Claude Lanz­man­n’s Shoah: Key Essays

Stu­art Lieb­man, ed.
  • Review
By – December 12, 2011

Just as Claude Lanzmann’s artis­tic influ­ence under­pins every aspect of the 1985 film Shoah, so Stu­art Liebman’s lit­er­ary pres­ence res­onates through­out this col­lec­tion of essays. Lieb­man, pro­fes­sor of film stud­ies at Queens Col­lege and the CUNY Grad­u­ate Cen­ter in New York City, assem­bled the essays, trans­lat­ed some of the pieces, wrote an intro­duc­tion, and edit­ed the com­plete work. Con­tribut­ing lumi­nar­ies from the fields of his­to­ry, Jew­ish thought, film, lit­er­a­ture, and psy­cho­analy­sis include Elie Wiesel, Leon Wieselti­er, and Simone de Beauvoir. 

The essays illu­mi­nate Lanzmann’s cre­ative process, artis­tic choic­es, and edu­ca­tion­al goals. There is some over­lap, par­tic­u­lar­ly in Parts I and II, and the book need not be read in a lin­ear fash­ion. Part III offers inter­est­ing cri­tiques, bal­anc­ing ear­li­er sec­tions which laud Lanz­mann and Shoah almost hyperbolically. 

The col­lec­tion rais­es ques­tions about the nature of his­to­ry, oral tes­ti­mo­ny, past and present, lan­guage, mem­o­ry, sub­jec­tiv­i­ty, and gen­der. The research is sup­port­ed by notes and aca­d­e­m­ic research, yet most of the essays are acces­si­ble to the gen­er­al read­er. The book ensures that mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sion about Lanzmann’s film and about its sub­ject will con­tin­ue far into the future. Claude Lanz­mann fil­mog­ra­phy, film cred­its, index, notes on con­trib­u­tors, pho­to gallery, sug­ges­tions for fur­ther reading. 

Miri­am C. Berkowitz holds a B.A. in Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions Magna cum Laude from Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty and an M.A. and Rab­binic Ordi­na­tion from the Schechter Insti­tute in Jerusalem. A wide­ly pub­lished writer, her teshu­vah on mikveh was recent­ly accept­ed by the Com­mit­tee of Jew­ish Laws and Stan­dards, and she was appoint­ed to serve on the Com­mit­tee for a five-year term.

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