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The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) organises academic events in order to provide the broader public as well as an expert audience with regular insights into the most recent research results in the fields of Holocaust, genocide, and racism research. These events, some of which extend beyond academia in the stricter sense, take on different formats ranging from small lectures to the larger Simon Wiesenthal Lectures and from workshops addressing an expert audience to larger international conferences and the Simon Wiesenthal Conferences. This reflects the institute’s wide range of activities.

 

The range of events further extends to the presentation of selected new publications on the institute’s topics of interest, interventions in the public space, the film series VWI Visuals, and the fellows’ expert colloquia.

 

 

Workshop
What are Interviews About the Shoah Telling us Beside Hard ‘Facts’
   

Wednesday, 30. October 2019, 15:00 - 18:00

Vienna Wiesenthal Institute, Research Lounge 1010 Vienna, Rabensteig 3, 3rd Floor

 


A Workshop with Selma Leydesdorff

Selma Leydesdorff is professor emerita of oral history and culture in Amsterdam. Her career is part of the transformation of oral history from mostly a fact-finding method to research on the ways memories are framed and modified over time. Publishing books and editing volumes that have shaped oral history is the main thread running through her academic career. As an editor, she has been co-responsible since 2001 for the publication of many volumes, the themes of which are totalitarianism, subjectivity, trauma, and the transmission of stories. She is an expert on Jewish working-class history. She teaches an annual PhD course on oral history that is attended by doctoral students and postdocs from many countries. Over the past fifteen years, she has interviewed on life in concentration camps and recorded interviews with survivors of Auschwitz and Mauthausen participating in international projects. In 2002, she started a project with survivors of Srebrenica, which brought her major international attention as an oral historian of trauma. The book detailing the Srebrenica story was published first in Dutch, then in Bosnian, and finally in English translation. Since 2008, she has recorded life stories surrounding the trial of John Demjanjuk in Munich, including survivors of Sobibor and co-plaintiffs in the trial. In 2015, she started to collaborate on refugee stories together with ‘unknown singular’, a project that involves refugees in creating life narratives. The project will be continued as an effort to connect various local archives and the creation of connections in databases. In 2017, she published a biography of Aleksandr (Sasha) Pechersky, the leader of the Sobibor Uprising, who fell victim to the antisemitic Stalinist purges after his return to his hometown Rostov-on-Don. She has been using material from archives all over the world and has travelled to meet people who knew about his history. Selma Leydesdorff is a public speaker on the Shoah, Jewish history, trauma and memory, and on oral history.

The Workshop

PecherskyDuring the workshop, we will try to answer the question concerning the knowledge we create by interviewing. Traditionally, historians look for facts, and since the discipline of history is influenced by testimony in court, people want proof of stories. Let us analyse what happens during an interview (Portelli) and how people talk about the Shoah while trying to avoid addressing it directly. How can patience and the creation of a life story create new stories that speak to us and tell in a different way? During the workshop, we will discuss interview fragments of the project The Long Shadow of Sobibor with survivors of Sobibor and the co-plaintiffs at the Demjanjuk trial. This material has been used for the book on the leader of the uprising of 1943: Sasha Pechersky, Holocaust Hero, Sobibor Resistance Leader and Hostage of History (Routledge 2017).

Please register at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by latest Friday, 25 October, 6.00 pm and bring your ID. Material that will be discussed will be sent to you upon registration.

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The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) is funded by:

 

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