Kirkus Reviews QR Code
WITNESS by Joshua M. Greene

WITNESS

Voices From the Holocaust

By Joshua M. Greene (Author) , Shiva Kumar (Author)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-86525-4
Publisher: Free Press

A companion volume to the PBS documentary (scheduled for broadcast in May 2000), providing a transcription of 27

videotaped interviews with Holocaust survivors and witnesses.

The interviewees recorded their testimonies for the Fortunoff Video Archive at Yale University beginning in 1979. Greene

(an award-winning film producer) and Kumar (who conducts "television ethics" seminars) cut the separate interviews into short

passages and presented them over several chronological chapters. A polished and eloquent foreword by Lawrence Langer

(English/Simmons Coll.) exhorts us not to romanticize the will or resistance of the survivors, who had a traumatic but distinctly

"unheroic experience." The corroboration of the details of particular events (death marches, for example) or general experiences

(such as the day-to-day living conditions in the camps) by both survivors and witnesses is remarkable, and it endows the collection

with a tremendous historical importance. It is a disappointment, then, to find last names omitted from the credits of the

interviewees, as this tends to blunt the otherwise sharp realism of the project as a whole. Furthermore, and for the same reason,

the absence of many of the dates and place names is a serious oversight. While some of the split-screen excerpts are jarringly

short (one German Jew appears only long enough to say he rooted for Germany in the 1936 Olympics), most of the pieces fit

together as a kind of mosaic depicting prewar Europe, the ghettos, life underground, deportations, the camps, the liberation, and

(in the last chapter) the after-effects of the war. While most of the reportage is not new, there are important confirmations of

anecdotal accounts (of cannibalism among Soviet prisoners, for example), and many of the statements (such as Joseph K."s

description of the ghetto as worse than the camps because "there was the constant fear of something happening to my family")

offer sharp psychological insights. References allow contributors to be accessed on video and provide extensive lists for further

reading on the subject.

An important testimony that will refute anyone who denies the reality of the Nazi crimes.