth-century history but also more recent episodes of mass killing that are only now "becoming history."
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Wieviorka retraces the evolution of the figure of the Holocaust witness and analyzes the different, and sometimes competing, uses of Holocaust testimonies, with the rigor and clarity that perfectly suits her subject."—Le Monde

"A reflection on the production of Holocaust testimonies, their evolution in time, and their part in the construction of the collective memory."—Libération

"Written by one of France's leading historians of the Holocaust, The Era of the Witness is a fascinating and readable exploration of the emergence of survivor testimony into the public sphere. Annette Wieviorka's provocative yet sensitive account will be of interest to all who are concerned with the legacies of the Holocaust and other traumatic histories. Jared Stark's beautiful translation makes this essential work accessible to a new audience."—Michael Rothberg, author of Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation and coeditor of The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings

"This book on witnessing itself bears witness to a close, careful, and often difficult engagement with a vast array of testimonies in different genres and media. It raises the question of how empathy and unsettlement provoked by testimonies may be combined with resistance to a cult of intimacy, a confusion of empathy with identification, and an impairment of the critical perspective necessary for writing history."—Dominick LaCapra, Cornell University, author of History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801473166
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 4.50 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Table of Contents

I Witnesses to a drowning world 1
II The advent of the witness 56
III The era of the witness 96
Epilogue : the Papon trial, or the delegation of witnessing 145
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