Memory Transmission and Fiction

memory   |   fiction   |   Holocaust   |   Appelfeld   |   testimony   |   Nazism   |   Yad Vashem
Years of Activity: 2012 - 2014

Research Status:

Active
Participants: 

Dr. Michal Aharoni, Meir Appelfeld, Dr. Dana Arieli-Horowitz, Aliza Auerbach, Dr. Michal Ben-Naftali, Etty Ben-Zaken, Mendy Cahan, Yemima Cohen, Odeia Cohen-Raz, Dr. Manuela Consonni, Rina Dudai, Prof. Daniel Friedman, Meital Gambasho-Haimovitz, Prof. Yolanda Gempel, Gary Goldstein, Johanna Gottesfeld, Dr. Yifat Gutman, Yonatan Haimovich, Susanna Heller, Yael Hersonski, Yehudit Inbar, Noa Koren, Amalia Margolin, Prof. Ron Margolin, Dr. Alexandra (Sandra) Meiri, Prof. Raya Morag, Prof. Haviva Pedaya, Prof. Shlomit Rimon-Kenan, Moti Sandak, Prof. Galili Shahar, Dr. Na’ama Shik, Prof. Eitan Steinberg, Dr. Elie Wakil, Leah Zahavi

The extreme case of the Holocaust raises fundamental questions about the transmission of memory – an individual’s and a community’s. Is it only a collection of historical documentation or is it also necessarily an expression of the effect (emotional burns) and fictional supplementation of what is missing from the “details of reality”? And what are the neurological, psychological, historical, and cultural tools for understanding the process?

The Holocaust, as a starting point, raises the fundamental question of how transmitted memory is formed and written. Nazism made unprecedented use of the fictional aspects of propaganda, and at the height of the Nazi reign the Holocaust was perpetrated, from the start and throughout all its stages, with intentional deception and deceptive staging. To this day, however, the question of how to save the transmission of memory from reproducing the Nazi story and its impassioned affect has not been addressed seriously. Can art, with contrary emotional power, expose the processes of deception, or, alternatively, will it again awaken the same urges? What is the struggle over the transmission of memory, aside from the exclusion or inclusion of parts of that memory? And then, can we demand that fiction make an ethical commitment and be responsible for projecting its morality on the present?
The discussion group includes writers and artists, as well as scholars from various disciplines, psychologists, brain scientists, historians, and scholars of literature and culture. The discussion was conducted in relation to literary and artistic works and to critical scholarly texts. The group aims to shed new light on the phenomenon of the transmission of memory, on its shaping through the act of fiction, and its ethical implications for our region and in a changing world. The group aims to produce scholarly articles and to provide inspiration and add depth to literary and artistic creativity. 
The first meeting focused on a presentation of the general topic and introduction of group members to each other. The participants spoke about their areas of creativity or research and how they were connected to the topic of memory transmission and fiction. The second meeting took place at Yad Vashem Museum, where participants were guided by group member Yehudit Inbar, the chief curator of the museum, and Eliad Moreh-Rosenberg, the curator of the exhibition Last Portrait: Artists Document the Holocaust. The meeting focused on the museums’ difficulty in transmitting memory, as manifested in the new Yad Vashem Museum. The third meeting was devoted to a meeting with the author Aharon Appelfeld, who spoke about memory and fiction as they are intertwined in his books. The fourth meeting dealt with the neurological, psychological, physical, and bodily characteristics of memory. Each of the following five meetings focused on a different medium – music, theater, film, plastic art, and literature – and the research questions that arise from them. Group members and guests are the focus of meetings according to their areas of creativity and research. 
 
 
Meetings: 
10.10.2013

Prof. Saul Friedlander - Some Reflections on Transmitting the Memory of the Shoah and its Implications, Particularly in Israel