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tv   Oral Histories  CSPAN  September 5, 2015 5:00am-5:10am EDT

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u.s. after that, mayer adler talks about his time in auschwitz. 70 years ago, allied forces liberated the nazi concentration camps. tonight on american history tv we will hear holocaust of those who lived them. this is the united states holocaust memorial museum in washington, d.c. in about 10 minutes, kurt clein recalls the rise of nazi persecution of the jews, his escape to the u.s. and family's efforts to rescue his parents who ultimately perished. kurt klein died at the age of 81. he describes how as an interrogat interrogator, he questioned hitler's driver who described hitler's final days. first, leslie swift from the
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holocaust museum discusses the origins and purposes of their oral history collection. >> my name is leslie swift, and i am the chief of the film oral history and rounded sound branch here at the museum. that's a newly formed -- or nully amalgamated branch. >> what is the purpose of this branch? >> the branch is intended to collect similar types of media together. audiovisual types of media. so recorded sound, archival film and of course oral histories. >> how long have oral histories been collected by the museum? >> we have been conducting oral histories on our own productions since 1989 in preparation of the opening for the museum. and we have also been collecting oral histories from other sources. so not museum created oral histories from a somewhat later
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time. >> what was the motivation behind the oral history project? >> the oral history project came into being to illustrate with oral histories the permanent exhibition of the museum, which opened in 1993. so it is was to tell personal stories of experiences with the holocaust for the museum visitor. >> how did you persuade people to recall such painful memories. >> it's a delicate issues. our volunteers and staff are trained in dealing with this delicate subject matter. some people are more willing to talk than others. some people did not talk for many, many years. but later in life, whether their family asked 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 finding
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people you would like to interview? >> there really are so many people still to be interviewed or have been the past years. usually people come to us. we evaluate whether they have given an oral history before. we have several criteria and then conduct the oral history. >> what is the criteria? >> whether they have direct memories from the period. that means they weren't six months old and later told about the events but they experienced the events themselves. >> the interviews that you conduct, is there a certain approach that you use? do you start early in an individual's life, orpik up on the holocaust?
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>> many of them like to do a whole story, whole life story, meaning where your parents religious, when were you born, did you live with your family, what was your community like before the holocaust happened and going to the current period with the focus on the holocaust period. some focus on just the holocaust itself. 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 at the museum? where are they stored? who has access to them? >> in this day in age, we are very active on digitizing our interviews so we have master
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copies and reference copies for people to look at. we still have a lot of tapes that are stored off site at our storage facility. all the interviews we are currently conducting now are in digital format. they come to the museum. they're quality checked, clogged into our cataloging system. barring any restrictions we make them available online to the public. >> and who has access? do journalists and khrorls have access as well as the public? >> anyone with internet access has access to the system. it is not entirely digitized but we are making strides every day. collecting the material is is very important but so is the accessibility part of it. >> and along the way, have there been any particular revelations or surprises or unexpected stories you have collected? >> there have been many, many
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unexpected interesting stories. and i will say we are continue to go conduct interviews to this day. what i find interesting in the general picture is the way that the type of experience we collect. people who were in camps, people who fled before the war, people who resisted or rescuers, that type of thing. but we also collect stories from liberators. and we collect a great number of witnesses or perpetrators of the crimes at the time. so the type of material and experience has really changed
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with holocaust historiography. as well as we have a temporary exhibition 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 even were participants in persecution. >> what percentage of your information are from persecutors in would they be nazis? >> yes. nazis or nazi collaborators. people are not generally eager to discuss the crimes that they committed during the war. but we do have a few, one of which is on display in the temporary exhibition right now. >> and the evolution of how the
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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 are very interested in stories which makes us somehow unique in -- well, definitely unique in stories of other persecuted groups. of course we studied the history of how jews were persecuted. also poles, gentlemen hoe va's witnesses, other persecuted groups. roma, for instance. we also mentioned very interested in the other experiences of people who were not directly persecuted but what they were doing when this was happening. were they helping their neighbors, or were they taking their neighbor's things? or was it a combination because of course human nature is very complicated. >> what is the experience like for the survivors by and large, would you say?
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is it a cathartic experience for them? >> i think it can be. it runs a wide gamut of emotions and reactions, as you would expect. some people have told their stories over and 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 first time that they are really opening up about it. and it's a very delicate area for most people, as it would be with such a dramatic event. >> are the speakers primarily survivors and are they primarily people who have already given an oral history? >> yes. they are survivor volunteers and all have provided oral history to the museum as well. >> how do you think the oral histories overall have enhanced our understanding

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