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<ul><li><p>THE ANTI-ARCHIVE?</p><p>CLAUDE LANZMANN'S SHOAH</p><p>AND THE DILEMMAS OF</p><p>HOLOCAUST REPRESENTATION</p><p>ELISABETH R. FRIEDMAN</p><p>"However the war may end, we have won the war against you; none of you</p><p>will be left to bear witness . . .There will perhaps be suspicions, discussions,</p><p>research by historians, but there will be no certainties, because we will destroy</p><p>the evidence together with you. And even if some proof should remain and</p><p>some of you survive, people will say the events you describe are too mon-</p><p>strous to be believed . . . We will be the ones to dictate the history of the</p><p>Lagers."</p><p>SS Guard's warning to inhabitants of Auschwitz,</p><p>transcribed by Primo Levi in The Drowned and the Saved'</p><p>While most historical periods have been encountered primarily through their</p><p>archival incarnations, the question of constituting an archive of the Holocaust</p><p>remains at issue.This uncertainty stems in part from the nature of the event, as</p><p>well as from the fact that the perpetrators went to great effort to erase the evidence of their</p><p>crimes, while at the same time instrumentalizing existing archival records for the purpose</p><p>of extermination. Despite Lyotard's comparison of the Holocaust to "an earthquake so pow-</p><p>erful that it destroys all the instruments used for measuring [it],"2 there exist numerous tra-</p><p>ditional archives devoted to preserving the material and documentary traces of the Nazi</p><p>genocide.The contents of these archives include the copious records kept by the Nazis, jour-</p><p>nalistic accounts and photographs from witnesses, documents produced by relief agencies</p><p>assisting "displaced persons" after the war and the videotaped testimonies of Holocaust</p><p>survivors.3</p><p>Remarkably, those who did not survive produced some of the most heartbreaking archives</p><p>of the Holocaust, smuggling cameras into the ghettos to document the brutal realities of</p><p>daily life there. These photographs, along with other artifacts of daily life, were hidden in</p><p>milk cans, which were buried and recovered after the events. (Ironically, milk cans were</p><p>readily available for this purpose due to the Nazi prohibition on Jews in the ghettos pur-</p><p>chasing milk, meat, or other staples.jThese buried archives bear witness to the events from</p><p>the "inside," although they also function, paradoxically, to support Lyotard's claim about the</p><p>destruction of recording instruments, as their creators largely perished in the death camps.*</p><p>English Language Notes 45.1 Spring / Summer 2007</p></li><li><p>1 12 E N G L I S H LANGUAGE NOTES 45.1 S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2007</p><p>Although the boundaries of the historical and the imaginative have long been subject to</p><p>critical interrogation by historiographers and discourse theorists alike, the field of Holocaust</p><p>Studies remains preoccupied with establishing a firm distinction between the two realms.</p><p>Genres that seem to offer direct access to the reality of the event, such as archival materi-</p><p>als, documentary photographs, survivor testimonies and historical narratives, have been</p><p>accorded a high degree of evidentiary credibility, whereas art and literature have been con-</p><p>sidered riskier ventures. In an essay on Holocaust novels, Cynthia Ozick writes, "the aims of</p><p>the imagination are not the aims of history.''^ She contends that the incorporation of histor-</p><p>ical specificity into imaginative reconstructions of the Holocaust is oxymoronic, since the</p><p>imagination "owes nothing to what we call reality," while history "is rooted in document and</p><p>archive."^ Ozick's radical separation of these two realms reflects a continuing anxiety that</p><p>the historical specificity of the Holocaust will be subverted when the events of the past are</p><p>reconstructed in an imaginative medium.</p><p>Recent discussions of Holocaust representation in both historiography and in literary</p><p>theory suggest that the unprecedented nature of the event exceeds the limits of traditional</p><p>frames of reference.'They argue that along with the need to transmit the facts of the event,</p><p>representations must situate themselves in relation to the "the limits of representation,"</p><p>marking their own inadequacy and leaving a space for what remains unrepresentable. In</p><p>the introduction to a collection of essays from a 1992 conference titled Probing the Limits</p><p>of Representation: Nazism and the "Final Solution," historian Saul Friedlander explains the</p><p>central dilemma as that of "confronting the issues raised by historical relativism and aes-</p><p>thetic experimentation in the face of two possibly contrary constraints: a need for "truth"</p><p>and the problems raised by the opaqueness of the event and the opaqueness of language</p><p>as such."8 These "contrary constraints" become expressed in theoretical discourse as con-</p><p>troversies of representation, such as the relation of the historical to the imaginative, of intel-</p><p>lectual understanding to affective response, and of acting out to working through.</p><p>My argument begins from the premise that the status of the archive is implicitly at stake in</p><p>contemporary debates of Holocaust representation.These debates are concerned with dis-</p><p>tinguishing between representations that may be seen as in some way "repeating the trau-</p><p>ma of the event," and those that can productively engage the difficulties of "working</p><p>through" in order to theorize the conditions of an ethical encounter with the Holocaust.^</p><p>They offer distinct articulations of the role of the historian and the artist in establishing a</p><p>boundary between the past and the present, and between the event and its contemporary</p><p>reception and interpretation. At issue is not so much the efficacy of the genres of history or</p><p>art per se, but rather how these approaches conceptualize the boundaries of temporality</p><p>and subjectivity as the condition of knowledge (and thus of the representation) of historical</p><p>trauma. As we shall see, the problem of these boundaries also informs contemporary the-</p><p>orizing on the archive.</p><p>In the writing of history, knowledge is made through the discipline's construction of bound-</p><p>aries, a move that seeks to oppose the structure of trauma and to convert memory into his-</p></li><li><p>ELISABETH R. FRIEDMAN 1 13</p><p>tory, containing the affective force of the past and making it available for knowledge and</p><p>representation. In this project, the archive serves its traditional function as a repository of</p><p>documents and evidence. For the literary theorists (and those advocating the aesthetic as</p><p>the key to working through), knowledge is created through the performative reenactment</p><p>of the breakdown of such boundaries, mimicking the structure of trauma itself These</p><p>debates raise the question of the status of the archive in relation to representation, specifi-</p><p>cally how to reference the affective dimension that exceeds those limits and thus cannot be</p><p>found in the historical archive.</p><p>If the memory of the Holocaust is to hold meaning for future generations, and if this mem-</p><p>ory will necessarily be formed through encounters with textual and visual representations</p><p>(and thus dependent on the archive), the capacity of the archive to hold both the evidence</p><p>of the event and its expressive responses becomes central to the task of working through</p><p>its traumatic history. I suggest that it is not simply a matter of validating art as a vehicle of</p><p>history, but of understanding how imaginative representations function in the constitution</p><p>of an archive of the Holocaust, an archive that holds multiple registers of knowledge and</p><p>meaning. Therefore the archive will consist not just of the raw materialdocuments and</p><p>other evidentiary traces of the pastbut of the reception and transmission of this material,</p><p>in other words, its mediation and re-presentation through art, history, and literature.</p><p>Shoah: the anti-archive?</p><p>In recent decades, major efforts have been made to record and preserve the testimonies of</p><p>Holocaust survivors.10 But despite the traditional documentary role of eyewitness testi-</p><p>monies, such stories do not rest easily in the archive.Testimony, which is necessarily medi-</p><p>ated by both memory itself and by the affective force of its transmission, contains an excess</p><p>that haunts the historical archive.</p><p>In this regard, Claude Lanzmann's nine-plus-hour film Shoah (1985), which is comprised</p><p>exclusively of the testimony of survivors and perpetrators, offers a site for rethinking the</p><p>concept of the archive in relation to the destructions of the twentieth century. Indeed, Shoah</p><p>figures significantly in the contemporary debates of Holocaust representation, for it raises</p><p>not only questions of testimony and witnessing, but also of the status of the archive in his-</p><p>torical representations." Lanzmann's film provides an instructive contrast to the traditional</p><p>sense of the archive, for it is striking in its absence of documentary photographs or archival</p><p>images from the period; to some degree, Shoah was created as an anti-archive. Lanzmann</p><p>relies on contemporary testimonies by victims and perpetrators, in particular those who</p><p>occupied the "gray zone" and were thus closest to death. Lanzmann's refusal of archival</p><p>images and his reliance on testimony offer him a way to reject traditional historical meth-</p><p>ods of "understanding." He writes, "I have precisely begun with the impossibility of telling</p><p>this story. I have made this very impossibility my point of departure."^^ Yet Shoah does not</p><p>simply reject the archive, but offers a different sort of archive, functioning to record the past</p><p>through referencing its un-representability.</p></li><li><p>1 14 ENGLISH LANGUAGE NOTES 4 5 .1 SPRING / SUMMER 2 0 0 7</p><p>Part of the reason that Shoahhas remained an object of contention is because it transgress-</p><p>es genres: part documentary, part work of art, in which Lanzmann the fiimmai</p></li><li><p>ELISABETH R. FRIEDMAN 1 15</p><p>compels his witnesses to tell more than they knowto perform the traumatic dimension of</p><p>the event that has been repressed in history.</p><p>In Felman's interpretation, the achievement of Lanzmann's role as a filmmaker lies in his</p><p>ability to transgress the boundary that separates the past from the present, the inside from</p><p>the outside: "Lanzmann hopes, by means of the resources of his art, to have an impact on</p><p>the outside from the inside, to literally move the viewers and to actually reach the</p><p>addressees: to make historically and ethicallya difference."!^ By transgressing these</p><p>boundaries of temporality and subjectivity, the film highlights the transferential relation of</p><p>the secondary witness to the testimony, and the obligations that issue from this awareness.</p><p>Here, the archive is figured as a (belated) relationship to a missed encounter. As Margaret</p><p>Olin remarks, "[t]he traces are the story, or rather, the story is the fact that there are traces-</p><p>traces of the circumstances that caused the Shoah in Germany and Poland."" Indeed,</p><p>Lanzmann uses these fragments and traces not to construct a story of the past but rather to</p><p>re-construct the story of the traces themselves.</p><p>Felman and Lanzmann's approach to referencing and translating historical trauma suggest</p><p>that trauma preserves history "only within the gap or aporia produced by words (or images)</p><p>that do not simply refer [to the traumatic event] . . . but performatively convey it as some-</p><p>thing that cannot be grasped or represented."i8 Here the true archive of the event is created</p><p>through the structure of trauma itself, contained in its gaps and aporias, and the moment at</p><p>which the viewer or reader grasps this incommensurability is the archival moment of imag-</p><p>inative representations.</p><p>In Dominick LaCapra's response to Felman, he challenges Shoah's iconic status with an</p><p>emphatic critique of both Lanzmann's self-understanding and Felman's celebratory reading</p><p>of the film. LaCapra's critique turns on the distinction between the "truncated understand-</p><p>ing" of performativity that he attributes to Lanzmann and Felman, and his own position,</p><p>which calls for "the conjunction of necessary acting out in the face of trauma with attempts</p><p>to work through problems in a desirable mannerattempts that engage social and political</p><p>problems and provide a measure of responsible control in action."!^ LaCapra suggests that</p><p>Lanzmann exploits the role of the artist to act out his own uncontrolled transferential rela-</p><p>tions, and that the emphasis on gaps and aporias repeats and reinscribes the event as</p><p>unspeakable and unknowable. In his view, Lanzmann uses the film to enact his own "obses-</p><p>sions, affects and phantasms" and to pursue an "uncontrolled transferential relationship"</p><p>with only those witnesses whom he considers to be absolutely innocent victims. LaCapra</p><p>contends that a broader historical understanding (one that referred to the historical archive)</p><p>would complicate Lanzmann's narratives of absolute guilt and innocence, and necessitate</p><p>self-reflection on how his own practices are complicit in the dynamics of forgetting and</p><p>denial. In other words, he calls for a discourse that disrupts its own authority and suggests</p><p>an awareness of the conditions of its production. For LaCapra, this would involve the trans-</p><p>mittal of a "muted trauma," or offering an index of trauma, as opposed to a repetition. But</p><p>in offering an index, LaCapra accepts the idea that knowledge of trauma is also traumatic.</p></li><li><p>1 16 ENGLISH LANGUAGE NOTES 4 5 .1 SPRING / SUMMER 2OO7</p><p>As Olin observes, Shoah offers us a different notion of what constitutes a document, and</p><p>thus an archive: "While an iconic representation is not valid for Shoah. a written document</p><p>is, as is an index, an image caused like a footprint by the thing it represents. Archival</p><p>footage is only an iconic, that is, metaphoric picture of reality, not a part of it. But the index</p><p>is metonymic, it is a piece of what happened."2o LaCapra argues that such an approach is</p><p>not truly historical, criticizing the absence of archival images of the extermination camps in</p><p>Shoah on the grounds that the cinematic beauty of the present-day sites of extermination</p><p>that Lanzmann dwells on is much more significant to viewers who are familiar with the his-</p><p>torical images. This invocation of presence through absence implies a virtuality to</p><p>Lanzmann's sense of the archive, in that the sites are only meaningful to the extent one has</p><p>seen the very archival images that Lanzmann refuses to show. Shoah archives the indexes</p><p>of the Holocaust, rather than its icons.</p><p>Articulations of the archive</p><p>The debate between Felman and LaCapra exemplifies contrasting approaches to referenc-</p><p>ing and representing trauma, which for my purposes I will term the "historical mode" and</p><p>the "imaginative mode."Their divergent readings of Shoah suggest distinct understandings</p><p>of the nature of the archive, and of the relationship between the processes of archivization</p><p>and representation. In the "imaginative" mode, the moment of grasping the incommensu-</p><p>rability between the representation and the event is the moment of archivization. However,</p><p>the historians would argue that these moments are in fact obstacles to knowledge, which</p><p>lead to the repetition of the past rather than the memory of history. By contrast, the "histor-</p><p>ical" archive is created as trauma i...</p></li></ul>