The Persistence of Youth: Oral Testimonies of the Holocaust

The Persistence of Youth: Oral Testimonies of the Holocaust

The Persistence of Youth: Oral Testimonies of the Holocaust

The Persistence of Youth: Oral Testimonies of the Holocaust

Synopsis

This volume is a collection of fifteen first-person accounts of growing up during the Nazi era. The selections cover a broad range of personalities and circumstances. Included are testimonies from the daughter of an anti-Nazi German family, the son of a mixed marriage in Germany threatened with deportation, a German Gypsy who witnessed Mengele's experiments, a Polish Jewish girl saved by her teacher, a Prague teenager escaping to Denmark and Sweden, a Polish Jewish youth in communist Siberia, a partisan, an eleven-year-old in Auschwitz, a young Yiddish actress exiled to Tashkent, and a Polish Catholic child deported to work camps. Drawn from the Holocaust Oral History Archive of Gratz College, each testimony is a unique story of survival through defense, adaptation, and resilience.

Excerpt

Memory, imperfect as it is, has its own reality. We block out certain thoughts. We cluster others. We telescope significant events to the exclusion of what seems insignificant. We incorporate details told to us by others and unknowingly they become our own. Past pain may be heightened; past pleasure may feel more precious, even poignant. However it is remembered, this is what happened. This is our history.

When we share our memory with someone, we may leave out certain details and stress others, depending on why we are telling our story, what we want the other person to know, or where their questions lead us. What we stress may depend on where we are in our lives, what day we choose to tell it, and who is listening.

The built-in fallibilities of oral history are also its strength. For the facts we have research. For the unique human experience we have memory.

In the ten years that we have been collecting over six hundred interviews of survivors for the Holocaust Oral History Archive of Gratz College, we have been impressed by the uniqueness of each story. While some may overlap in details, none duplicate in experience. Each person was caught in time, in the midst of his own distinct life, his path interrupted, his goals diverted. Each came to the years of crisis with his own personality, his strengths and weaknesses, his family and cultural tradition. We cannot speak in numbers. These voices on thousands of cassette tapes have nuances and pauses and perceptions that make each distinct and tell . . .

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