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Hitler's GeographiesThe Spatialities of the Third Reich$
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Paolo Giaccaria and Claudio Minca

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226274423

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226274560.001.0001

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The Interruption of Witnessing: Relations of Distance and Proximity in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah

The Interruption of Witnessing: Relations of Distance and Proximity in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah

(p.313) 15 The Interruption of Witnessing: Relations of Distance and Proximity in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah
Hitler's Geographies

Richard Carter-White

University of Chicago Press

Holocaust testimony is increasingly recognized as a complex and paradoxical mode of representation. This chapter explores how Claude Lanzmann’s seminal documentary Shoah articulates this notion of witnessing as a passage, a disjuncture that nonetheless brings distant worlds into contact. Shoah is renowned for the emphasis placed by Lanzmann on the sites of the Holocaust, but this chapter points to a different geographical dynamic at work in the film: the experiences of distance that emerge from filmmaking strategies designed to gain proximity to the events recounted by witnesses. Three such strategies are analyzed: firstly, the multiplication of proximity involved in bringing witnesses who were there back to the place where the event happened; secondly, the repetition of translation and clarification in witness interviews; and thirdly, the structural and ethical challenges raised in the embodied act of viewing this nine-hour film. Through these analyses, it is argued that Shoah expresses the incalculable spatiality of witnessing, and thus the necessity of remaining open to the representational logic and demands of specific acts of witnessing.

Keywords:   Claude Lanzmann, Shoah, testimony, memory, distance, proximity

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