Project Notes from Regine Beyer
In 1995, when I got word that the staff of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Department of Oral History was looking for radio producers willing to conduct taped interviews on the experience of Holocaust survivors and their lives after the War, I did not hesitate to apply. For me as a post-war generation German, born and raised in Berlin, it presented itself as a rare opportunity: in Germany, I had done much to enlarge my knowledge about the War and the Holocaust, and the socio-political circumstances that made both possible. Yet I had never met and spoken with Jewish people before. And I'd never before seen a chance to help preserve the memories and stories of some of those who had survived and managed to rebuild their lives.
For many, many subsequent hours I listened and I learned. About the tremendously varied experiences of "survivors", for instance, and that human beings cannot be reduced to one period of their lives, even though it might have been the determining one. About the strength of mind and spirit in sometimes frail bodies. About forgiveness, and not being able to forgive. About mutual sympathy and respect despite age and cultural differences.
Some of what I learned influenced my criteria for choosing the five people presented in the audio programs. In dialogue with my colleague and friend Arwen Donahue, I looked for varied prewar backgrounds, War experiences and post-War lives. Kept an eye on gender parity. Looked for people who tell their stories well (without sounding "professional"
in any way). People who make us LISTEN once again and perhaps provide a different view on aspects of the overall story we have taken for granted.
The people whose stories can be heard on this website are human beings who made a great impression on my life and whom I will never forget.