'And when I see you, kids…': performing testimony on Israeli youth voyages to Poland
Jackie Feldman (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)
Paper short abstract:
In Israeli pilgrimages to Poland, Holocaust survivors' in situ testimonies empower youths to become 'witnesses' through service to the state. The proliferation of representations and the ease of travel help create a ritual world on foreign soil, which strengthens the boundaries of the nation state.
Paper long abstract:
The significance of testimony of traumatic events is attained through its performance, which is a function not only of the survivors' lived experiences, but also of the listeners, the places, times and frames of testimony, and the social needs which the testimony is designed to accomplish. By investigating the oral witnessing of Holocaust survivors in Israeli youth pilgrimages to Holocaust sites in Poland, I will illustrate how survivors' personal accounts of their pasts are inevitably pulled to a redemptive close, which gives the State a teleological role as the end and antidote to the weakness of life in exile. Through the shared bodily presence and ritual performance of elderly witnesses and masses of youths at the sites of extermination, the youths become "witnesses of the witnesses" and come to appreciate their taken-for-granted life world as an object of desire. National symbols, worn, displayed or performed by the students and witnesses become cathected with emotion. The case study demonstrates how the proliferation of Holocaust memory through mediatized representations, and the rapidity and ease of travel in a global era may actually facilitate the creation of a totalistic ritual world on foreign soil, which strengthens the boundaries of the nation-state.