By Mieke Bal, Jonathan Crewe, Leo Spitzer
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I have counted twenty-three people in this photo, though the figures on the left are so huddled together that I may have miscounted: nineteen Jews and four Germans. . The boy in the center of the picture wears a short raincoat reaching just above his knees. His cap, tilted slightly askew, looks too big for him. Maybe it's his father's or his elder brother's? We have the boy's personal data: Artur Siematek, son of Leon and Sara née Dab, born in Lowicz *. Artur is my contemporary: we were both born in 1935.
And yet, Novak's image also invites us to resist this equation. In "Past Lives" Novak begins to articulate the aesthetic strategies of tragic identification, projection, and mourning that specifically characterize the second-generation memory of the Holocaustwhat I have called postmemory. 5 She stages, retrospectively, a moment of knowledge for the Jewish child growing up in the 1950s whose needs, desires, and cares fade out in relation to the stories that surround her, the traumatic memories that preceded her birth but nevertheless define her own life's narrative.
These lines of relation and identification need to be theorized more closely, however: how the familial and intergenerational identification with my parents can extend to the identification among children of different generations and circumstances and also perhaps to other, less proximate groups. And how, more important, identification can resist appropriation and incorporation, resist annihilating the distance between self and other, the otherness of the other. " 6 Through "discursively 'implanted' memories" the subject can "participate in the desires, struggles, and sufferings of the other"particularly, in Silverman's examples, the culturally devalued and persecuted other (185).