Smith's Report, no. 183
Published: 2011-07-01

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The Use of Transgenerational Memory to Ensure Transgenerational Reparations

David Merlin

Postmemory is a theoretical construct created by Columbia University professor Marianne Hirsch that effectively creates yet a new tool to be used in the ongoing, transgenerational Holocaust fundraising industry.

The theory is that children and grandchildren experience the pain and suffering of their grandparents by looking at photographs. The photographs don't even need to be of their own ancestors. They can be of any horrible scene of carnage as long as the viewer "believes" that the ancestors were involved in even the most tenuous way.

By looking at the photographs, the viewers become "victims" too. As professor Hirsch writes, "postmemory is a lens which imparts transgenerational memories of traumatic events suffered only indirectly."

A classic example of "postmemory" occurs every Easter in the Philippines when devoted Catholics whip themselves bloody and have themselves nailed to crosses in order to experience the memories of Christ. There they "relive" the suffering of the Savior by reenacting the actual terrible suffering He endured.

Professor Hirsch has found an undemanding substitution to being nailed to a cross. She has organized a tour to Czernowitz and Transnistria.

The professor's original postmemory revelation occurred as she thumbed through old Life magazines in a Santa Monica, California bookstore. She saw there some photographs of the Liberation of Dachau.

She writes: "Nothing I have seen—in photographs or in real life—ever cut me as sharply, deeply, instantaneously. Indeed, it seems plausible to me to divide my life into two parts, before I saw those photographs and after."

That's so much easier than getting nailed to a real cross, a sort of Postmemory—Lite!...

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Author(s): Bradley R. Smith
Title: Smith's Report, no. 183
Published: 2011-07-01
First posted on CODOH: June 2, 2012, 7 p.m.
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