cover image Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory

Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory

Lawrence L. Langer. Yale University Press, $35 (216pp) ISBN 978-0-300-04966-4

Hundreds of videotaped oral testimonies by Holocaust survivors are preserved in the Fortunoff Video Archives at Yale University. These tapes comprise a spontaneous record of victims' unimaginable ordeals, their disorientation, subsequent readjustment and the psychic scars they still carry. Intermingling their narratives with a structural analysis that draws on the writings of Primo Levi, Maurice Blanchot, Viktor Frankl, Martin Gilbert and others, Langer ( The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination ) explores how survivors created an ``impromptu self,'' following impulses in order to stay alive. He notes that for many, the Nazi assault on body and spirit resulted in a permanent sense of discontinuity with normal assumptions about good and evil, individual choice and responsibility. This brilliant, scholarly book stares into the void; it eschews tributes to heroism and martyrdom, focusing instead on the personal and societal wreckage caused by mass murder. Jewish Book Club selection. (Apr.)