Wieviorka, Annette

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WIEVIORKA, ANNETTE (1948– ), historian. She was born in Paris to a Jewish family of Polish origin. Her grandfather Aby was a noted Parisian Yiddish poet and a translator from Yiddish into French. In her youth, Wieviorka was a convinced Maoist who went to China with her husband and her son, and worked as a French teacher in Canton, between 1974 and 1976. She wrote a book about her experience in China (L'écureuil de Chine, 1979). A high school teacher in Paris from 1976 to 1990, she started doing research in French history and opened a new field, the history of collective memory of the Holocaust in France. Her important dissertation on the making of the memory of deportation in France just after the liberation, published in 1992, proved to be a path-breaking work. In her book she thoroughly studied the way French public opinion discovered the atrocities of the Nazi camps, and how the French administrations and the French army helped in liberating the camps. In addition, she focused on the reception of the very first testimonies given in France by Jewish survivors. In her complete scanning of these testimonies, she argued that, far from being shy of testifying, the survivors were immediately active in trying to describe the horror they had witnessed and had gone through, but that nobody was then ready to hear their statements: the handful of survivors wrote numerous books, which were not read. With the passing of time, the French leaders were ready to acknowledge the sufferings of Resistance fighter deportees, more of whom survived their deportation as they were not sent to Auschwitz. The historian concluded that "Buchenwald masked Auschwitz." As a researcher Wieviorka entered the National Center for Scientific Research (cnrs) in 1990, and she continued her work on the memory of the Holocaust in France. Among many other books, she wrote a short work, The Era of the Witness (L'ère du témoin, 1998; English, 2006), in which she asserted the central role of witnesses in the remembrance of the Shoah in contrast to works of scientific research. Starting in 1961 with the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, she described this trend up to the early 21st century, when the words of an Auschwitz survivor are almost sanctified. Between 1997 and 2000, she was a member of the official commission, appointed by the prime minister, in charge of searching for looted Jewish assets and properties in France. An advocate for the rights of Jewish families to fully recover what had been taken, she explained the necessity of this research to appease the tensions that arose in France. In France, Wieviorka is a public figure, who regularly appears in the media to explain the Holocaust to a wider audience. Her short book on Auschwitz, targeting a teenage audience, Auschwitz expliqué à ma fille (1999), is a worldwide bestseller, translated into a dozen languages. Her publications include Les livres du souvenir, mémoriaux juifs de Pologne (1983); Le procès Eichmann (1989); Déportation et génocide, entre la mémoire et l'oubli (1992); Mille ans de cultures ashkénazes (ed. et al., 1994); Passant, souviens toi … (1995); Le Procès de Nuremberg (1995); Les Procès de Nuremberg et de Tokyo (1996); and Auschwitz, 60 ans après (2005).

[Jean-Marc Dreyfus (2nd ed.)]