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Biography

HENRY 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. In 2011, he co-led the annual Hess Seminar for Professors of Holocaust Courses at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. In 2012, he was the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University in Montreal. 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

 

REMNANTS is also based on 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.

 

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 read Greenspan's May, 2000, Weinmann Lecture at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, go to:

 

http://www1.ushmm.org/research/center/publications/occasional/2001-02/paper.pdf

 

https://www.ushmm.org/m/pdfs/20040908-greenspan.pdf

 

For general background about his work, see the 10-minute Storycorps interview at

 

https://soundcloud.com/umichlibrary/hank-greenspan-ariana-headrick-storycorps