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Seminar on the Concentration Camp Literature in the Jewish Museum of Greece

“But the punishment of the Other, because he is an Other, based on an abstract ideology, seemed to us as the pinacle of injustice, of stupidity and of irrationality…..”
Primo Levi, The Duty of Memory


The Jewish Museum of Greece was honoured to host for the second consecutive year at its Library, the above Seminar by historian Mrs. Odette Varon- Vassard, during the period January - May 2012. The seminar consisted of two thematic cycles of five meetings, in which the works of eight authors were presented and discussed following an introduction. The authors under study belong among to the great writers of concentration camp literature, while they themselves were survivors of the WWII Nazi camps. As expressed by Odette Varon – Vassard: “The corpus of works has been chosen in order to represent both the memory of the Genocide of the Jews and the memory of displaced resistance fighters”. In this theoretical framework, the cases of Primo Levi, Jean Amery, Jorge Sembrun and several others were studied. For the Jewish Museum of Greece, the implementation of a thematic seminar on the literature "born" through the concentration camps, responsible for the murder of millions of our fellowmen, has dual significance and importance. First, the seminar addresses an extremely difficult issue, that of "memory", which is directly connected with the JMG annual seminar for educators entitled "Teaching about the Holocaust in Greece" which takes place at the Museum.

It also introduces into the Greek research field of study of World War II and the Holocaust, a largely unknown topic, that of the study of literary texts, dealing mainly with the experience of the camps, as a complementary tool of historiography. Furthermore, for the seminar’s purposes and with the substantial contribution and initiative of Mrs. Odette Varon – Vassard, a specialized department in the JMG’s library was established relevant to the concentration camp literature, which now historians, researchers, post  graduate students and teachers will be able to access and study. The seminar meetings were enhanced by the presence of the director’s special guests, of various scientific fields, among them Mrs. Garifallia Micha, political scientist, PhD candidate of the University of Sorbonne, the translator of Jean Amery Mr. John Kallifatidis, the Psychiatrist-Psychoanalyst Mr. Gerasimos Stephanatos and the writer Savvas Michael. Finally the participants, a team of people from multi - disciplinary backgrounds (historians, doctoral candidates and students, researchers, teachers, artists, psychoanalysts) with their dynamic presence and structured opinions, contributed to a fruitful and vivid scientific discourse. The next seminar has been scheduled for 2012.

Odette Varon-Vassard is a historian, specialized in the ’40’s. She has been teaching History at the Greek Open University since 2001. She has published the book, “A generation matures - Young men and women in the Occupation and the Resistance” (Hestia publications, Athens 2009) and her next book “The emergence of a difficult memory. Texts for the Genocide of the Jews” (Hestia publications) will be released in October 2012.


Loudarou Anastasia
Archaeologist  PhD Cand. in Ancient Jewish History and Epigraphy
(Aristotle University of Thessaloniki),
Head of the digitization program Judaica Europeana for the JMG


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