The essay focuses on the relationship between memory and history, which has changed in many ways under the impact of the Holocaust. Memory that had been discarded by historians as an unreliable and distorting source came to be acknowledged as an important factor in the reconstruction of past events, thus advancing from a rival to a partner of historiography. The question to be asked is no longer merely what has happened? but also how was the event experienced, how is it remembered and passed on to succeeding generations? The new mnemo-historical genre of video testimony is analyzed as an archive of trauma stories and set off against other forms of autobiographical discourse, on the one hand, and legal testimonies, on the other. It is argued that its specific value lies in forging a transgenerational link between the faces and voices of victims and those who listen to them, thus transcending the frame of family memory that, as a rule, fades after three generations.
Aleida Assmann; History, Memory, and the Genre of Testimony. Poetics Today 1 June 2006; 27 (2): 261–273. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-2005-003
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