Testimony Between History and Memory
For over 25 years, the Auschwitz Foundation in Brussels has published its journal, Testimony: Between History and Memory, three times a year. From the beginning, the journal has taken part in contemporary debates on issues of history and memory, and it has done so in a fundamentally pluridisciplinary way.
We are now seeing the questions we have been raising for years expand, generating studies beyond the fields where they are traditionally recognized. Commemoration, tourism, education, museums, literature, cinema, theatre, and academia: memory and testimony are very much present in all of these domains. Words associated with memory and testimony (trauma, nunca más, grey zone, exile, apartheid, Auschwitz) permeate our cultural sphere, circulating throughout our everyday lives, instilling themselves in our minds and contributing to the construction of our world view.
That is why Testimony is undergoing a transformation. While remaining faithful to its primary missions, the journal has received fresh impetus to consider debates on memory and testimony from a new – critical – angle. The transformation will produce a unique hybrid journal, consisting of both academic and cultural sections. At the heart of each issue, you will find an academic dossier and a “miscellaneous” section that examines questions of interest in a variety of fields. These will be supplemented by cultural criticism and reviews of recent events and publications, a portfolio, and a memory laboratory. Indeed, the journal aims to be a critical laboratory where authors can explore and deconstruct commonplaces, clichés, and doxa regarding memory and testimony.
Finally, the journal has taken up an additional challenge: it will be published in two separate versions, one in French and English and another in Dutch and English. By taking a multilingual and multicultural approach, we wish to engage a wider audience. Furthermore, concepts and questions of memory and testimony “travel” and they can take on different meanings depending on the language used. The journal therefore wants to offer an experimental space where subjects can be tackled from various perspectives. In this project, the Auschwitz Foundation has found in Kazerne Dossin its ideal partner.
Do you wish to contribute or learn more about Testimony? Contact Anneleen Spiessens.
No. 120 (April 2015): What future is there for the memory of the Armenian genocide? (202 p.)
The 1915 genocide of Turkish Armenians still stirs up numerous debates, controversies, declarations of principle, statements and counter-statements, and even negation. However, as we speak, ties are being established more and more openly, bridges are built and bonds strengthened between the Armenian and Turkish communities. Is reconciliation possible?
No. 119 (December 2014): 70 years ago, Auschwitz. Looking back on Primo Levi (210 p.)
27 January 1945. Seventy years ago the first soldiers of the Red Army marched into Auschwitz. One might argue that the camp was “liberated” then, but the truth is that neither Auschwitz, nor any of the other Nazi camps, was ever a priority to the Allied Powers. Primo Levi was one of the few survivors who knew how to hide and escape the enforced evacuation of the camps. With this dossier, we want to cast light on the complex figure that Levi was: a Jew, a deportee, a chemists, a witness, and a writer. It sets out to study his oeuvre and his interpretation of the notions of “resistance” and “engagement”, in order to understand how he eventually became a “professional survivor”, as he once described himself.
No. 118 (September 2014): In the name of the victims. Dictatorship and State terror in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay (210 p.)
During the 1970s and 1980s, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay were in the grip of military dictatorships. The process of democratic transition that followed the long period of state terror involved the construction of particular narratives and memories, leading to a reconfiguration of the past. Despite local differences, this process is very much centered at the figure of the victim – a figure the articles in this dossier, collected by Claudia Feld, Luciana Messina and Nadia Tahir, set out to explore.
Table of contents and abstracts (French/English, with 15% in English)
Much has been said and written about group memories, limiting their mutual relationships and history to conflicts, “wars”, competitions, or strategies for eclipsing or silencing. These terms have now become the platitudes of a kind of more general doxa about collective and cultural remembrance. This dossier proposes a critical reading of those terms and of that doxa by questioning the emergence, constitution, and inter-relating of different exemplary memories of the major violent episodes of the 20th century. It will address the relationships that those memories can maintain with other memories with which they share, if not the same event, at least similar characteristics and concerns.
Should we fear what has been grouped under the term “memorial tourism”? Or should we take this as a reality of our time? Can any visitor, group or individual, nowadays be absorbed in the category of “tourist”? Or is this category a remote intellectual reduction of a personal experience that everyone is aiming during his visit? The problem appears in a somewhat different light when we think of tours for young people supervised by adults, usually teachers. This dossier gives the floor to historians and teachers with experience in the field.
This dossier’s objective is to provide a benchmark for understanding the plural identities and relationships between memories and representation forms in contemporary Spain. Indeed, it is necessary today to take a fresh look not only on the stratified memories of the civil war, exile and the Franco repression, but also on the reception of other memories such as that of the Holocaust, and to propose new readings. We propose to highlight the conflicting or fruitful tensions between official actions, initiatives of associations and of artistic events.
Memorial sites constitute the concrete trace of European remembrance and history of the twentieth century. But what do they look like today? Exhibition and conservation criteria have changed during the last ten to fifteen years, like advances in historical research have changed the way we read and reconstruct past events. This is not only due to the fact that we have moved from a past history written by witnesses to a history written by professional historians. A new consciousness has emerged concerning transmission methods (memory education), and archeology has strengthened historical research. We tore off the veil of ideology that often influenced and prescribed the way we imagined permanent exhibitions, conservation and visits. Can we say we have entered a new era in memory transmission? It remains, in many ways, an open bet on the present and the future.
The most painful or ambiguous periods in twentieth-century German history are characterized by numerous taboos, expressed in literature, photography and film as so many “returns of the repressed”. These studies focus in part on problems of antisemitism, and thus on the relationship of German-speaking societies to the Shoah. They also examine the way in which those societies confronted the violence they suffered, such as bombing, fleeing from the Red Army and the expulsions, and mass rapes.
The dossier in this issue deals with the experiences and cultural representations of childhood during the Spanish Civil War. It aims to help towards a better understanding of that conflict, which tore apart a population living on the same territory, by confronting the experiences of Spanish children who lived through it – as expressed in various forms during or after the war – with representations of those same children, particularly those coming from adults.
Since the media came into existence, political institutions from political parties to governments have used them to promote their image, in order to win the support of the public they addressed. Authoritarian powers use the media as a means of consolidating their domination. But how can artists take part in propaganda, whose purposes are the opposite of those generally attributed to art? Does that mean setting aside their vocation, or do they themselves distort that vocation?
States and criminal groups exploit population displacements to isolate or get rid of certain populations. In addition to being denied their normal rights, these populations lose visibility and are deprived of their reference points and social frameworks. In this way it is possible to make them the victims of constraints (deterritorialization, forced labor…) or violence (famine, massacres genocide…). These developments have spread on an unprecedented scale since the First World War and continue to grow worldwide. But there is also a dimension of remembrance to this reality: memories of these displacements are now being expressed in literature, and in exhibitions and museums. This dossier examines the contemporary double aspect of history and memory.
No. 102 (January-March 2009): Criminels politiques en représentation. Arts, cinéma, théâtre, littérature, médias [The Portrayal of Political Criminals in Films and Plays, in Literature and in the Media]
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Distribution: Les Belles Lettres
General President: Henri Goldberg
Editor in Chief: Philippe Mesnard
Editors: Anneleen Spiessens & Nathalie Peeters
Daniel Acke (Belgium); Marnix Beyen (Belgium); Sonia Combe (France); Martin S. Ronald Commers (Belgium); Emmanuelle Danblon (Belgium); Sophie Ernst (France); Janos Frühling (Belgium); Carola Hähnel (Germany); Silvain Keuleers (Belgium); Fransiska Louwagie (Belgium); Philippe Mesnard (France); Didier Pollefeyt (Belgium); Lieven Saerens (Belgium); Frediano Sessi (Italy); Régine Waintrater (France); Jacques Walter (France).