Immediately following the end of the Second World War, many survivors of the Holocaust found their experiences too horrifying to discuss, but in 1946 David P. Boder, an American psychologist, worked to break through this silence. He interviewed 109 victims of the Holocaust in displaced persons camps in France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, documenting their stories on the newly invented magnetic wire recorder just months after the war’s end.
While Boder could not find an audience for these interviews at the time, managing to publish only eight of them in 1949, Donald Niewyk has found an audience fifty years later, bringing thirty-six of these first-hand accounts to the world in Fresh Wounds: Early Narratives of Holocaust Survival. Working from Boder’s original recorded interviews and transcripts, Niewyk has selected these accounts for their impact and re-edited them for clarity and coherence.
In his introduction, Niewyk describes Boder’s project and reviews the history of the Holocaust, placing the interviews in historical context. He also provides background to each individual’s story, but these words are brief. He readily gives way to the survivors’ own words as they struggle to describe the indescribable. Fourteen women and twenty-two men from Poland, Lithuania, Germany, France, Slovakia, and Hungary tell of terrifying round-ups and deportations, the deprivations of ghetto life, torturous forced labor, brutal camp conditions, desperate acts of resistance, and heartless executions, all with the spontaneity and immediacy of recent memory. They are accounts of great significance and authenticity, particularly striking now as we rush to record the stories of the dwindling generation of survivors.
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