The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry

Cadaverland: Inventing a Pathology of Catastrophe for Holocaust Survival

The Limits of Medical Knowledge and Historical Memory in France

Michael Dorland

Cover of "Cadaverland"A powerful look at how French medical science apprehended and described Holocaust survival.

In this extraordinary study, Michael Dorland explores 60 years of medical attempts by French doctors (Mainly in the fields of neuropsychiatry and psychoanalysis) to describe the effects of concentration camp incarceration on Holocaust survivors.

Dorland begins with a discussion of the liberation of concentration camp survivors, their stay in deportation camps and eventual return to France, analyzing the circulation of mainly medical (neuropsychiatric) knowledge, its struggles to establish a symptomology of camp effects and its broadening out into connected medical fields such as psychoanalysis. He then turns specifically to the French medical doctors who studied Holocaust survivors, where he investigates somatic and psychological or holistic conceptions of survivors as patients and human beings.

The final third of the book offers a comparative look at the “pys-science” approach to Holocaust survival beyond France, particularly in the United States and Israel. He illuminates the peculiar journey of a medical discourse that began in France but took on new forms elsewhere, eventually expanding into non-medical fields to create the basis of the “traumato-culture” with which we are familiar today.

Embedding his analysis of different medical discourses in the sociopolitical history of France in the twentieth century, he also looks at the French Jewish Question as it affected French medicine, the effects of five years of Nazi Occupation, France’s enthusiastic collaboration, and the problems this would pose for postwar collective memory.

About the Author

Michael Dorland is a professor in the School of Communication, Carleton University, Ottawa.