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tv   Oral Histories  CSPAN  May 25, 2015 11:00am-11:11am EDT

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rescue his parents who all theultimately perished at the auschwitz interrogation camps. and he questioned hitler's driver, who described hitler's final days. first, leslie swift discusses the purposes of their collection. >> my name is leslie swift. i am the director of the sound branch at the museum. that's a newly formed branch since october of 2014. >> and what is the purpose of this branch? >> the branch is intended to collect similar types of media together. audio-visual types of media so recorded sound archival films and oral histories. >> how long have the histories been collected by the museum? >> we have been conducts oral histories on our own production since 1989, in preparation for
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the opening of the museum. and we've also been collecting oral histories from other sources, so not museum created industries from a somewhat later time. >> what was the motivation behind the oral history project? >> the oral history project came in to being with oral histories the purpose of the museum, which opened in 1993. so it was to tell personal stories of experience with the holocaust for -- for the museum visitor. >> how did you persuade people to recall such painful memories? >> it's -- it's a delicate issue. we have our volunteers and staff are trained in dealing with this this delicate sunt matter. some are more willing to talk than others. some people did not talk for many, many many years about
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their experiences but then later in life, when their family is asking them questions or historical trends within the larger culture came to realize that their stories were very important to be told. >> how did you go about identifying people that you would like to interview? >> we really -- there are so many people still to be interviewed. over the past years that usually people come to us. we then evaluate whether they have given an oral history before or we have several criteria that we go through and we conduct the oral history. >> what are your criteria? >> the cryiteria is whether they have been intervieweded before by a large organization. also whether they have direct memories for the period. so ma means they weren't 6 months old and were later told about the events but they experienceded the events themselves. >> the interviews that you
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conduct, is there a certain approach that you use? do you start early in in an individual's life, or do you pick up at the time of the host holocaust? >> the technique can vary. our trained staff, many of them like to do a whole story. a whole life story. meaning, were your parents religious? when were you born? did you live with your immediate family? what was your community like before the holocaust happened? and going up to the current period with a focus of course, on the holocaust period. there are other types of techniques that just focus on the holocaust itself. but in general we do try to get a larger context in the story. >> how long do most of your interviews range? >> they range a great deal. they can be an hour or even a little bit less than an hour to several hours long. >> and once you have the interviews, what happens to them
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at the museum? where are they stored who has access to them? >> on this day and age we are very active in digitalizing all of our interviews so we have digital companies and master reference copies for people to look at. so we still have a lot of tapes that are stored offsite at the offsite storage facility. all the interviews we are conducting now are in digital format sochlt they come to the museum. they're quality checked. they're cataloged into our cataloging system and then barring any legal restrictions or donor imposed restrictions we make them available online to the public. >> and who has access? do journalists and scholars have access as well as the public? >> anyone who has internet access has access to the collection. it's not entirely digitized but we are making great strides every day to put as much as possible online. that is really one of our -- collecting the material is very
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important, but so is the accessibility part of it. >> and along the way have there been any particular revelations or surprises or unexpected stories that you've collected? >> there have been many many unexpected, interesting stories and i will say that we are continuing to conduct interviews to this day that have new and unexplored areas of interest. what i find interesting in the general picture is the way that the type of experience that we collect has changed over time. we have, of course and we still do collect the experiences of holocaust survivors, people who were in camps, people who fled before the war, people who resisted or rescuers or that type of thing. we also collect stories for the
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beraters. and a great number from people who were witnesses or even perpetrators of the crimes at the time. so the the type of material that we have collected, the type of experience has really changed with holocaust historiography as well as with, for example we have a temporary exhibition at the museum on collaboration and complicity. so we have a number of really interesting interviews from that perspective. the lived history of people who were not persecuted but were witnesses to persecution or participated in persecution. >> what type of interviews are from persecutors? >> well, it would be nazi or nazi collaborators. that's a very small number as you can imagine. people are not generally eager to discuss the crimes they
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committed during the war. we do have a few. one of which is on display in the temporary exhibition right now. >> and evolution of how the holocaust is studied that you mentioned earlier, how would you describe the emphasis of study now, and how is that driving the kinds of stories that you're looking for in addition to the exhibit that you mentioned? >> well we're very interested in stories, that makes us somewhat unique, well definitely unique in stories of other persecuted groups. of course, we studied the history of how jews were persecuted. but also pols, also other persecuted groups. roma, for instance. we also as i mentioned, are very interested in the other experiences of people not directly persecuted but what they were doing when this was
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happening. were they herplping their neighbors or taking their neighbors things? or is it a combination? >> what is the experience like for the survivors by and large, would you say? is it a ka thardthardic experience for them? >> i think it can be. it runs a wide range of emotions, as you would expect. some people told their stories over and over again. they have made it a point to go into schools, to give speeches where they discuss their experiences. for some, this is the the first time they're really opening up about it. and it's a very delicate area for most people. as it would be with such a traumatic event. >> the museum has a series called first person i believe. are the speakers primarily survivors and primarily people who have already given you an oral history.
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>> yes. they are our survivor volunteers and all of them have provided as cell. >> you think oral histories overall have enhanced the understanding of what happened during the holocaust? >> i think oral testimony in general can act as a really powerful complimentary and complicating factor or perspective to more traditional primary sources. such as official documents or diaries or letters from the period. i think historians in the past have been hesitant or wary of using testimony as a primary source. i think that has changed a lot over the years, and that historians are realizing the incredible value and utility of this lived history. it may not be -- it may cotra contradict the narrative, but it
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certainly complicates it and adds layers to it. >> leslie swift, thank you very much. >> thank you. my name is kurt klein. i was born on july 2nd 1920, in a town called waldorf which is very close to hidenberg, in germany. >> tell me about your parents and your family. >> well i glue up in the post world war i era, and of course, those were really difficult times, and my parents were struggling to get along during the economic chaos that existed during those times. you may remember there was this very serious inflation i mean,


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