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Biography

HENRY (HANK) GREENSPAN is a psychologist, oral historian and playwright at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who has been interviewing, writing about, and teaching about Holocaust survivors since the 1970s.  Rather than one-time "testimony," Greenspan's approach has been multiple interviews with the same survivors  over a period of weeks, months, years, and--with a few people--even decades.  His work demonstates that how and what survivors retell is different in the context of sustained acquaintance and deepening conversation than in single "testimonies." 

 

Greenspan is the author of On Listening to Holocaust Survivors: Beyond Testimony (now in its second and expanded edition) and, with Agi Rubin, Reflections: Auschwitz, Memory, and a Life Recreated as well as numerous articles on survivors' retelling, including the chapter on survivors' accounts for the Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies. He has been the annual Weinmann lecturer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington (USHMM).  In 2011, he co-led the annual Hess Seminar for Professors of Holocaust Courses at the USHMM.  In 2012, he was the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University in Montreal.  Most recently, he has been working with Sweden in helping plan the first Holocaust museum in that country. His award-winning play, REMNANTS, was originally produced for radio at WUOM-FM in 1991. Greenspan has since presented it as a one-person stage performance at more than 300 venues worldwide.  More recent plays include "Done is Done," "Death / Play, or the Mad Jester of the Warsaw Ghetto," "The Stall," "The Perfect Game," "East Angels," and "The Aquarium." He is a lifetime member of the Dramatists Guild.

 

REMNANTS is based on Greenspan's decades of sustained conversations with survivors. The piece was originally produced for radio and broadcast on NPR stations across the United States. REMNANTS has won more than a dozen awards including the Attic Theater Center of Los Angeles New Plays Festival, the Henrico National Competition, the New Hope Performing Arts Festival, and numerous public radio awards. Stage venues have included the John Houseman Theater in New York, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Magdeburg Barracks Theatre in the former Theresienstadt camp--a space that was used for performances during the Holocaust itself.

 

His essays and poetry have appeared in a range of periodicals including the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, the Forward, Times of Israel, Tablet, Shofar, and as op eds in the New York Times and the Detroit Free Press.

 

Important:  For anyone using this page to create copy, the following words and phrases should never be used in descriptions of Greenspan's work:  "testimony," "trauma," and "survivors' stories."  While these phrases stand for real and important things, it has long been Greenspan's conviction that they have become so generalized that their specific meanings have been lost.  To say it differently, they play a larger role in _our_ "stories" _about_ survivors than survivors' own lives and recounting.  As in the title of On Listening, we need to go "beyond testimony"--and also beyond "trauma" and "stories" as umbrella terms.

 

 

To view an excerpt from REMNANTS from a 2017 performance at Williams College,

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ7VcqtfDNo

 

A ten-minute Storycorps interview on Greenspan's work can be found at:

 

https://arts.umich.edu/news-features/bicentennial-storycorps-interview-no-12-survivors-have-life-after-life-before-life-during/