“Tell me about Auschwitz.” Changing Forms and Perceptions of Holocaust Testimony

Today, Holocaust survivor testimonies are of great value to the public and to scholars alike. They can be found in museums, in form of autobiographies and memoirs, as part of documentaries, in form of movies, and even in form of graphic novels. There clearly is a strong public interest in what survivors have to say. Although I share this interest, I, one day, asked myself, why is it that we do we value survivor testimony so much? And I immediately thought that this an easy question and the answer has to be obvious, but somehow, it wasn’t. The answer that I read or heard most often is that we have to learn from the events of the Holocaust, that we must never forget, and that something like the Holocaust must never happen again. These are all valid points, however, if they are so self-evident and obvious, why didn’t Holocaust commemoration start until the late 1980s and early 1990s? Why wasn’t there a much bigger interest in survivors and their accounts immediately after the Holocaust? Is it morally justifiable at all, to “use” survivors and their testimony exclusively to learn from them?

In my thesis, I try to answer all these questions.


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