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Humanities 2017, 6(4), 93; doi:10.3390/h6040093

Between Grief and Grievance: Memories of Jews in France and the Klaus Barbie Trial

German, Russian, East European Languages and Literatures, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
Received: 21 September 2017 / Revised: 14 November 2017 / Accepted: 14 November 2017 / Published: 21 November 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Wounded: Studies in Literary and Cinematic Trauma)
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Abstract

Working between the Amos Gitai film One Day You’ll Understand (2008) and the 1987 Klaus Barbie trial against which it is set, the article explores how the trial marked a decisive turning point in France’s relationship to its wartime past. Of Barbie’s hundreds of crimes, including murder, torture, rape, and deportation, only those of the gravest nature, 41 separate counts of crimes against humanity, were pursued in the French court in Lyon. Not only did the trial raise crucial juridical questions involving the status of victims and the definition of crimes against humanity but, extending into the private sphere, it became the occasion for citizens to address heretofore silenced aspects of their own family histories and conduct trials of a more personal nature. Whereas the law in general seeks to contain historical trauma and to translate it into legal-conscious terminology, it is often the trauma that takes over, transforming the trial into “another scene” (Freud) in which an unmastered past is unwittingly repeated and unconsciously acted out. Such failures of translation, far from being simply legal shortcomings, open a space between grief and grievance, one through which it is possible to explore both how family secrets are disowned from one generation to the next, and how deeply flawed legal proceedings such as the Barbie trial may “release accumulated social toxins” (Kaplan) and thereby expose unaddressed dimensions of French postwar (and -colonial) history. View Full-Text
Keywords: Klaus Barbie Trial; literary justice; crimes against humanity; testimony; traumatic flashback; French-Jewish memory; unconscious transmission; French resistance; filming of trials Klaus Barbie Trial; literary justice; crimes against humanity; testimony; traumatic flashback; French-Jewish memory; unconscious transmission; French resistance; filming of trials
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Levine, M.G. Between Grief and Grievance: Memories of Jews in France and the Klaus Barbie Trial. Humanities 2017, 6, 93.

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