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Laub, D. (1991). Truth and Testimony the Process and the Struggle. Am. Imago, 48(1):75-91.

(1991). American Imago, 48(1):75-91

Truth and Testimony the Process and the Struggle

Dori Laub

I would like to propose some reflections on the relation of witnessing to truth,1 in reference to the historical experience of the Holocaust. For a long time now, and from a variety of perspectives,2 I have been concretely involved in the quest of testifying and of witnessing—and have come to conceive of the process of the testimony as, essentially, a ceaseless struggle, which I would like here to attempt to sketch out.

My Position as a Witness

I recognize three separate, distinct levels of witnessing in relation to the Holocaust experience: the level of being a witness to oneself within the experience; the level of being a witness to the testimonies of others; and the level of being a witness to the process of witnessing itself.

The first level, that of being a witness to oneself, proceeds from my autobiographical awareness as a child survivor. I have distinct memories of my deportation, arrival in the camp, and the subsequent life my family and I led there. I remember both these events and the feelings and thoughts they provoked in minute detail. They are not facts that were gleaned from somebody else's telling me about them. The explicit details (including names of places and people), which I so vividly remember, are a constant source of amazement to my mother in their accuracy and general comprehension of all that was happening.

But these are the memories of an adult. Curiously enough, the events are remembered and seem to have been experienced in a way that was far beyond the normal capacity for recall in a young child of my age.

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