Testimonies of Ultra-Orthodox Holocaust Survivors — Between “Public Memory” and “Private Memory”
Michal Shaul’s article addresses the position of private memory in ultra-Orthodox society through survivors’ personal stories. The article examines the subject through the analysis of twenty-three eyewitness reports, which were elicited and recorded in Bnei Brak in the summer of 1999. Shaul’s research focuses on two main topics and seeks to determine whether there is a particular literary structure that characterizes the testimony of ultra-Orthodox Holocaust survivors, and if so what contribution does this structure make to the shaping of Holocaust memory in ultra-Orthodox society. The article also considers the interactions between collective and private memories in the accounts of ultra-Orthodox Holocaust survivors. Shaul analyzes the accounts according to how the testimony describes life before, during and after the war. This analysis discloses numerous similarities of approach between the various accounts. Shaul also uses literary analysis of the testimonies in order to reveal the tension between the educational and declarative level in the accounts and the authentic, personal notes that they strike. Shaul concludes that in ultra-Orthodox society private memory serves as an additional way of strengthening the values of the dominant educational voice that shapes memory in this society and as a way of reconstituting and re-confirming the values on which ultra-Orthodox society is based. This contrasts with the generally prevailing tendency in Israeli society, which from the 1980s onward has viewed private memory as possessing increasing legitimacy.