Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Primo Levy Testimony at Yad Vashem

The main story on the front page of Haaretz is about a testimony given many years ago by Primo Levy, recounting his story in the Holocaust. This has now been "unearthed at Yad Vashem".

I know a thing or two about archives in general, and the one at Yad Vashem in particular (see my profile for further information), so here are a few quick comments:

1. Top of the front page? No better sign than that that the Jewish holidays have knocked out even Haaretz's ability to do their usual job. They must have had this one written weeks ago, waiting for one of these days when most of the staff is off for holiday.

2. Scholars unearthed the document? Sounds dramatic, huh? Sort of like the unearthing of Troy at the end of the 19th century, which proved that Homer had been talking about a real event. Actually, all that had to happen in this case was for someone to ask if there was a Primo Levy testimony at Yad Vashem, and hey presto: the answer was yes! Who'd have thunk.

3. The difference between archives and libraries (well, one of them) is that in libraries just about everything has been published in book form before it reaches the library, while in archives, nothing has been previously published. Oh well.

4. I haven't read this particular testimony. I have no doubt it's interesting. Archives often have lots of interesting things in them. You'd be surprised how much so.


Lydia McGrew said...

Is there some undercurrent to this that I'm not getting, as an American reader? Is this author especially controversial in some way, so that they are implying that he's being pushed into the background or something? The only thing I could get from the article was this odd bit at the end about his writing "treating the Holocaust as an extension of normal life rather than as another planet." I could guess at the meaning of that, but it would be just a guess, or several guesses. It could be a profound meaning or a ridiculous one, too. I've not read his work.

Yaacov said...

Actually, there is nothing particularly controversial about Primo Levy. On the contrary, he is generally regarded as one of the most important witnesses to Auschwitz. His single most important book, "Is this a Man" (Published in the US as "Survival in Auschwitz") is easily one of the most important books ever written on the Holocaust, along with his later "The Drowned and the Saved".

My post was meant to poke fun at our journalists, not at Primo Levy.

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