[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-Nationalism]: Clifford on Heuman, 'The Holocaust and French Historical Culture, 1945-65'

hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Mon Dec 12 08:35:39 MST 2016

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Date: December 12, 2016 at 10:25:13 AM EST
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-Nationalism]:  Clifford on Heuman, 'The Holocaust and French Historical Culture, 1945-65'
> Reply-To: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Johannes Heuman.  The Holocaust and French Historical Culture,
> 1945-65.  Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire  Palgrave Macmillan,
> 2015.  211 pp.  $90.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-137-52932-9.
> Reviewed by Rebecca Clifford (Swansea University)
> Published on H-Nationalism (December, 2016)
> Commissioned by Cristian Cercel
> Over the past several years, there has been increasing scholarly
> interest in the issue of Holocaust representation and remembrance in
> the early postwar decades. From the notion that the 1961 trial of
> Adolph Eichmann and the 1967 Arab-Israeli War marked watershed
> moments ending a period of public silence on the genocide, we have
> now moved towards a more nuanced view of public Holocaust memory in
> the late 1940s and 1950s. Recent scholarship has worked to question,
> challenge, and unpick the "silence" thesis, producing groundbreaking
> work that has explored national contexts (such as Hasia Diner's 2009
> _We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of
> Silence after the Holocaust, 1945-1962_) as well as transnational
> ones (such as Laura Jockusch's 2012 _Collect and Record! Jewish
> Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe_). In this new
> historiographical wave, France has received ample attention. In
> addition to Jockusch's work (which looks at France, Poland, Germany,
> Austria and Italy), we have in English such recent additions as
> Daniella Doron's _Jewish Youth and Identity in Postwar France _(2015)
> and Seán Hand and Steven T. Katz's edited volume, _Post-Holocaust
> France and the Jews, 1945-1955 _[2015]); while neither volume focuses
> specifically on memory, both engage strongly with the concept. There
> is Michael Rothberg's 2009_ Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the
> Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization_, which links an emergent
> public memory of the Holocaust to the decolonization process. In
> French, noteworthy is philosopher François Azouvi's 2012 _Le mythe
> du grand silence: Auschwitz, les français, la mémoire_, an
> intellectual history that argues that debate and discussion about the
> genocide, particularly among Catholic intellectuals, increased
> gradually throughout the early postwar decades, setting the stage for
> the rapid increase in public awareness that followed in the 1960s.
> Scholarship that questions the early postwar "myth of silence" has
> thus become a well-established field since the late 2000s. Johannes
> Heuman's _The Holocaust and French Historical Culture _adds to this
> literature on early Holocaust remembrance in France. Heuman's focus
> is the Centre de documentation juive contemporaine/Mémorial de la
> Shoah (hereafter the CDJC). The CDJC was and is an archive, library,
> exhibition space, and memorial that was founded in Grenoble in 1943,
> moved to Paris after the liberation in 1944, and has played a central
> role in developing, promoting, and shaping the contours of public
> Holocaust memory in France. It is an institution that has already
> been well studied by others--in English by Jockusch, in French by
> Annette Wieviorka, Renée Poznanski, and Simon Perego--but Heuman's
> claim to originality is his argument that, both where the CDJC is
> concerned and in relation to early Holocaust memory more broadly, not
> enough has been said by scholars about the reception of these early
> mnemonic efforts.[1] What is missing from this scholarship, he
> posits, is "an understanding of the impact these activities might
> have had, the extent to which they managed to challenge more
> established interpretations of the past, or how they integrated the
> Jewish experience into broader national debates. If the growing body
> of Holocaust research was indeed completely marginalized, then the
> notion of silence remains valid, at least on a national level" (p.
> 2). This is a very timely call for sustained investigations of the
> impact of such early vectors of memory, rather than simply their
> construction, and it is an idea with great potential. However, _The
> Holocaust and French Historical Culture _never develops the theme of
> reception as far as readers might wish; ultimately, readers are left
> knowing far more about how the CDJC was created and developed than
> about people's reactions to and engagement with CDJC activities.
> Heuman's book is divided into five empirical chapters, book-ended by
> an extended introduction and conclusion. In an initial chapter
> entitled "French-Jewish Relations and Historical Culture," Heuman
> looks at the early development of the CDJC, tracing the origins of
> its "alternative identity politics" back to the Dreyfus Affair (p.
> 22). This is useful background for any reader not familiar with
> debates about French republicanism and their impact on Holocaust
> memory, but it squares somewhat uncomfortably with the chapter's
> later discussion of the key figures who worked to found the CDJC, as
> every one of these key players was born in eastern Europe. Here one
> feels something of a missed opportunity to engage with transnational
> impacts and ideas. What might Dreyfusard concepts have meant to these
> immigrant intellectuals, scholars, and activists? How does the
> national frame that Heuman has chosen to use constrain rather than
> illuminate here? The founding of the CDJC was clearly far more than a
> "French" project; the author does raise this issue, but his
> faithfulness to the national frame curtails his discussion of other
> cultural influences that shaped the CDJC at its inception.
> The middle chapters of the book look at early scholarly work on the
> Holocaust in France, linked to the CDJC, and on a ten-day conference
> held in Paris in 1947, an early attempt to establish a framework for
> pan-European Holocaust studies that failed to bear much fruit. This
> is interesting material, covered in part already by Jockusch, but
> Heuman concludes that the 1947 conference "had no direct impact on
> French historical culture" (p. 98). If Heuman privileges impacts, why
> then devote an entire chapter to an event that had no impact? Or is
> it the limitations of the concept of "French historical culture" that
> hold the author back here from evaluating the event's repercussions?
> Here again, one wonders if the national frame, the insistence on
> looking at construction and reception within "French historical
> culture," constrains rather than drives Heuman's analysis.
> The story changes somewhat in the final two empirical chapters of the
> book, where Heuman engages in a thoughtful discussion of the
> campaign, in the mid-1950s, to build the Tombeau du Martyr Juif
> Inconnu (later the Mémorial de la Shoah, integrated with the CDJC).
> The book is at its strongest here, and Heuman covers material that
> has not been well covered by others. This is also the point at which
> the author engages most readily with the issue of reception. Heuman's
> perspective remains institutional: he looks at the political figures
> who lent their names and their clout to the Mémorial project, and at
> the number of people who attended exhibitions in the new memorial
> space in the late 1950s. What he does not tell us much about,
> however, is _why_: What motivated politicians to get behind the
> project? What drove people to attend the exhibitions, and how did
> they react? How might we understand what this participation meant to
> individuals and communities? There is great potential here to show
> how the construction of the Mémorial might have extended fingers
> into French collective consciousness of the genocide well before the
> watershed period of the 1960s, but the reader is left without a clear
> picture of the motivations behind growing non-Jewish interest in and
> support for the CDJC and its activities.
> Part of the problem here is conceptual: Heuman sets up a too-strict
> divide between institutional remembering and what he calls
> "existential" memory, the embodied memory of the genocide that is
> assumed here to be the preserve of affected individuals and
> communities. This strikes me as a false dichotomy between public and
> private remembrance: even at the institutional level, mnemonic
> practices are shaped by real people with real memories (even if these
> are not direct, lived memories of the genocide). The CDJC as an
> institution looms so large here that the voices of the individual
> people and activist communities that created and sustained it are
> rather silenced. Yet we cannot begin to understand motivations and
> impacts if we take our focus off of people. _The Holocaust and French
> Historical Culture _is a useful contribution to the burgeoning field
> of early Holocaust memory, but there is still work to do.
> Note
> [1]. See Annette Wieviorka, "Du centre de documentation juive
> contemporaine au Mémorial de la Shoah," _Revue d'histoire de la
> Shoah: Le Monde Juif_ 181 (2004): 11-37; Simon Perego and Renée
> Poznanski, _Le Centre de documentation juive contemporaine,
> 1943-2013. Documenter la Shoah_ (Paris: Editions du Mémorial de la
> Shoah, 2013).
> Citation: Rebecca Clifford. Review of Heuman, Johannes, _The
> Holocaust and French Historical Culture, 1945-65_. H-Nationalism,
> H-Net Reviews. December, 2016.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=46428
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
> License.
> --

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