Valentina Pisanty: “The more Memory Culture grew and the more institutionalized it became, the more the deniers gained visibility”
By Heller McAlpin in The Wall Street Journal
A chance meeting with a Holocaust survivor blossomed into weekly conversations—and a journey into a vanished world.
By Michael Frank in The New York Times
There is something unique about the way cataclysms are preserved in oral histories. In his 1936 essay “The Storyteller,” Walter Benjamin draws a distinction between the printed novel and the oral tale, where experience is “passed from one mouth to the next.” The direct line of transmission is significant: The story you hear from a living witness embeds itself into the mechanisms of memory, as I’ve learned firsthand, like no other. And yet such a transmission poses certain challenging considerations. Is a human being defined by the worst, most tragic thing that happens in her life? Should it carry more importance than the periods that bracket it? What does it mean to be the person who shares this particular heirloom?
I have been haunted by these questions over the past seven years, after a chance encounter changed my life and, along with it, my understanding of the power and responsibility of memory. Late for a lecture one evening in the winter of 2015, I dropped into a chair next to an older, elegant woman who looked me over carefully before inquiring why I was in such a hurry.
Interview with Valentina Pisanty on her book The Guardians of Memory and the Return of the Xenophobic Right (New York: Centro Primo Levi Editions, 2021), a provocative investigation of the weaknesses of dominant Holocaust memory culture, which often ends up being appropriated by illiberal and xenophobic forces.
The six contributions to Volume 35, Number 2 of The Journal of Holocaust Research (2021), ‘Confronting Hatred: Neo-Nazism, Antisemitism, and Holocaust Studies Today,’ were first presented at events organized by Janet Ward (University of Oklahoma) and Gavriel Rosenfeld (Fairfield University), including a seminar at a conference of the German Studies Association (October 2019, in Portland, Oregon), and a roundtable at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting (January 2020, in New York City). By inviting a group of German and American scholars to collaborate and explore the complicated continuities between the fascist past and today, amid the rise of populism, racism, antisemitism, and white ethno-nationalism in the United States, Germany, and beyond, we deepened our collective understanding of the connections and challenges for our teaching, scholarship, and public outreach. Mindful of the need for a more effective scholar-activist approach, this JHR special issue offers the first grouping of research emanating from our discussions; and our other, equally urgent focus, ‘Fascism in America, Past and Present,’ is currently a work-in-progress (coedited by Gavriel Rosenfeld and Janet Ward).
As appearing in https://mariocastelnuovotedesco.com/
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco is among the men and women featured in Exile and Creativity, a volume of essays inspired by a series of programs held in 2017-18 by the Italian Cultural Institute in New York jointly with Centro Primo Levi. The essays examine the lives of intellectuals, artists, and scientists who were forced into or chose exile during the Fascist era. Among those highlighted in the book are the Nobel-prize winning physicist Enrico Fermi, the sculptor Costantino Nivola, the writer and cultural figure Amelia Rosselli, and the legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini.
Alexis Herr The Guardians of Memory and the Return of the Xenophobic Right (CPL Editions 2020) by Valentina Pisanty addresses the dramatic rise in racism and intolerance among countries where memory of the Holocaust is pursued with the greatest vigor and,…
One spring day in 1937, two Italian men were found murdered on a country road in Normandy; their carotid arteries had been severed. Carlo Rosselli and his younger brother Nello had fled to France from Fascist Italy.
The Jewish community of Italy is over two thousand years old, and yet, when Eleanor Foa’s father tried to explain their Italian Jewish heritage, it was always a struggle.
We all have stories in our archives. We know it is best to bring the stories out, for people to hear and see them. But how? One idea: Involve the narrator, maybe she or he will have an idea. That was the case in a recent event in New York
Leo Yeni, an Artist’s Paper Life, presented by NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò in collaboration with Centro Primo Levi showcases the life and struggles of a man through his art. To some, the show, curated by Cynthia Madansky, is an interesting look into the mind of the artist, who like many other Italian jews was abandoned by his country, to others such as Lillian Spiegel, it’s one more step towards giving Leo what he never managed to obtain during his lifetime, Italian citizenship.
In unconventional exhibit, the public is encouraged not only to touch the displays but to converse with Stella Levi, a 96-year-old Jewish native of the island that was occupied by the Nazis in World War II. By Danielle Ziri for…