stumbled into genocide, as the strategy of asserting power by exterminating the Tutsi developed even as it was being implemented. The discussion carries echoes of the debate between intentionalists and structuralists in Holocauststudies, a disagreement over whether the genocide of Jews was the direct result of a master plan or grew out of the logic and structures of the Nazi state ( Mason, 1981 : 21–40; Browning, 2004 ). I discussed this issue with Des Forges shortly before her death, and she was inclined to agree with Guichaoua’s perspective, though in practice it
This is a comprehensive and definitive study of the Man Booker Prize-winning novelist Howard Jacobson. It offers lucid, detailed and nuanced readings of each of Jacobson’s novels, and makes a powerful case for the importance of his work in the landscape of contemporary fiction. Focusing on the themes of comedy, masculinity and Jewishness, the book emphasises the richness and diversity of Jacobson’s work. Often described by others as ‘the English Philip Roth’ and by himself as ‘the Jewish Jane Austen’, Jacobson emerges here as a complex and often contradictory figure: a fearless novelist; a combative public intellectual; a polemical journalist; an unapologetic elitist and an irreverent outsider; an exuberant iconoclast and a sombre satirist. Never afraid of controversy, Jacobson tends to polarise readers; but, love him or hate him, he is difficult to ignore. This book gives him the thorough consideration and the balanced evaluation that he deserves.
War crimes prosecutions and the emergence of Holocaust metanarratives
in the New
Yorker magazine. According to Peter Novick the trial and the
cultural noise which surrounded it broke the ‘silence’ shrouding
the Holocaust, and for some it even represents the ‘birth of Holocauststudies itself’.4
But historical change can rarely be convincingly simplified to
a series of turning points, and the intellectual history of Holocaust
historiography is no different. Both the narratives of the ‘Final
Solution’ presented by Eichmann’s prosecution, and the alternative
versions constructed in the media and elsewhere, drew on the
invention of the bystander in Holocauststudies is telling. The concept is inherently theological, concerned with the obligations of
witness. Pius XII should have reacted differently because he was
representative of a moral and theological tradition that required
intervention on behalf of the suffering, and prioritised charity. The
historiography under review in this chapter consistently follows
this lead and for example, employs the image of the Good Samaritan as a common trope.6 The contemporaries of genocide
themselves at times evaluated their response to Nazi anti
perspective of political history, foreign policy, international relations,
and similar perspectives. In university history departments it is passed
by in favour of the student demand for Holocauststudies and the
fascist dictatorships of twentieth-century Europe. It still inhabits a
world of voluntary societies and some surviving adult education
classes where it can be safely sidelined by professional historians, who
212—writing local history
can rest assured that their study of contexts, issues and concepts,
published by academic presses after a rigorous process of peer
This study applies the concept of postmemory, developed in Holocaust studies, to novels by contemporary British writers. The first monograph-length study of postmemory in British fiction, it focuses on a group of texts about the World Wars. Building upon current work on historical fiction, specifically historiographical metafiction and memory studies, this work extends this field by exploring the ways in which the use of historical research within fiction illuminates the ways in which we remember and recreate the past. Using the framework of postmemory to consider the evolutionary development of historiographical metafiction, Alden provides a ground-breaking analysis of the nature and potential of contemporary historical fiction, and the relationship between postmemory and ‘the real’. As well as asking how postmemory can unlock the significance of the transgenerational aspects of these novels, this study also analyses how authors use historical research in their work and demonstrates, on a very concrete level, the ways in which we remember and recreate the past. Tracing the ‘translation’ of source material as it moves from historical record to historical fiction, Alden offers a taxonomy of the uses of the past in contemporary historical fiction, analysing the ways in which authors adopt, adapt, appropriate, elide, augment, edit and transpose elements found such material. Asking to what extent such writing is, necessarily metafictional, and what motivates the decisions these novelists make about their use of the past, the study offers an updated answer to the question historical fiction has always posed: what can fiction do with history that history cannot?
the peculiar trauma
of the Holocaust and the urgency of understanding its relationship
with modern state and society in general. It is an urgency that has
not departed, and that central question of where the persecution
of the Jews fits into an understanding of modernity has remained
at the forefront of Holocauststudies.
Holocaust historiography from the late 1950s onwards is in
many ways the story of an attempt to escape those original contexts, and to assert the persecution of the Jews as a subject in and
Lawson 09_Lawson 08/09/2010 14:01 Page 306
This work demonstrates that resistance to occupation by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy during the Second World War has to be seen through a transnational, not a national, lens. It explores how people often resisted outside their country of origin because they were migrants, refugees or exiles who were already on the move. It traces their trajectories and encounters with other resisters and explores their experiences, including changes of beliefs, practices and identities. The book is a powerful, subtle and thought-provoking alternative to works on the Second World War that focus on single countries or on grand strategy. It is a ‘bottom up’ story of extraordinary individuals and groups who resisted oppression from Spain to the Soviet Union and the Balkans. It challenges the standard chronology of the war, beginning with the formation of the International Brigades in Spain and following through to the onset of the Cold War and the foundation of the state of Israel. This is a collective project by a team of international historians led by Robert Gildea, author of Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance (Faber & Faber, 2015). These have explored archives across Europe, the USA, Russia and Israel in order to unearth scores of fascinating individual stories which are woven together into themed chapters and a powerful new interpretation. The book is aimed at undergraduates and graduates working on twentieth-century Europe and the Second World War or interested in the possibilities of transnational history.
deliberate mass murder of history’.4
Although there were persistent calls to widen the social history of
Lawson 06_Lawson 08/09/2010 13:39 Page 196
DEBATES ON THE HOLOCAUST
the Holocaust, it seems that this usually envisaged the history
of the victims being added, not the further investigation of the
The use of psycho-historical approaches did spawn some
limited considerations of the motivations of individual perpetrators, perhaps harking back to the Freudian origins of Holocauststudies. Gitta Sereny’s investigation of Franz Stangl, who was
in the British media, 1945’, Historical
Journal of Film, Radio and Television 21, 3 (2001), 205–53; Ellen Ben-Sefer,
‘Surviving survival: Nursing care at Bergen-Belsen 1945’, Australian Journal
of Advanced Nursing 26, 3 (2009), 101–10; P. L. Mollison (Captain RAMC),
‘Observations of cases of starvation at Belsen’, British Medical Journal
(5 January 1946), 4.
8 Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, ‘A survivor’s memories of liberation’, HolocaustStudies: A Journal of Culture and History 12 (2006), 1–2, 23.
9 Lasker-Wallfisch, ‘A survivor’s memories of liberation’, 24.