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On Listening to Holocaust Survivors: Beyond Testimony revised and expanded edition

Foreword by Robert Coles

This book presents striking new insights into the process of recounting the Holocaust. While other work has been based, typically, on single interviews with survivors, Henry Greenspan summarizes twenty years of his interviews and reinterviews with the same core group. In this book, therefore, survivors’ recounting is approached--not as one-time “testimony” or “oral history”--but rather as an ongoing, deepening conversation.


Listening to survivors so intensively, we hear much that we have not heard before. We learn, for example, how survivors perceive us, their listeners, and the impact of listeners on what survivors do, in fact, retell. We meet survivors themselves as distinct individuals, each with his or her specific style and voice. As we follow their efforts to retell, we see how Holocaust memories challenge their words even now--burdening survivors’s speech, distorting it, and sometimes fully consuming it.


On Listening to Holocaust Survivors will be of interest to everyone who has wanted to know more about how such destruction is endured and, in the aftermath, how it is remembered and retold.


Response to On Listening to Holocaust Survivors:


“What follows is the story of a long journey, taken by a wise clinician, a careful and clear-headed writer who wants to bring us as close to a kind of human truth as those men and women whom he attended so long and so hard will enable us to get.” --From the Foreword by Robert Coles


“Greenspan has raised sympathetic listening to its highest level. The result is a truly important book, both powerful and compelling.” --Booklist


“Henry Greenspan has broken ground with an approach to Holocaust listening so alive, so interactive, that it begs the rethinking of interviewing so far.” --Jewish Book World


“This marvelous book should be read by all who wish to truly connect with those whose experiences stretch the boundaries of conventional understanding.” --Holocaust and Genocide Studies


”Stunningly brilliant, standard-setting for scholarship in the field, Henry Greenspan's 2010 version of On Listening to Holocaust Survivors transcends the path-breaking first edition by putting into bold relief the insights that emerge from his more than thirty years of intensive collaboration with Holocaust survivors.  By emphasising the importance of ongoing conversation, rather than one-time testimony, Greenspan challenges conventional wisdom and wisely transforms the process of discerning and responding to what survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides have to say." -- John K. Roth, Sexton Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Claremont McKenna College


This book should be manadatory reading for every oral historian.  It is the premier example of sharing authority in the interview--a radical break from the approach of most 'testimony' projects.  --Steven High, Canada Research Chair in Public History, Concordia University


“Takes us into a whole new conceptual realm of sympathetic listening. Greenspan moves us beyond the celebratory and psychiatric discourses that tend to govern the ways we think and talk about survivors and enables us to hear them as if for the first time.” --Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Director of Jewish Studies, Indiana University


“On Listening to Holocaust Survivors is an unforgettable book--poetic, pioneering, and instructive throughout--a virtual thesaurus on how to listen to survivors and how to understand what they say.” --Henry Krystal, Professor of Psychiatry, Michigan State University