[Translate to English:] Hair-thin wire contains the voices of Displaced Persons from 1946. Photo: Axel Doßmann

Questions to Displaced Persons: 1946 and Today

Activation on Thursday, April 29, 2021, 10.00 a.m.

In April 1945, photos and film recordings from the liberated concentration camps of piles of corpses and thousands of terminally ill people reached social psychologist David P. Boder in Chicago. What was missing for him, however, were the voices of the survivors. As quickly as possible, Boder wanted to interview the liberated about their personal experiences – and record their multilingual accounts. 

Finally, in the summer of 1946, David P. Boder traveled to Europe with a wire recorder and conducted interviews with over 100 Displaced Persons (DPs). The conversations, recorded on magnetized wire (photo), now constitute what is historically the first ever collection of audio interviews with survivors of the Shoah.

For the psychologist, the "DP stories" were many things at the same time: historical documentation, emphatic solidarity with uprooted people as well as the basis for language and trauma research and social reflection. But what do these testimonies mean to us today? And who still listens carefully to them in light of the many video interviews?

In the 75th year after Boder's research, Jena historians are establishing a digital forum for these interviews with a weblog. The blog "Questions to Displaced Persons: 1946 and Today" listens carefully to the interviews and discusses them from different perspectives. How did the DPs – Jewish and non-Jewish – talk about their families, about violence, forced labor, deportations, death and survival in ghettos and concentration camps only one year after their liberation? What did Boder want to know from them? What did the uprooted men and women expect from the future? And last but not least: How do we interpret these accounts of National Socialist violence and the Shoah today?

The participatory blog will start on April 29, 2021 with six contributions, new ones will be added regularly. The aim of the blog is to spark curiosity and initiate debates. By discussing research and educational approaches concerning Holocaust testimonies we want to foster methodological skills.
The editorial team invites everyone interested to contribute.  
Dr. Axel Doßmann, axel(dot)dossmann(at)uni-jena(dot)de
Lisa Schank, lisa(dot)schank(at)posteo(dot)de

Activation on Thursday, April 29, 2021, 10.00 a.m.

Weblog at the Chair of History in the Media and the Public Sphere at Friedrich Schiller University Jena, in cooperation with the Paul V. Galvin Library at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, and the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation, funded as a model project by the Federal Agency for Civic Education.