Blog of the University of Jena starts blog with interviews with Holocaust survivors

1946. The Second World War is not long over, the coming to terms with the National Socialist crimes is at the very beginning. During this time the psychology professor David summarizes. P. Boder a plan: He wants to know what happened – unadorned and firsthand. He begins to interview displaced persons all over Europe – people who were kidnapped and imprisoned by the Nazis. Completely unusual: Boder records the interviews on wire-tone reels, thus creating the world’s first collection of audio interviews with survivors of the Shoah.

Interview with 17-year-old Holocaust survivor

One of them is Gert Silberbart, was only 17 years old at the time of the interview. He survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald. In an interview with David P. Boder he said: “Then we came into the individual barracks, our names and personal details were recorded, our age, we were put into the individual sockets.” Boder: “What did you state as your age?” Silberbart: “My real age, 14 years.” Boder: “Yes. Well?” Silberbart: “We slept until five in the morning, at five in the morning we got a little coffee, a piece of bread, and then had to stand in front of the block, where we were taught to stand at attention and all these steps, this marching step.”

Largely unknown interviews

Boder conducted over 100 interviews at the time, and they have now been transferred to the Chicago archive “Voices of the Holocaust”, which can be easily listened to on the website. Nevertheless, the talks in Germany are still largely unknown. A fact that Axel Doßmann would like to change.

The historian researches Boder’s conversations at the University of Jena and uses them in seminars because, as he says, they opened up new perspectives: “A lot of young people speak here too. The youngest was 13 when she was interviewed by David Boder Many are 18, 20 and still have their lives ahead of them. But they also have to gain a foothold first. They are “displaced persons”, uprooted. In this respect, they are really still looking to gain a foothold in this new world . ”

Boder does not shy away from detailed questions

Boder’s interviews differ not only in terms of the age of the interviewees from those that were later conducted with the camera from the 1970s onwards. They also differ in tone. Boder asks about the worst details regardless – simply because they are not yet known. And the interviewees respond with a sobriety that is frightening: “They are much more visible, recognizable, audible traumatized. And one effect of this traumatization is, so to speak, that one splits off what is terrible in the story to be told and that, in a sense, it is not articulated emotionally at all because no appropriate language has yet been found for it. ”

Gert Silberbart’s interview continues: “This camp doctor then decided again by waving his hand to the right or left, on the left they went into the gas oven, on the right they continued to work.” Boder asks: “What does that mean, they went into the gas oven?” Silberbart: “They were all immediately collected by the SS.” Boder insists on his question: “Yes, what does that mean, they went into the gas oven?” Silberbart: “Of course there was a lot of shouting, because the people all knew where they were going. It was not the first time that such situations had occurred. They came on a block, all together under strong SS guard and were then mostly on Immediately loaded into wagons the following day and taken to Birkenau and the gas chambers. ”

Use Boder interviews in schools

Researcher Doßmann hopes that the Boder interviews will be used in schools in the future and that they will also be discussed more in science. Therefore, together with his colleague Lisa Schank, he launched the blog, on which they invite themselves to deal with the audio content. A new article appears every week, on aspects such as multilingualism in the conversations, the style of questioning or the songs that were sometimes sung. Anyone who has listened to Boder can take part – with their perspectives and questions about these unique contemporary documents.


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