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Memory Perceived: Recalling the Holocaust (Psychological Dimensions to War and Peace) [Hardcover]

Robert Kraft
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 30, 2002 0275977749 978-0275977740

Compelling examples from 200 hours of testimony by Holocaust survivors form the foundation of this volume on how memory responds to atrocity—how people comprehend and remember deeply traumatic experiences, and how they ultimately adapt. Depicting how the Holocaust exists in the minds of those who experienced it, this book simultaneously reveals the principles of enduring memory and makes the Holocaust more specific and immediate to readers. A synthesis of myriad testimonies allows one individual to be presented in relation to others, showing personal tragedies as well as the collective atrocity. The findings are also applied to other groups of people who have lived through extended atrocity.

The volume demonstrates a Balkanization of memory, where Holocaust memories and normal memories are assigned to two, sometimes hostile, territories. Holocaust memories are not integrated into the survivor's sense of self. They stand apart as defining another self, at another time, in another place. As a contribution to psychology, this work integrates measured qualitative analysis of Holocaust testimony into the study of traumatic memory. As a contribution to oral history, it applies constructs from memory research to the understanding of Holocaust testimony.

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Editorial Reviews


"Robert Kraft finds common threads in disparate testimonies, and using the words of the survivors themselves, provides new and revelatory insights into the way survivors remember and how memory functions and influences the past, present, and future. Memory Perceived: Recalling the Holocaust presents years of careful viewing, deep thinking, and skillful analysis. In combination with Lawrence L. Langer's Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory, this book provides a new paradigm for understanding the impact of the Holocaust both on individuals and for society as a whole."-Joanne W. Rudof, Archivist Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies Yale University

Book Description

Compelling examples from 200 hours of testimony by Holocaust survivors form the foundation of this volume on how memory responds to atrocity—how people comprehend and remember deeply traumatic experiences, and how they ultimately adapt.

Product Details

  • Series: Psychological Dimensions to War and Peace
  • Hardcover: 211 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger (October 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0275977749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0275977740
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,661,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating Portrait of Psychological Trauma July 22, 2003
By A Customer
Those of us who have known about the eloquent and shattering Holocaust testimonies collected at the Fortunoff Video Archive at Yale University have long wondered how we might begin to introduce and guide our students through this powerful memorial source. After reading Robert Kraft's _Memory Perceived_, I believe we need no longer wonder. A close reading of over 200
hours of testimony, Kraft's book frames many of the decisive issues at the heart of our teaching of the Holocaust. To do this, he often takes us directly to the heart of some riveting testimony. On virtually every page, Kraft reproduces a sentence or image or gesture that seems for a moment to encapsulate the entirety of the horror. (The book's chapter devoted to
survivors recalling their childhood is especially replete with such moments.) Kraft refers to himself at one point as a kind of scribe, and the results of his transcriptions are genuinely educational. Not only are we given a fuller sense of what happened, we learn also about how the survivors try--and often fail--to make sense of what they lost. The book's language is
clear and free of jargon, and would be a nice fit in an undergraduate course devoted to the Holocaust. My only quibble is with Praeger (the book's publisher), who must find a way to release the book in paperback in order for students to gain the benefit of Kraft's work.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars perfect text for the college classroom July 14, 2003
By A Customer
Robert Kraft's Memory Perceived is a book of the first order-an elegant and poignant analysis of the content and structure of the memories of those who survived the Holocaust. What Kraft has done is to pay careful attention to 129 testimonies housed at the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University, and to begin to lend some order to the words and voices and gestures of individuals who still carry around the events they witnessed over fifty years ago. As Kraft himself points out, videotaped oral testimony is a vitally new and different source of information about memory. Those of us who teach the Holocaust, of course, are at pains to make this source of information accessible to our students. Kraft's book goes a long way toward remedying this problem: it presents five or six clear categories into which to sort the testimonies, and it describes again and again what viewers would actually be seeing and hearing if they were gazing at the testimonies under discussion. Many of the descriptions Kraft quotes are as vivid as those which appear in the novels and memoirs routinely taught in courses devoted to remembering the Holocaust. Memory Perceived would, I believe, function perfectly as a supplemental text in such classes. It would alert students both to a new and urgent method of recalling the past, and would catalyze their own confrontation with the implications of what it means to bear witness to a traumatic history.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thought Provoking Perception by Peggy Lobb November 26, 2002
By A Customer
"Memory Perceived" is a brilliant account of how the persistence of memory affects the individual lives of those who have experienced severe physical and psychological trauma. Kraft examines the oral testimony of 129 Holocaust survivors, and eloquently depicts how the perceptions of the horrors each experienced affect their daily lives. It also powerfully illustrates the tremendous courage and fortitude that Holocaust survivors have, living dual lives in a world that wants to close its eyes to the cruelties of the past.
The survivors that came forward to give oral testimony at Yale University did so, according to Kraft, to leave a personal account of their experiences and perceptions of the atrocities. The witnesses want the world to remember, as they have done all their lives, the suffering of those who died and the anguish of the families that were torn apart. Furthermore, they want the world to always remember the cruelty and brutality the human being is capable of.
One cannot read the testimonies of the witnesses and not be disturbed. Yet, at the same time one cannot help but be awed by the strength of the survivors. The ability to adapt to living in a world that did not want to know about the horrendous atrocities, while at the same time, living with the torment of the persistent memories of their past trauma is inconceivable to those who were not there.
"Memory Perceived" is an academic book, in that it examines memory and the function of specific memory. Kraft explains how past personal traumatic memory creates conflicts between recovery and revenge, guilt and grief, and contentment and torment. Traumatic memory also sensitizes those who experienced the trauma to current tragic events, and makes them more aware of and empathetic to the personal sufferings of the victims.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thoroughly Accessible Book about Holocaust Memory October 3, 2003
This is a powerfully engaging book for those interested in learning about memory and the Holocaust. It teaches the reader about the extraordinary persistence of traumatic memory and about the detailed, personal reality of the Holocaust. The writing is meticulous and evocative and the insights are clear and distinctive, making the book appropriate for scholars and teachers as well as students and the general public. If I were teaching seniors in high school or undergraduates in college, this would be the first book I would choose. An accessible portrayal of those who have been uniquely traumatized, it is eminently readable, deeply emotional, and responsibly analytical.
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