Witnessing the witnesses: responding to the testimonial spaces of the camp

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1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The significance of testimony as a means of investigating camp spaces is indicated by the extensive literature analysing the eyewitness accounts of Nazi camp survivors. This paper builds on ongoing methodological debates in geographies of the Holocaust to suggest that witness testimony provides a valuable and multifaceted resource for investigating diverse aspects of camp spatiality. After offering an overview of the kinds of camp spaces emergent in camp survivor testimony, the paper draws on the writings of Auschwitz survivor Charlotte Delbo in order to describe and illustrate two methodological approaches to witness accounts. The first is based on the irreplaceable value of survivor testimony as a source of first-hand observational data, with Delbo’s unconventional descriptions of camp spaces and spatialities connecting with numerous core themes in geographical work on the Nazi regime and camp spatialities more generally. The second focuses instead on the capacity of witnessing to disturb the incorporation of testimonial descriptions into academic narratives, and in turn provoke new geographical questions and imaginaries in response to the singular act of testimony.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalArea
Early online date9 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Charlotte Delbo
  • Holocaust geographies
  • concentration camp
  • geographical imagination
  • testimony
  • witnessing

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