index.html   On the Sidewalk: Testimony and the Gesture

 

Julia Creet

York University

 


The gesture, whether sincere or not, is always inadequate in some sense, a gesture in the face of a larger inaction; yet, in the face of a larger indifference, one might also find great solace in it. Comfort is the only thing on offer, and not very much of it, but we draw something profoundly human from the gesture anyway. “On the Sidewalk” is based on my videotaped interviews with both Christian witnesses and Jewish survivors of the 1944 deportations from the Hungarian town of Székesfehérvár. Here, I examine four testimonial moments, one textual and three audiovisual, each of which evoke a crucial memory embedded in a gesture, or the lack of one. These moments were remarkable not only for their content, the details of the description, but also for the gestural embodiment of a specific memory, which, in these specific cases, were re-enactments of remembered gestures, small moments with lasting affect.

 

Critical to this essay is my use of the doubled semiosis of “gesture.” Gesture is both singular and synechocal, individual and communal, combing two meanings of the word: an individual movement expressive of thought or feeling and that of a small act of the body politic. In a physical sense, the meaning of gesture has become more circumscribed over time from 15th and 16th centuries when the word encompassed any movement of the body or any part of it. Our restricted meaning is a physical gesture as a movement which expresses a particular thought or emotion. Endnote This leads to a second sense also, that of a small movement of the body politic, after beau geste, “a move or course of action undertaken as an expression of feeling or as a formality.” Endnote My use of the concept then is always--as much as I can animate this duality--a combination of these two meanings. I read and see in these gestures both a physical expression of thought or feeling, or a memory of a thought or a feeling, and a physical expression of a course of action, or more often inaction, of a larger body. As both a historical act and a re-enactment in the present, the gesture points to a community, and not necessarily a community that has a common experience, but, rather, one trying to communicate across a chasm of experiential, political and generational differences.

 

As Giorgio Agamben writes in “Notes on Gesture,” “What characterizes the gesture is that nothing is being produced or acted, but rather something is being endured and supported. The gesture, in other words, opens the sphere of ethos as the more proper sphere of that which is human.” Endnote This is not an act which is recognized as properly belonging to the political for the gesture is an example of what Agamben calls a “form-of-life,” the basis, he argues, of a political power based on the communicability of common human forms. Agamben expressly empties the gesture of content, dealing only with the first part of my doubled semiosis, physical movement, and not the second part, a beau geste. For Agamben, gesture is not an “act” noble or otherwise, not a thing, but a “communication of a communicability.”

 

 

It has precisely nothing to say because what it shows is the being-in-language of human beings as pure mediality. However, because being-in-language is not something that could be said in sentences, the gesture is essentially always a gesture of not being able to figure something out in language; it is always a gag in the proper meaning of the term, indicating first of all something that could be put in your mouth to hinder speech, as well as in the sense of the actor’s improvisation meant to compensate a loss of memory or an inability to speak. Endnote



From here to the unspeakable of trauma seems a small step. The gesture, though often accompanied by words, is a wordless act, the act “of not being able to figure something out in language,” Endnote or an articulation of sensibilities which are transmitted “less by institutions and more by the heightened language of articulated poets, as well (or not so well) by the gestures of inarticulate parents who were ‘there,’ as conveyed to their sons and daughters.” Endnote Given that my larger project is bound by historical silence, my attraction to the semiotics of gesture might be that it is closer to my intimate and inarticulate understanding of history.

 

The challenge for so many people who have studied the Holocaust as a historical event is how to comprehend the historical experience of it in the past, and the communicability of the event in the present. “The pedagogy of memorial remembrance relies on historiographic detail, reminiscence, vignette, and symbolization to remind and announce that ‘this has occurred,’ ‘this person lived” writes Roger Simon. Endnote Simon et al’s criticism of this kind of memorial practice is that it is often deployed conservatively : “Thus memorial practices often include pedagogical structures designed to bond emotions and processes of identification with historical narrative and symbol in ways that reinforce the significance of specific memories for the identities and commitments of specific groups, be they families, communities, or nations.” Endnote Distrustful of this binding of the past to the needs of the present, Simon et al, argue for “an “open and potentially radical relation between the texts of an historical archive and the readers such texts address,” one that rather than affirm unsettles the present, “unsettles the very terms on which our understandings of ourselves and our world is based.” Endnote

 

To the concern that historical identification has a conservative impulse, I will argue that the beau geste, the second half of my definition, invokes a mobility of identification, confusing the time and position of actor and observer. Here it is necessary to address the content of the act, its political content, its linguistic content, its tempting identifications. Embedded in each of the gestures I study here, is a deixical form of address, an mobile I/you address that presupposes and emphasizes the intersubjective presence of the actor and his or her addressee, as Mieke Bal puts it, “the wavering I/you,” both in the past and the present. Perhaps the semiotic mobility I have come to see in these gestures evokes Agamben’s “being-in-a-medium” Endnote quality, that the deixical structure and its mobile I/you address, upsets our ability to position ourselves singularly, or form a singular historical identification. As an act of communication, a gesture is both synchronic and diachronic, an animated moment of history that becomes part of the division of labour of “shared memory,” as Avishai Margalit, calls it in The Ethics of Memory. The historical gesture, I will argue, is as likely to hail us standing on the sidewalk as it is walking among the deportees.

 

 

 

A gesture towards an event

 

In 1956, during that window of opportunity in Hungary when the communist regime relaxed sufficiently that bits and pieces of less ideological history could be retrieved, Ferenc Jankovich published his diaries from 1944-45, Csepp a tengerben [Drop in the Sea]. In June of ’44, Jankovich had been away from Székesfehérvár for several weeks, and upon his return went to visit to an unnamed woman, someone who knew everyone, to ask about his gymnasium French teacher, the Jewish poet and translator Oszkár György. The unnamed source asks Jankovich:

 

 

- Kivel akarsz beszélni?

Who do you want to talk about?

About Oszkár György.

György?…I just heard from Father B. yesterday that he met him in the street when they were being taken. He was a broken man in shabby clothes, walking mechanically like a dead alive. Beside him were his wife and her mother, behind them their daughters, one leading, hand in hand, a beautiful little child about three years old, prettily dressed, the little child waving and smiling continuously at the bystanders.

When B caught sight of György, he was seized by such great emotion that his eyes filled with tears and he shouted out to him from the sidewalk:-- Teacher sir!…Dear teacher sir…--and his voice caught in his throat.

 

Jankovich comments:

 

I cannot even say what thanks I felt in my heart towards this priest for this, that from his shout my poor friend might have drawn a little comfort, or, at the very least, that he may have seen that there were still those who felt compassion for him…. Endnote

 

I see three distinctly compelling gestures in Jankovich’s description: the waves the of the little girl, who represents both absolute innocence and the dangerous naivete of the Jews; B’s shout, which dies in his throat, a gesture of caring from the community, or so Jankovich hopes; and the description itself, a short passage in a book of almost four hundred pages, but a passage that has had manifest longevity. Endnote


We read B’s Endnote eyewitness account, told to an unnamed woman who tells it to Jankovich because he asks. This is a chain of witnessing, a third-hand description of an event that in its usual quotation loses its context of a community talking and becomes eyewitness testimony. In its full form, the testimony testifies to both the deportation of the teacher and his family and the anguish of the observer, Father B and in turn, the writer, Jankovich. We are witnesses to innocence and complicity and inability to do anything. Here Jankovich describes the emotions of Father B. as surely as he describes the picture of the György family. The art of this witnessing in this case evokes not just one side or the other, but the utter helplessness of both, made worse, of course, by the pictures that have now engraved themselves on our souls of what was to follow. It is already a memory structured by the knowledge that comes after, of where the walk was headed. But, the horror of this moment is familiarity. It is the encounter between the watchers and the walkers, expressed in the gestures of a wave and a shout. The last sentence of Jankovich’s description is striking in that it implicates the rest of the watchers, the majority of whom watch not in hatred but, worse in some ways, indifference. “I cannot even say what thanks I felt in my heart towards this priest for this, that from his shout my poor friend might have drawn a little comfort, or, at the very least, that he may have seen that there were still those who felt compassion for him….” Gesture lies between caring and indifference (hatred would suggest another set of gestures). A little comfort is the only thing on offer, and not very much of it, for either witness or victim.


Tibor Szinavel, György Gams, Vera Robert were all from Székesfehérvár, knew each other, and were in their early twenties in 1944. Tibor Szinavel and György Gams were also both former students of Oszkár György. Vera Robert was deported alongside the György family; Tibor Szinavel watched. These interviews were conducted in 2002. In each of these three interviews I was struck by moments between the content of their memories and their gestural enunciation, instances in which a gesture, or lack of one, carried a surprising historical weight and repeatable presence.

 

 

 

Tibor Szinavel


Tibor Szinavel watched the deportations through a restaurant window on the corner of Osz street. As he describes what he saw, his gestures also tell a story.

 


Tibor Szinavel: When they were taken to station, Oszkár György went in front, his beautiful white hair down, ten or fifteen steps ahead of the group, straight and proud. Poor man, he went in front without suitcases. This is the picture I have of him as he walked away.

 

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Interviewer: Did you see this?


Tibor Szinavel: Yes, on the corner of Osz Street was a restaurant. The restaurant windows looked out on Osz Street. We went into the restaurant and waved through the windows at our acquaintances and they waved back. Everybody knew each other in Székesfehérvár, everybody.

 

 




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Tibor Szinavel tells us that everyone knew everyone else, that this was a small community and both descriptions place the observer in the action by means of a gesture, a small gesture that becomes the seat of the memory. Tibor Szinavel remembers the moment by re-enacting his wave for and to us. What kind of memorial performance is a gesture? If we turn to gesture theory we can find good descriptions of the signification of the gestural mobility. Curtis Le baron and Jürgen Streeck describe hand movements between speakers in a conversation about a car accident:

 

 

…their hands are used in semiotically different ways to represent different ‘players’ in the event, enabling the two interlocutors to speak from constantly shifting perspectives: at times, in ‘the first person’, they reenact the acts of the protagonist’s hands; at other times, in the ‘third person’, their hands serve as symbolic tokens for the moving and crashing cars; at yet other times, their hands are extraneous producers of symbolic constructs--sequentially rendered ephemeral three-dimensional shapes--which represent components of the setting. Endnote

 


Tibor Szinavel’s hand motions speak to us in the past of the third person [his teacher’s white hair, he walked in front], as components of the setting [the roof of the restaurant], the first person plural [we went into the restaurant], the first person singular and plural [I waved--we waved] the third person plural [they waved back--a weak wave], and a collective helplessness [everybody knew each other]. Further, his gesture, is specifically deixical in the present. Following Benveniste, who demonstrated that I and you are the most special of pronouns, precisely because they are positions of subjects who recognize each other in context and are interchangeable, Mieke Bal writes “Deixis presupposes and emphasizes the presence of the speaking subject and [his or] her addressee, ‘her second person.’ ” Endnote Deixical language is, in its most literal form, gestural, pointing to the “there” and “then” [he walked in front; we waved through the window], which in the context of delivery also points to the here and now. “We waved though the window at our aquaintances” says Tibor Szinavel as he waves at us. So, while Tibor Szinavel’s words are not deixical since the description is an I/them account, his gesture is. Tibor Szinavel waves at his deported acquaintances in the past, and at us, his interlocutors in the present. I am waving at you. Where does this places us as receivers of the wave? We are witness to a historical event from the point of view of Tibor Szinavel and thus in the I/you address, he waves to us. Yet, given, as Bal says, the subject is by definition a wavering double I/you subject that is impossible to pin down at any one moment in any spatial position,” Endnote then we too are fully capable of waving ourselves.

 

To whom did Tibor Szinavel wave as he stood at the window of the restaurant? Did he wave to the girl? Did the girl wave to him? Hello. Goodbye. To whom does he wave now? We, as interlocutors of the gesture, are both waving and waving back, wavering subjects hailed by a gesture. We are the addressees in this communication event that is at once an account of a memory and a re-enactment of a historical scene in the present. The mobility of Tibor Szinavel’s hands is not just an adjunct to his story, but, rather, mobile semiosis in the sense that his hands signify different orders, historical players, and tenses. In this sense, perhaps one of the most mobile gestures in Tibor Szinavel’s narrative are his clenched fists holding the handles of suitcases that he says never existed. Here his gesture indicates an absence but reinforces the presence of something other than its indexical object. Tibor Szinavel’s hands suggest that he, himself is walking holding the handles of two suitcases.

 

Tibor Szinavel waved, Father B. shouted, or tried to. There are several striking similarities in Tibor Szinavel’s description to that of Jankovich’s, and one striking difference. Both Father B and Tibor Szinavel observe the same man and the same event on the same day (June 6, 1944), both describe the walkers and the watchers, both describe a wave; Tibor Szinavel, however places Oszkár György as a figure in front, not broken, but proud, having imposed on him the picture of Moses, leading his people out. Most importantly, both describe a riven community acting in gestures, haunting gestures.

 

As Giorgio Agamben argues, the gesture, though it produces nothing, opens the sphere of ethos. Endnote The gesture is neither a means to an end, nor an end in itself.

 

Nothing is more misleading for an understanding of gesture, therefore, than representing, on the one hand, a sphere of means as addressing a goal (for example, marching as a means of moving the body from point A to point B) and, on the other hand, a separate sphere of gesture as a movement that has its end in itself (for example, dance seen as an aesthetical dimension). …The gesture is the exhibition of a mediality: it is the process of making a means visible as such. It allows the emergence of the being-in-a-medium of human beings and thus it opens the ethical dimension for them. Endnote

 

Agamben’s meditations on gesture lead us away from the idea that the gesture is a kind of universal “body language” through which a specific movement means an exact thing across time and cultures and can be practiced to effect, for example, leaning forward chin up, or putting one’s hands in "praying" or "steepling" position, to exude confidence. It also leads us away from a rhetorical definition of ethos that would again imply an intentionality to gesture, as a means of assuring the good character of the speaker. Rather, my gestural examples are specific to the situation in which they are expressed, recognizable, perhaps in other contexts, but still, by their very deixical form of address, that is a form of I/you address that presupposes and emphasizes the presence of the speaking subject and his or her addressee, and their being-in-language, uniquely meaningful in the moment and beyond.

 

But, my distilling of the Tibor Szinavel’s gestures might bring up the objection that the examples loose their efficacy unless they are in motion. Barthes certainly would object here since he explicitly argues in Camera Lucida that gesture is culturally predictable and therefore forms part of the studium-- “a kind of general, enthusiastic commitment… without special acuity…. [I]t is culturally (this connotation is present in the studium) that I participate in the figures, the faces, the gestures, the settings, the actions.” Endnote Part of Barthes’ resistance to the gesture is its manipulation on the part of the photographer, which makes it part of the intended “shock” effect rather than accidental “prick” affect of the photograph. According to Barthes reading the gesture is a “docile” act, in contrast to the reading detail, which is at once brief and active. Endnote Because he restricts the gesture to its unnatural frozen moment in both photography and painting, Barthes dismisses it as locus of new meaning. As a reader of this essay in its textual form, you will see these gestures precisely in frozen fashion, in video stills, manipulated as they are by me in order to demonstrate my point, so perhaps my argument founders on the very ground that I had hoped would secure it. Endnote

 

Quite in contrast however, Agamben argues that all images are essentially gestural, that from the Greek myth of Pygmalion to Eadweard Muybridge’s serial photographs of animals and people in motion—the essential transition between still photography and cinema—the desire was to capture not the image, but the gesture itself. For Agamben gesture, not the image, lies at the heart of the cinematic and what’s more: “properly speaking, there are no images but only gestures. Every image, in fact, is animated by an antinomic polarity: on the one hand, images are the reification and obliteration of a gesture (it is the imago as death mask or symbol); on the other hand, they preserve the dynamis intact (as in Muybridge’s snapshots or in any sports photograph).” Endnote Agamben goes on to offer us an intriguing distinction between the still and dynamic memorial qualities of images (suggesting that every image combines these qualities).

 

 

The former [the reified image] corresponds to the recollection seized by voluntary memory, while the latter [the dynamic quality] corresponds to the image flashing in the epiphany of involuntary memory. And while the former lives in magical isolation, the latter always refers beyond itself to a whole of which it is a part. Even the Mona Lisa, even Las Meninas Endnote could not be seen as immovable and eternal forms, but as fragments of a gesture or as stills of a lost film, wherein only they would regain their true meaning. Endnote

 


So, though Agamben splits the image in a manner similar to Barthes’ division of the studium and the punctum, the first being voluntary and reified, the second involuntary, and dynamic, for Agamben the synechodcal aspects of even the still gesture make it a locus of expandable meaning.




György Gams


György Gams had also been one of Oszkár György’s students and a friend of the family. György Gams was one of, as he told us, thirty Jews who now live in Székesfehérvár from the three hundred that returned after the war, from the three thousand that had lived in and around the city before. He told us of the progression of events, how people stopped coming to his father’s store, how the Germans arrived, how the young men were sent off, how he lost his family, all with a matter-of-factness that often bordered on irony. One of the railway men had come to the door to warn his father that the Germans were about to cross the border. “Run” said the railway man. To which his father replied--György Gams told us with a sad, wry smile--Hova?--“Where to?” What happened to whom blurs for me, partly because I understood what he said only through the time lag of translation, and partly because it is never easy to grasp the constellations of families and friends that people describe through the magnitude of their loss. One moment of the interview, however, I have watched repeatedly on tape, making it both a memory and an exercise in traumatic mastery, as I’m sure it was for György Gams also. Three days after the Germany occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944, the Jews of SZ were made to wear their yellow stars. Shortly after this, György Gams and his father were walking in the square where they met the Mayor (Emile G. Csitáry Endnote ) and his son.




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“He saw us,” and here György Gams, grasps the imaginary brim of a hat between his thumb and forefinger, “and took off his hat to us.” At this, György Gams tips his imaginary hat in this gesture of recognition and respect, looks down and away into the past, replaces his hat, looks at us, raising an eyebrow to underscore that we too must make sense of this event, and tears well up in his eyes. This gesture that he re-enacted embodied both the memory of a moment of respect that he had never forgotten and triggered an emotional display of what he had lost. Perhaps it is easier to remember loss in the context of love than of hatred.

 

In that gesture lay both the humanity of the Mayor and his son and György Gams and his father’s, for it was a moment of recognition, both of György Gams and his father’s plight and that they were the same men they had always been, respected merchants and members of the community. And perhaps, since the hat represented the Mayor and the Mayor the town, this was a synecdochical chain that had allowed György Gams to return to SZ and stay. (Released from a labour camp in which he was relatively well treated, György Gams returned to SZ the day after the war ended.) György Gams looked at us for a long time after that. The terrible sadness of this gesture that is at once both recognition and resignation, is very much like Tibor Szinavel’s wave through the restaurant window, a gesture of greeting and goodbye, which now again finds us in a repeated moment of the body politic. For what is my kind of history-making except a gesture to a traumatic past I cannot change? In that sense our desire to witness the event of the past are satisfied in this gestural act in which, given both gestural and deixical mobility, we are potentially both the senders and the receivers of a wave or a tip of hat. The mobility of the gesture here is not only its motion, or that György Gams hand is at once a symbolic token, the hat, and a symbolic construct, respect, but that György Gams in his re-enactment occupies the places of both himself and the Mayor, that is of both historical actors. Here György Gams demonstrates exactly the mobility of the deictic address, the mobility of the “wavering double I/you subject” (Bal). However, the significance of the gesture can only be perceived because we, as observers supply the deixical context, both past and present. György Gams gesture is now directed towards us, and in the completed form of the message, he is the sender, we are the receivers. He is the Mayor and we are in the position of the Jews wearing new yellow badges. But, in the historical situation György Gams describes, since György Gams is György Gams, we are the Mayor, and the best we can do is to tip our hats.

 

I have no way of knowing if these memories which were told me were memories that my interviewees had told before, perhaps often, but I would hazard a guess that if these stories were part of a repertoire of voluntary memories, then the gestures may very well have accompanied the stories as a form of involuntary or embodied memory. Regardless of how many times the gesture had been repeated in the past, its reenactment in the present in the context of a traumatic story constitutes a repetition. Further, and perhaps more to the point, is my desire to watch the gestures repeatedly, also physically repeating them as I retell the stories to others, in an effort to understand the complicated and often ambiguous postures of historical actors and contemporary observers. Which brings us, however briefly to the question of the repetition of gestures as an element in the struggle of trauma and mastery.

 

Gesture is clearly central to the example at the heart of trauma theory, the fort-da game. Endnote Freud’s grandson’s game involved the repeated action of throwing and retrieving, which Freud interprets as an effort to control an object as an act of symbolic control. Coincidentally—or not—this was a game of disappearance and return, though as Freud tells us, the first act, the traumatic act of throwing the object away was more frequent than the more pleasurable second act, that of retrieving it. Freud’s key interpretation of this singular example (bad science he admits, but compelling nonetheless), is that the act of throwing transformed the child from a passive observer to that of an actor. The object was a little consequence, any toy would do, but the act itself of controlling the movement of the object demonstrated the child’s mastery of the situation. Here one could argue that the gesture without the object means nothing, and the concept of the physical gesture drops away from Freud’s analysis of the compulsion to repeat, displacing itself into tics, dreams, symptoms, and situations, repeated in an effort to control. To come back to my point about the deixical nature of the gesture; here it is not the control of the object, but the embodiment of the other. As I tip my hat to tell this story, I have triangulated it; I am now in the position of György Gams, The Major, and my own repetitions of the gesture. As I tip my hat to tell this story, I have now infinitely triangulated it; you and I are now in the position of György Gams, The Major, and my own repetitions of the gesture. Just as Tibor Szinavel made himself walk holding the handles of his nonexistent suitcases, each repetition fails to master a history. The hat can never prevent the crime, so where is the ethos in a gesture?

 

 

 

Vera Robert


One way to understand the importance of the gesture is to look at the negative example, an example of almost complete passivity. Vera Robert was a childhood friend the György family and was assigned to the same room in the ghetto. They were together from that point on. It is from Vera Robert that I know the sequence of events that led to eventual survival of a group of young women from Székesfehérvár. From Vera Robert’s point of view the lack of even the smallest gesture was the mark of indifference that she still has not forgotten:

 


Vera Robert:


I remember very ugly things about Székesfehérvár. We went along Budai Street, the way we used to go to school. A big crowd stood there and watched us march towards the train station. There were those who were thirsty and some who asked for help, and nobody, nothing moved. Some turned their heads away, some laughed at us or made comments, so for decades I did not go back to Székesfehérvár.




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Vera Robert sits motionless except to look down at the floor and shake her head when she connects the lack of the smallest gesture with her refusal to go back. One could argue that Vera Robert’s immobility had nothing to do with the story she was telling, though she was more animated in other parts of her story. And this is an argument I cannot refute, except to remind you once again that I am not making any universal claims about the relationship between physical gesture and historical narratives, but only remarking on the coincidence of gestures and narratives about historical gestures in three instances. This lack of a general rule does not negate the importance of what she tells us with the syntactical arrangement of her narrative: the absence of a positive gesture, a wave, a glass of water, a tip of the hat, was the crime that kept Vera Robert from returning. What’s more, the lack of the smallest gesture, offering a glass of water, stands out in Vera Robert’s testimony as the equivalent of laughing or turning away—both gestures in and of themselves, although gestures that run counter to the idea of the gesture as a token of well-meaning. There were, of course, much larger crimes—she lost most of her family and everything that belonged to her family as well—but she remarked specifically on the absence of gesture, as if this were the most telling detail and the hardest to forgive. As I sit and watch Vera Roberts’s immobility, I am intensely aware of my own. If I had been standing on the sidewalk, what would I have done? And, if I had been walking in the street? The gestures I have received have placed me far more ambiguously both in the street and on the sidewalk. So? What’s the difference? And what are the stakes in arguing for the semiotic and subjective and political (im)mobility of the witness?

 

Gesture, in both its expressive and political senses, acts as a synecdoche for the intentions of the community. The community, as Harvey Peskin and Nanette Auerhahn, argue, is also the place where witnessing begins. They point out that “since the act of genocide was born—by fear, indifference, or active collaboration—in the larger community, the healing of the Holocaust trauma must also begin in the larger community. Endnote Looking only for the story of my mother’s family and without realizing that I was doing so, I inadvertently inserted myself in the memory of a shared event. Vera Robert’s testimony is that no-one cared, while Gams, Tibor Szinavel, and Jankovich, through Father B, describe gestures of recognition and caring, which, ultimately remain gestures only. Together, these form as Avishai Margalit, calls it in The Ethics of Memory, “shared memory.” Shared memory is not simply an aggregate of individual memories, but, rather,

 

integrates and calibrates the different perspectives of those who remember the episode…each experiencing only a fragment of what happened from their unique angle on events—into one version. Other people in the community who were not there at the time may then be plugged into the experience of those who were…through channels of description rather than by direct experience. Shared memory is built on the division of mnemonic labour. Endnote

 

Margalit goes on to say that the “significance of the event for us depends on our being personally connected with what happened, and hence we share not on the memory of what happened but our participation in it, as it were.” Endnote That Tibor Szinavel remembers the deportation as clearly and as emotionally as Vera Robert, is an indication of a shared event. Although the outcomes were very different for Tibor and Vera Robert, the event, as a shared memory, was one that happened to both. Those that gestured, Tibor Szinavel, Jankovich through Dean B, recognized it as a shared event. And, conversely, I would argue, that those that didn’t offer any gesture either failed or refused to recognise it, disavow it as a shared event. I can say then, that I found a shared memory of the deportation in Székesfehérvár, one which describes the relationships between those who stood and those who walked variously. No one contests that the Jewish Community of Székesfehérvár was marched to the brickworks on June 6, 1944, but it is a different event that emerges in memory embodied in its gestures. I leave it up to the reader to restore the lost film. Endnote





 

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the University of Karlstad, Sweden, and John Sundholm in particular, for inviting me as a Visiting Professor to participate in the Memory group in the fall of 2003. Both the discussions and the time to write were crucial to the drafting of this paper. Invaluable also have been discussions with Zofia Rosinska and Maria Holmgren-Troy. I would also like to acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada and York University, Toronto. Crucially, I would like to thank all the people I interviewed for their willingness to be interviewed and to remember.




Works Cited


Agamben, Giorgio. “Notes on Gesture.” Means without End: Notes on Politics. Trans. Vicenczo Binetti and Ceare Casarino. Minneapolis: Minnesota Press, 2000.


Bal, Mieke. Quoting Caravaggio. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.


Clark, Kenneth. Looking at Pictures. London: John Murray, 1960.


Csongor, Rózsa. “Száz éve született György Oszkár.” Kritika. (1982): 20


Demeter, Zsófia. “György Oszkár születésének centenáriumán.” Ma ès Holnap 2 (1982): 217-226.


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