In Their Own Voices

Stefania Zezza



In 1946 David P. Boder, an American psychiatrist, interviewed more than one hundred displaced persons,
mostly survivors of the Holocaust. The interviews, taped with a wire recorder, are among the earliest oral testimonies to
be collected. Boder aimed at letting American public opinion know the impact of catastrophe which had happened in
Europe, focusing also on the emergency of the refugees, and to analyze the impact of deculturation on the survivors
through the analysis of their linguistic choices. Boder was not a historian nor he had a detailed knowledge on the
implementation of the Final Solution, which explains several misunderstandings in the interpretation and the translation
of the interviews. He aimed at recording the survivors’ accounts while the events were still fresh in their memory. In his
opinion the recording and analysis of the interviewees’ linguistic choices could help in identifying the effects of trauma,
or as he called it, the deculturation, on their psyche. This is the reason why, in the majority of cases, he let the
interviewees talk «not only in their own language, but in their own voices». Seven of the interviewees were Salonikan
Jews, who had been deported partly to Auschwitz, partly to Bergen Belsen. These interviews provide the opportunity to
seriously examine the dynamic of the transmission of memory, of the impact of trauma and of its relation with
language. At the same time, in particular, those with the Salonikans, allow a deeper understanding of the fate of a
Community, almost completely annihilated during the implementation of the Final Solution.


Interview, wire recorder, Holocaust, displaced persons, refugees, language, trauma, memory, deculturation, Final Solution, Salonika

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