The Wonder of Their Voices: The 1946 Holocaust Interviews of David Boder

Overview

Over the last several decades, video testimony with aging Holocaust survivors has brought these witnesses into the limelight. Yet the success of these projects has made it seem that little survivor testimony took place in earlier years. In truth, thousands of survivors began to recount their experience at the earliest opportunity. This book provides the first full-length case study of early postwar Holocaust testimony, focusing on David Boder's 1946 displaced persons interview project. In July 1946, Boder, a ...

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The Wonder of Their Voices: The 1946 Holocaust Interviews of David Boder

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Overview

Over the last several decades, video testimony with aging Holocaust survivors has brought these witnesses into the limelight. Yet the success of these projects has made it seem that little survivor testimony took place in earlier years. In truth, thousands of survivors began to recount their experience at the earliest opportunity. This book provides the first full-length case study of early postwar Holocaust testimony, focusing on David Boder's 1946 displaced persons interview project. In July 1946, Boder, a psychologist, traveled to Europe to interview victims of the Holocaust who were in the Displaced Persons (DP) camps and what he called "shelter houses." During his nine weeks in Europe, Boder carried out approximately 130 interviews in nine languages and recorded them on a wire recorder.
Likely the earliest audio recorded testimony of Holocaust survivors, the interviews are valuable today for the spoken word (that of the DP narrators and of Boder himself) and also for the song sessions and religious services that Boder recorded. Eighty sessions were eventually transcribed into English, most of which were included in a self-published manuscript. Alan Rosen sets Boder's project in the context of the postwar response to displaced persons, sketches the dramatic background of his previous life and work, chronicles in detail the evolving process of interviewing both Jewish and non-Jewish DPs, and examines from several angles the implications for the history of Holocaust testimony.
Such early postwar testimony, Rosen avers, deserves to be taken on its own terms rather than to be enfolded into earlier or later schemas of testimony. Moreover, Boder's efforts and the support he was given for them demonstrate that American postwar response to the Holocaust was not universally indifferent but rather often engaged, concerned, and resourceful.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Alan Rosen has written an important and masterful study that will be indispensable reading for anyone with a serious interest in oral history, Holocaust testimony, and the human encounter with trauma and disaster." —Biography

"The Wonder of Their Voices is a beautifully written, thought-provoking account of the interview project. It will be relevant both to courses on oral history and also to courses dedicated to Holocaust testimony." —The Year's Work in Critical & Cultural Theory

"In this carefully nuanced study, Alan Rosen gives [David] Boder's pioneering work the attention it deserves...Rosen s book significantly enriches and complicates our understanding of postwar responses to the Holocaust by bringing to life an era in which psychologists, anthropologists, and historians all struggled to figure out just what to do with such testimonies." —Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

"Nothing seems more important and meaningful to survivors than to share their experiences. In this volume, the reader will find memories that will enrich his or her understanding of an era filled with pain and anguish." -Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize-winning author of Night

"As the great ethnographer S. An-ski restored the lost lore of the East European shtetl, and as the martyred historian Emanuel Ringelblum documented the life and death of the Warsaw ghetto, David Boder rescued the living voices of the witnesses to the Holocaust. Thanks to his unique position as an insider-outsider, as an American in Paris, he alone understood how to capture their story before it was stifled or went stale. Through his meticulously told story, Alan Rosen has secured a permanent place for David Boder in the gallery of heroic and visionary fieldworkers." - David G. Roskies, Jewish Theological Seminary

"Alan Rosen has done us all a favor. Most voices are lost to history. In writing The Wonder of Their Voices Rosen introduces us to David Boder and his pioneering work that joined the technology of voice recording with the experience of trauma. Rosen's research is thorough and illuminating and adds a new and important chapter to the social history of the mid-twentieth century." -David B. Baker, Archives of the History of American Psychology

"In his skilfully written book, Alan Rosen provides the first in-depth study of the earliest voice recordings collected in 1946, many from Holocaust survivors, and of the man behind this unique project. An essential study for anyone who wants to understand what the Holocaust meant for the victims and how their early voices resonated."—Jürgen Matthäus, director of Applied Research, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

"[An] insightful analysis." —Journal of American History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199945078
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2012
  • Series: Oxford Oral History Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Rosen teaches Holocaust literature at the International School for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem, Israel. His previous books include Sounds of Defiance: The Holocaust, Multilingualism, and the Problem of English and Dislocating the End: Climax, Closure and the Invention of Genre.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations
Preface
Introduction: Boder's Happy Idea
Chapter 1: I Could Not Help But Wonder: On Boder's Biography and the Idea of Testimony
Chapter 2: Summer, 1946: The European Expedition and the Ethnography of Testimony
Chapter 3: Summer, 1946 Part II: The Expansion of Testimony
Chapter 4: From Listening to Reading: Publishing the Interviews
Chapter 5: The Wonder of Their Voices: Testimony, Technology and Wire Recorded Narratives
Chapter 6: Making a Study of These Things: Boder's Interviews in the Context of Psychology
Chapter 7: In Divergent Tongues and Dialects: Multilingual Interviews and Literary Experiments
Epilogue: Rewriting the History of Holocaust Testimony
Appendix I Lists of Interviews
Appendix II The Disputed Number of Interviews
Appendix III Topical Autobiographies Table of Contents
Bibliographic Note
Notes
Index

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