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An interview with the Visual History Foundation
The July Rally
The Shoah Visual History Foundation is approaching the end of its 3-year period of interviews and one of its recent interviewees was my mother. When I visited her last December, I had suggested she might like to volunteer for this. Her first reaction was "Oh no, I've already done plenty; I've spoken to schoolchildren in Germany, I've written a book about it. That's enough." However, a few days later she changed her mind because she thought that the Foundation's aim was important: to collect first-hand evidence of that period and to have the evidence on the record and accessible.
A fortnight before the recorded interview, she was visited by the interviewer, an ex-TV producer, himself a child of east European refugees. This visit gave him the background to prepare the interview, tell the interviewee what to expect, and to ask her to gather relevant photos and documents. The actual interview was on a Sunday as that was convenient for everybody including myself, who would appear in the last few minutes. For most of the interview only my mother, the interviewer and the cameraman were in the house; this is the practice for these occasions, to minimise any psychological effects that the presence of other people might have (the phone was also taken off the hook). I was at my sister's house a few streets away.
The interview was conducted in several sessions of about half an hour each, with breaks in between. Only open questions were put, to avoid suggesting what the replies should be. The story that my mother told was, in effect the same as in her book "The Poison Seed", though I hope she added some further memories, impressions and details. In the last few minutes my mother introduced my sister, her husband and me, and we answered a couple of questions like "Would you like to say a few words?" and "Why do you think this is important?".
The Foundation's policy is that everything recorded in these sessions will be put into the archives unedited; editing would run the risk of introducing bias, or of being accused of it by other parties. I still haven't seen the interview itself - I'll have to wait for the videotape for that, which will be sent from California about three months after the interview.
In case you haven't hear of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, here is a little introductory information. It was founded in 1994 by film director Steven Spielberg and its aim is to videotape eye-witness accounts of the Holocaust and to develop the largest multimedia archive of survivor testimonies ever assembled. Its first major activity, the taping of the interviews, will end in June 1998 after three years and over 40,000 interviews in over twenty languages. Some of the survivor interviews are with non-Jewish people such as Gypsies and Jehovah's Witnesses. The next phase will include digitising the recordings and examining them to build an index of keywords including place names, people's names, events and other topics. The archive will initially be made available to repositories in the USA and Israel and later to others around the world, with the originals kept in Los Angeles.Oliver Walter
How many lions & butterflies do you think there are in Radlett? Where might your dreams come true in Borehamwood? A few of us now know all this, having enjoyed the rally organised by Adrian & Judy. We assembled as red and blue teams in Mill Hill to be given our clues & starting questions. The clues led us through the leafy green lanes of Hertfordshire on our teasure hunt. We ended in social mood in Judy's house, with a buffet, chat and a walk.
Who would like to organise the rally next year? Adrian and Judy can give advice.
(P.S. Yes, we found lions and butterflies)
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This edit 01jan2004
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