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Trespassing through Shadows: Memory, Photography, and the Holocaust

Andrea Liss
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Trespassing through Shadows
    Book Description:

    Photographs of the Holocaust bear a double burden: to act as history lessons for future generations so we will “never forget” and to provide a means of mourning. In Trespassing through Shadows, Andrea Liss examines the inherent difficulties and productive possibilities of using photographs to bear witness, initiating a critical dialogue about the ways the post-Auschwitz generation has employed these documents to represent Holocaust memory and history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8870-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: (Im)Possible Witnessing
    (pp. xi-xix)

    I open this book as if it were a distant letter, a letter steeped in sorrow and sent across the chasm of unknowable loss, across the pain of pounding emptiness. This letter wants to find an addressee, named addressees, so that its difficult posting might mediate the countless photographic images that hover over nameless bodies, heaps of humans reduced to nothing. This letter comes face to face with memories of photographs whose horrific images instate the shock between my presence, my intact vulnerability, and the utter violations done to those pictured.

    This letter issues a warning to those, including me,...

  5. 1 Photography and Naming
    (pp. 1-11)

    Questions of mimesis, strategies of empathy, the truth in fiction, the fiction in truth, and the tension between literalness and metaphor are always at work in documentary photographic representation; these factors are all the more germane to and strained in contemporary photographic representations of Holocaust history and memory. To call photographs depicting events, moments, and lives ruined by Nazi crimes in the Holocaust “documentary” is a misnomer of catastrophic proportions. Holocaust photographs do not function solely as objective documents: on a deeper psychic level, they set up the shock of the unimaginable made visible. By the very nature of their...

  6. 2 The Identity Card Project and the Tower of Faces at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    (pp. 13-38)

    Upon entrance to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the visitor is “invited to register” for an identity card.¹ The visitor is directed to a computer-processing area in the foyer of the frighteningly vast and hollow space of the Hall of Witness. Here preprinted cards await the visitor (fig.2). The cards are printed with a photograph and a brief text about the Holocaust victims and survivors they represent. The information is gleaned from much longer histories that the survivors or the families of those who perished have offered to the museum for public use. The cards are...

  7. 3 Between Trauma and Nostalgia: Christian Boltanski′s Memorials and Art Spiegelman′s Maus
    (pp. 39-68)

    “This is not a Boltanski,” I remember Martin Smith emphatically assuring me as he described the museum’s plans for what was then alternately referred to as the Shtetl Wall and the Tower of Faces. Inversely, whenever I discuss the subject of this book with any of my colleagues knowledgeable about contemporary art, they invariably respond by presuming a proper place for the artist in my work: “Aha, then you’ll be writing about Boltanski, won’t you?”

    Coming to understand the museum’s disclaimer about Boltanski’s artistic project and situating my colleagues’ reasonable assumptions about the artist’s alluring work are paramount to elucidating...

  8. 4 Artifactual Witnessing as (Im)Possible Evidence
    (pp. 69-84)

    What if we think of Richieu’s tender, piercing photographic image not only as the wrenching trace of mourning, but as the mute site that marks the impossibility of understanding the stories over which it stands guard? The museum, too, through its intimate photographic mode of approach and in its more insistent desire to “establish the physical reality of the Holocaust” reigns over the palpable inaccessibility of its historical trauma.¹ The museum’s foundation literally lies over earth that has been infused with ashes collected from the Bergen-Belsen extermination camp and other sites. Indeed, the elaborate staging of the museum in its...

  9. 5 The Provocation of Postmemories
    (pp. 85-114)

    Reconsidering the demand to bear witness is not, indeed, to discredit artifacts or photographs, but to rethink the ways they are made to perform as transparent evidence of the events. A reevaluation of how the Holocaust is represented through the realism of photographic representation is especially germane and strained because of the extreme subject matter and what it tests in terms of what is humanly possible to face. The issues are also so tense because of the perceived assault on authenticity. In the passing of survivors and direct witnesses, the inevitable dilemma arises not only about the appropriate form that...

  10. In Lieu of a Conclusion: Tender Rejections
    (pp. 115-124)

    A respectful postmodern approach to representing the Shoah through rethinking documentary photography and its difficult mandate to speak for others, to bear witness, to teach, and to warn is to attempt the task yet acknowledge its inevitable (im)possibilities. In their assigned roles as guardians over and translators of the events, the museum planners are granted little space to acknowledge the tortured task of presenting artifacts and photographs as stand-ins for the traumatic history of mass murder and irretrievable loss. “Whether it is not a sacrilege of the traumatic experience to play with the reality of the past?”—the question Bessel...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 125-138)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 139-148)
  13. Index
    (pp. 149-152)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 153-153)