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Cover for Ecologies of Witnessing

Ecologies of Witnessing

Language, Place, and Holocaust Testimony

Hannah Pollin-Galay


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An innovative reassessment of Holocaust testimony, revealing the dramatic ways in which the languages and places of postwar life inform survivor memory

This groundbreaking work rethinks conventional wisdom about Holocaust testimony, focusing on the power of language and place to shape personal narrative. Oral histories of Lithuanian Jews serve as the textual base for this exploration. Comparing the remembrances of Holocaust victims who remained in Lithuania with those who resettled in Israel and North America after World War II, Pollin-Galay reveals meaningful differences based on where survivors chose to live out their postwar lives and whether their language of testimony was Yiddish, English, or Hebrew. The differences between their testimonies relate to notions of love, justice, community—and how the Holocaust did violence to these aspects of the self. More than an original presentation of yet-unheard stories, this book challenges the assumption of a universal vocabulary for describing and healing human pain.

Yale University Press, 9780300226041, 352pp.

Publication Date: July 31, 2018

About the Author

Hannah Pollin‑Galay is senior lecturer in the Department of Literature at Tel Aviv University, where she teaches on Yiddish, oral narrative, and memory.