A professor of English at Simmons College in Boston, Lawrence L. Langer has long been a leading interpreter of literature about the Holocaust, Nazi Germany’s planned total destruction of the Jewish people and the actual murder of nearly six million of them. Profoundly, HOLOCAUST TESTIMONIES takes his readers into a region that Langer’s subtitle aptly identifies as “the ruins of memory.”
The author painstakingly excavates those ruins in the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, established at Yale University in 1982. Its holdings contain more than fourteen hundred testimonies from Holocaust survivors or “former victims,” as Langer prefers to call them. He conducted many of the Archive’s interviews, and few people, if any, have witnessed more Holocaust testimonies. Nor has anyone observed so many of them so carefully. Definitely no one has written about these testimonies with more intensity, honesty, and telling impact.
Optimism is scarce in the ruins of memory, but what Langer does find and carefully guard is “unshielded truth,” an honesty that underscores what must be faced: “How overwhelming, and perhaps insurmountable,” as Langer puts it, “is the task of reversing [the Holocaust’s] legacy.” That legacy dwells in memory that is deep, anguished, humiliated, tainted, and unheroic. Correspondingly, that memory disturbingly uncovers selves who are buried, divided, besieged, impromptu, and diminished. Such...
(The entire section is 388 words.)
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