1Govrin - ResponseMichal GovrinSome Reflections on Transmitting the Memory of the Shoahand its Implications, Particularly in IsraelResponse to Prof. Saul FriedlanderIntroductionI would like to thank Prof. Saul Friedlander for his bountifullecture and to personally thank him for agreeing to come as theguest of the Transmitted Memory and Fiction group. This is aunique research group comprising artists, scholars, andresearchers, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Prof.Gabi Motzkin and the entire staff of the Van Leer JerusalemInstitute for opening the Institute’s doors to us. Thanks also to Dr.Yochi Fischer, the head of the Institute’s Advanced Studies Unit,for her mentoring.For decades, Prof. Friedlander’s admirable work starting withhis early publications has offered each of us—including me—challenges, insights, and questions. He continues to do so in hislecture here today. His work is unusual in that it includes the voiceof the distinguished historian and attentiveness to the voice of theindividual; and throughout, we also keep hearing traces of thevoice of the boy who survived. In the brief time allotted for myresponse I will speak in my own diction, using the point of view andlanguage of literature.
2Govrin - ResponseBetween Personal and Collective Memory: The Problem ofUniqueness from an Author’s PerspectiveMy first encounter with the transmission of memory wastangible. As a child I would touch the soft skin of the scar on mymother’s arm. But only after her death did I hear from her familyabout the operation she had had upon coming to Israel in 1948that removed the number from her arm. What was her motive?Shame? Pride? The refusal to bear the imposed identity of avictim? A struggle for freedom? Or perhaps the desire to beabsorbed in a society in which there was no place for survivors, aswe have just heard? Was it the drive to conceal her personaltragedy with the scab of silence in order to begin a new life? Andindeed, she spoke with exaltation about the collective and shefound meaning for her life in the Zionist dream of building the state,and later in the dream of peace. For her, these were the scaffoldson which to build a new life.Today Saul Friedlander distinguished between processes offorming collective memory and the uncontrolled and multifacetederuption of personal memory.
3Govrin - ResponseBut how can one distinguish between the individual and thecollective in my mother’s story and in the stories of othersurvivors?In Saul Friedlander’s two-part monumental workNazi Germanyand the Jewshe decries the discourse of historians that again andagain erases the individual and he makes a key contribution torestoring the voice of the individual victim. And yet, here hebroached the question of writing the collective memory. Collectivememory, as he emphasized, is an unavoidable social need, but inthis case, let me add, it is also unavoidable because of thenatureof the event