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The Media of Testimony: Remembering the East German Stasi in by Sara Jones (auth.)

By Sara Jones (auth.)

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Has left its survivors speechless, not because they did not The Media of Testimony 27 witness it, but rather because they did so all too overwhelmingly’ (Frosh and Pinchevski, 2009, p. 3). Agamben (2002, pp. 33–34) describes a ‘lacuna’ in Holocaust testimony, ‘which calls into question the very meaning of testimony’, for ‘the “true” witnesses, the “complete witnesses,” are those who did not bear witness and could not bear witness [ . . ]. ’ This crisis has, in turn, engendered efforts to create the conditions in which the survivors are able to bear witness retrospectively – notably the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale (Laub, 1992, p.

This is in part the result, according to Assmann, of a universalisation of justice in the form of the assertion of basic human rights and the setting aside of nulla poena sin lege (no punishment without law) at the Nuremberg Trials. The inability of the courts to deal with the magnitude of the crimes committed during World War II engendered ‘the establishment of a general and binding memory, whose bearer is humanity in its entirety’. This ‘ethical turn that returned previously suppressed and forgotten victim experiences to the centre of consciousness and culture’ has meant that groups compete to prove their victim status, upon which they can build a new identity, ‘through which they demand media attention and social recognition as well as material restitution and symbolic reputation’ (Assmann, 2006a, p.

And which already preform the events that we later remember’. But how do the individual and the social interact when personal memories are produced in cultural media intended for wider distribution – that is, to have an impact on collective understandings of the past? 2 This book approaches these questions through analysis of testimonies to the human rights abuses carried out by the East German Stasi in three different media forms: autobiographical writing, memorial museums and documentary film.

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