In his theorising of collective memory, Maurice Halbwachs writes 'it is in society that people normally acquire their memories. It is also in society that people recall, recognise and localise their memories'. The Holocaust, like the Rwandan genocide, or the atrocities committed in the Congo under King Leopold II, exceeds the bounds of traditional historical archives and methodologies. Even gathering information about numbers dead has proven difficult.
As Halbwachs demonstrates, our understanding of the scope of the atrocities of the Holocaust is informed by cultural documents, such as Primo Levi's Auschwitz Report. Levi's book narrativises the intergenerational exchange of personal, collective, and cultural trauma, prompting a dialogic engagement with the war. Articles such as the Auschwitz Report have laid the groundwork for events such as Holocaust Memorial Day.
The following extract is from the introduction to the Auschwitz Report and written with Leonardo De Benedetti, an Italian Jew interred with Levi at Aushwitz. To quote De Benedetti, the extract demonstrates how 'every story of survival in Auschwitz is a story of extraordinary circumstance', by revealing the minutiae of how the camps functioned, Levi and De Benedetti provide empiricist detail that legitimates the narrative accounts of Holocaust survivors to chilling effect.
As protest and revolt in Turkey continues, journalist and author Ece Temelkuran addresses Recep Erdoğan:
Roger that Commander!
We did not know that you have put up with us that long, Commander. You have been disgusted by us and hidden it from us. You have wanted us to be gassed and dispersed like insects for years? You never even wanted us to find a doctor when we desperately needed one? No lawyer should come to defend us. You wanted cops to come and take us and then nothing to be heard of us later. You even wanted us not to be able to breathe, to suffocate where we found shelter. Otherwise why would you order your cops and gendarmes to march on us, detain doctors and not even inform our lawyers where we are? You have always been disgusted by us, Commander. Come on, confess it. Confess and let's finish this game of lies.
How did you seal their hearts, Commander?
The legacy of the history and historiography of the 1915 Armenian genocide is a fraught one. Ece Temelkuran's Deep Mountain: Across the Turkish-Armenian Divide, an exploration of the controversial subject of the living history and continuing denial of the Armenian genocide, has attracted both high praise and strong criticisms from different quarters.
For the New Left Project, Jamie Stern-Weiner describes Deep Mountain as "a thoughtful reflection on the personal and communal politics of nationalism". Introducing his interview with Temelkuran, he summarizes his thoughts on the book thusly:
Its value, in my view, lies primarily in its exposition of the subjective experience of nationalism and the ways in which personal and communal identity can become bound up with political demands.
While Stern-Weiner's views are characteristic of the more positive reviews, the book has also garnered a response of a very different kind. G. M. Goshgarian writing for New Politics has penned a scathing attack on the book which he deems as "genocide denial light". In an in-depth and comprehensive piece, he explains that he was baffled as to why Verso had published a book that, in his words, could be best be likened to "latter-day national- socialist treatments of the holocaust". With the aim of facilitating an open dialogue on this sensitive issue, it is interesting to present his critique here. Goshgarian hopes that his review will add to a wider discussion that "may help spark a badly needed clarification of the ambiguities muddying the political and ideological movement that has spawned Temelkuran's book."