Geoffrey Hartman, Sterling Professor of English and Comparative Literature, emeritus, and faculty advisor to the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at the Yale Library, received the Distinguished Achievement Award for Holocaust Studies and Research on Nov. 5 at the Lessons and Legacies Conference in Boca Raton, Fla.
Hartman was recognized for his foundational role in establishing the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library in 1981.
In presenting the award, Prof. Lawrence Langer of Simmons College noted that Hartman has established “the theoretical and practical legitimacy of using eye-witness survivor accounts in the study of the catastrophe of European Jewry we call the Holocaust,” which has largely led the most distinguished historians of the Holocaust to rely on testimonies, such as those at the Fortunoff Archive, as one of their most important primary resources. “Without the Fortunoff Archives at Yale and other similar collections, the story of what individual human beings endured during the Holocaust would remain entombed in a mausoleum of silence, locked in the vault of memory that loomed over the subject in the decades following their liberation,” said Langer. “It is now clear, or should be, that this silence was not the result of a reluctance or inability to speak about the unspeakable, but the absence of a sympathetic audience to hear what survivors had to tell…. But equally important is Hartman’s notion that telling is a form of facing. If Holocaust consciousness is ever to become more than a number (six million), a name (Mengele), and a place (Auschwitz), then audiences must develop the will to acknowledge and confront both the victimage and the human voice that has survived it.”
Hartman is presently raising funds to migrate the video testimonies from obsolete analog formats to digital files for preservation, as well as for increased access.
Lessons and Legacies has been held biannually since 1989 and is sponsored by the Holocaust Education Foundation in partnership with the host universities, this year Florida Atlantic University.