There is a paradox inherent in any attempt to memorialize the Holocaust. On the one hand, it can be argued that the Holocaust is fundamentally unrepresentable, indeed unimaginable, and that no human means of communication can adequately convey its enormity. On the other hand, any memorial devoted to the Holocaust is predicated on the notion that the only way to ensure that such a thing does not happen again is to bear witness and thereby «bring the living and the dead together». But how can something that cannot be represented be remembered or witnessed?
This book is an analysis of the history of various sorts of representation, chiefly memorials, on the site of the concentration camps Dachau and Buchenwald in comparison with Auschwitz, Yad Vashem and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. By providing a reconstruction of the history and debates surrounding the question of memorializing and forgetting, it interrogates the question of how to represent the unrepresentable. It is a study of how the boundaries of representation and the rhetoric of artifacts changed during the transformation of these places. It draws on Freudian analysis, the literature on sites of memory, and the debate about writing about the Holocaust, showing clearly how the camps have been and still remain highly contested places of memory and arguing that these debates and their physical embodiment on the sites have to be incorporated in our understanding of what these places represent.