The Continuation of Trauma through Transcribing: Generational Survivors and the Inability for a 'Post-Holocaust'
University of Texas at Dallas, United States of America
Historians use the term ‘post-Holocaust’ to indicate the period from 1945 onward; however, for survivors of the Holocaust and their families, the Holocaust did not end in 1945. In fact, for some, it was just the beginning of their struggles. In order for historians to have a clearer understanding of the trauma survivors have endured, we must approach time differently. Trauma does not operate on a timeline and thereby our understanding of ‘before,’ ‘during,’ and ‘after’ are flawed. In order to convey this flaw, this study will examine memoirs of second and third generation survivors and of a child survivor. Within the second and third generation group, there are two types of generational memoirs that are scrutinized for this case study. The first being when a child or grandchild records the stories of their parent(s) or grandparent(s) without any of the second or third generation’s story implicitly written. ‘Implicitly’ is used in the context that it is impossible for any writer to not impose at least some stylistic portion of themselves into writing, but the intent was to focus on the parent or grandparent. The other type of memoir is when they write their parent(s) or grandparent(s) story intertwined with their own story. Additionally, the child survivor has a unique role in memory and trauma studies. Much like later generations who write about the Holocaust, but have not experienced the trauma firsthand, the child survivor must write about what they lived through and experienced, but cannot remember without the assistance of research or other survivors. This study shows that survivors continue to demonstrate trauma related paranoia. It is through these findings that it becomes evident that historians must learn to study trauma without placing strict timelines that prevent understanding of how trauma impacts those who have experienced complex-trauma.
Teaching with Audio-Visual Testimonies of Survivors and Witness to Genocide
USC Shoah Foundation, United States of America
USC Shoah Foundation — The Institute for Visual History and Education is dedicated to making
audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides a compelling voice for education and action. The Institute currently has 55,000 testimonies in 40 languages, recorded in 63 countries, contained within its Visual History Archive, making it one of the largest digital collections of its kind in the world.
In this innovative and interactive presentation, a USC Shoah Foundation representative will
discuss and demonstrate how the Institute strives to share the insights within its vast collection
by making them accessible to educators and students across the world in the 21st century.
Testimony-based education intervenes in the cycle that leads from hatred to genocide.
IWitness, USC Shoah Foundation’s free educational website offers practical digital tools and
multimedia testimony-based resources for primary, secondary and higher education classrooms.
The variety of resources available on the platform are designed based on the constructivist
pedagogical framework as well as critical race theory. This approach allows the Institute to
actualize its Theory of Change.
The Institute's Theory of Change asserts if students and educators work with testimony they will
experience attitudinal and behavioral changes that will make them more likely to contribute to
civil society. Through their engagement with stories that tell of the consequences of hate,
discrimination, violence, resilience and hope among other universal themes, students will
understand the value of testimony, gain knowledge, expand their critical thinking and develop
empathy. These aptitudes will shape responsible choices that reflect a refusal to tolerate racist
ideas of prejudicial treatment, and a willingness to counter attitudes and acts of hatred.
Survivor Memoirs – A Multi-faceted Source, A Less-employed Field of Inquiry for Genocide Studies
UCLA, United States of America
For many decades now, since the study of the Armenian Genocide found its way in academia, the domain was mainly limited to the study of archival materials. Artistic representations of the Genocide were appreciated as poetic responses but dismissed as historiographical sources. Regarding survivor memoirs, there was a total rejection of the notion that they can introduce an effective and valid field of inquiry beyond that “scientific” domain. Historians argued that the memoirist, especially writing years after the event, adopts an individualistic approach, “exaggerates and beautifies,” presents the imagined truth, and writes down what his or her “fading” memory can serve.
Having always argued for the validity of this literary genre, I will present its contribution to genocide studies as records of everlasting and indelible iconic images (Charles M. Anderson and Marian M. McCurdy) in survivor’s mind that can light a dark corner in the history of the Armenian Genocide (“I remember everything so clearly as if it happened yesterday…” Yervand Kyureghian asserts). These memoirs as well as diaries kept during the event, are living history with a power, more than documents and statistics (Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi), to touch people, to transmit knowledge and information (Thomas Hammarberg), to promote empathy and break down intolerance, hatred, and prejudice.
Holocaust scholarship has long acknowledged the effectiveness of memoirs and their role in the Jewish collective consciousness. In another part of the world, in response to Stalinist terror, the “Memorial” movement was launched to collect and register the memoirs of Stalin’s GULAG, as the only source of social life in the USSR to counter Soviet State historiography.
With the perpetrators’ denial and the disappearing of survivors, memoirs and recorded oral testimonies carry the burden of proclaiming the truth, as Bertha Nakashian proclaims in her memoir, “I was there…I was a witness.”
Perpetrators of sexual violence during the Bosnian Genocide and the Holocaust
Clark University, United States of America
Sexual violence as a weapon of war has drawn scholarly attention since the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia, and so has sexual violence during the Holocaust, although Nazi Germany discouraged it and prohibited sexual relations between Germans and the Jews. My paper zeroes in on the Bosnian genocide and the Holocaust. Based on testimonies and secondary sources, I will examine how the profiles of the perpetrators (consistent or variant) affected the overall vulnerability of the survivors and their willingness to testify about their experiences. Bosniak women were sexually assaulted in a systematic way; their perpetrators were almost always members of the Serbian police, military or paramilitary units, and in most cases, the victims knew the perpetrators as their neighbors, co-workers or townspeople. Due to this proximity the victims and their families often left the area permanently out of shame and humiliation. By contrast, Jewish women during the Holocaust encountered profiles of perpetrators of sexual violence that were variant, ranging from Nazi men and women, collaborators, men in hiding, partisans, other Jewish men (in ghettos and camps), and even the liberators (Russian in particular). I argue that the degree of variance in perpetrators’ profiles influenced whether the survivors of sexual violence perceived the assaults as primarily “political” (ethnic) or “gendered.” Bosniak women tended to perceive their assaults as “political,” concluding that they were targeted as Bosniaks. Survivors of sexual violence during the Holocaust, by contrast, viewed themselves as victims of “gendered” assaults, due to the variance in both ethnic and military status of their perpetrators. These different perceptions were tied to how the assaulted women negotiated their social identities, engaged in self-blame, feelings of shame, and whether they were willing to talk about their experiences.