Chain of Testimony: The Holocaust Researcher as Surrogate Witness

  • Anne Karpf
Part of the The Holocaust and Its Contexts book series (HOLC)


On first learning that the Scrolls of Auschwitz, the testimony of the Sonderkommando found buried near the crematoria at Birkenau in the extermination camp itself, were to be analysed as literary documents, my reaction was an involuntary but resounding ‘no’. Here, in its own way, was surely ‘the surfeit of memory’ that Charles Maier (1993) had talked about. Not only did it seem almost impossible to view the Scrolls as texts when their very materiality was so charged, but I also could not help but wonder how Nicholas Chare and Dominic Williams could mobilize their cognitive skills without also letting loose a school of other, less welcome, sensibilities. The Scrolls, I found myself initially thinking, belonged more in a reliquary than academic seminar. In the event (2010), Chare and Williams’s meticulous scholarship and deep sensitivity rendered such misgivings redundant and I dismissed my own first instincts as those of someone, a child of survivors, with a heightened engagement with testimony.


Holocaust Survivor Standard Edition Camp Experience Depressive Position Lost Object 
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© Anne Karpf 2013

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  • Anne Karpf

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