Topoi 31 (2):229-240 (2012)

Against the view that trauma cripples the survivor’s ability to account for his or her own experience, Jean Améry, a survivor of Auschwitz, argued that trauma speaks a language of its own. In this language, what may be taken as a clinical symptom, the inability to let go of a traumatic past, is actually an ethical stance on behalf of history’s victims. Améry wrote about aging in similar terms. Aging and death are an assault on the values of life, an assault that Améry rejected with equal vigor, and in much the same terms, as he rejected the history that does not stop with the Holocaust. In the second case, Améry is mistaken. Aging and death, allowed to proceed at a natural pace, serve life, the succession of generations. This argument is pursued by comparing Améry’s position with that of a large group of Holocaust survivors. It may appear as if Améry’s argument about the Holocaust has little to do with his argument about aging. In fact, they are related, to the detriment of both arguments
Keywords Jean Améry  Trauma  Aging  Holocaust survivor  Survivor testimonies
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DOI 10.1007/s11245-012-9131-1
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