Breaking the Silence: A Testimonial of Resistance to Jewish Invisibility in Simone Veil’s Une jeunesse au temps de la Shoah




testimonial, self, invisibility, suffering


Simone Veil had a remarkable career as a public figure in France, but her personal life was shrouded in profound trauma as a victim of the Holocaust. Veil’s autobiographical narrative reveals a unique form of testimonial writing in which she uses her agency, as a survivor, to demonstrate resistance to Jewish absence and ‘otherness’. As will be shown, a close study of the writer’s autobiography reveals a multilayered text in which the author acts as a spokeswoman for the victims to impart global awareness of the Shoah, especially to young people. This essay will focus on the pedagogical objective of Veil’s memoir, the impossibility of conveying unimaginable suffering, and the power of feminine solidarity as a survival strategy. The latter part of the analysis will broaden the perspective, with emphasis on how writing a testimonial narrative serves as a way in which the autobiographer can recover the shattered self.

Author Biography

Nancy M. Arenberg, University of Arkansas

Nancy M. Arenberg is an Associate Professor of French at the University of Arkansas (Ph.D., University of Arizona). She specializes in seventeenth-and eighteenth-century literature and offers a variety of Francophone literature courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Her monograph entitled Textual Transvestism: Revisions of Heloise (17th-18th-Centuries) was published by Brill in 2015. Over the years, she has published numerous articles and book chapters on Francophone women writers in Quebec Studies, The Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, French Cultural Studies, Nottingham French Studies, Papers on French Seventeenth Century Literature, and The Australian Journal of French Studies. Presently, Professor Arenberg is conducting research for a monograph on Jewish migrant authors, focusing on absence, suffering, and fractured identities.