Relating to the Distant Past: Routes of Memory of Women Concentration-Camp Survivors

Date of Publication:

2017-12-15

Abstract:

Personal stories and testimonies of individual survivors are the main compounds of the common narrative of the European trauma of Nazi concentration camps. A variety of individual memories of a certain event contribute to the creation of its collective representation which is then accessible for a wider range of people. Memory is understood as socially determined. Thus the role of in-group relations is crucial for memory-construction, for it is only in social interactions that individuals become aware of memories and localize them. As Maurice Halbwachs argues, there are as many collective memories as there are groups and institutions in society. The relation between a collective memory and a group is reciprocal – both are constituting and constituted at the same time. Departing from the theories of memory and trauma as social constructs, this article examines the processes of remembering of the deportation to a concentration camp, structuring of collective memories and constructing of meanings from memories in public and private contexts. The objective is to identify the routes of memory and the impacts on memory transmission in different spaces and temporalities. Deploying ethnographic methods, the focus is on a) remembering in witnesses, women-concentration-camp survivors, and b) the relation to the past familial experience in informants from various countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Italy.

Keywords:

kolektivní paměť, komunikativní paměť, kulturní paměť, trauma, vzpomínání

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