CUTS – Marco Mauas – Towards the NLS Congress 2020

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A Question from Lanzmann, Two Jaculations from Karski

Marco Mauas

Before the projection of his film, The Karski Report, we listened to Claude Lanzmann read a few words of introduction. Jan Karski was a secret envoy sent by Cyryl Ratajski of the Polish government to shed light on the situation in the Warsaw Ghetto and also on that of the Jews in Poland and in the concentration camps. In his introduction, Lanzmann's question, pronounced with decision and perplexity, is particularly notable: “What does it mean, 'to know'?”

In fact, on his return Karski found that his report was inadmissible by most. President Roosevelt abruptly interrupted the details of the Warsaw Ghetto atrocities to ask him about the situation of horses in Poland. An important rabbi of the American community doubted the veracity of this testimony. At the end of Lanzmann’s film, Karski, by then installed in the United States as a Professor of Comparative History at Georgetown University, declares that he does not understand what he saw with his own eyes in Poland, and that he believes it is completely incomprehensible to human intelligence.

Two jaculations

A broken chain, which does not form a chain, could approach the minimal jaculatory formula that Lacan proposes for psychoanalysis in his last teaching. Jaculation as saying responds to the fact that there is a hybrid dimension of the unconscious to take into account: the signifier and the letter at the same time, two sides that Lacan opposed throughout his teaching.[1]

When Lanzmann reads his question, “What does it mean, 'to know'?”, he had discovered on his own (he had cut Karski’s testimony from the first version of his film, Shoah) that there is too much real that “sinthomatizes” his work as film artist. This real is also unassimilable for Karski, making its strange appearance in two jaculations of his own during an interview [2] at his home on February 9, 1995. Here are the two sentences, in which we can appreciate how taking charge of a real can force a break, a minimal lie. I quote:

"Question: It was far easier for Nazi Germany to kill Jews than it was for Britain or the U. S. to rescue them. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Karski: It was easy for the Nazis to kill Jews, because they did it. The allies considered it impossible and too costly to rescue the Jews, because they didn’t do it."


Laurent, Éric, “Interpretation: From Truth to Event”, Orientation Text of the NLS Congress 2020,

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From Truth to Event

27-28 June, Ghent


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