Persons Persecuted by the Nazis Giving Testimony

Sources, Contexts, Interpretations

Numerous Jewish and non-Jewish victims of Nazi persecution perceived court trials of perpetrators of the National Socialist crimes as a possibility for them to openly name deeds and those responsible, discussing their own personal experiences and remembering the victims. The criminal investigations and legal proceedings carried out in Europe and Israel thus generated a huge virtually incalculable quantity of statements and reports by survivors. The status and value of this material have long been an object of differential assessment.

The planned inter-disciplinary workshop will explore to what extent the statements by such »victim witnesses« can broaden and deepen our knowledge about National Socialism and the forms of speaking and remembering of victims of persecution in the decades after WW II and diverse communities of memory. Requisite for this is the need to discuss methodological approaches, hypotheses and questions.

First, it appears of importance to take seriously the legal criminal cases and their proceedings as a space of genesis of the witness statements, and thus also to examine the juridical setting as a locus for the shared choice of discourse about the Holocaust by witnesses, lawyers and prosecutors. Second, it is necessary to ask: what use is actually being made of this testimony? What approaches to interpretation exist? To what degree can they help us to answer relevant questions regarding the history of the persecution and postwar history? Third, of interest are the connections between testimony from the legal-juridical context and other forms of witness testimony about the Holocaust. This also entails another question: did the specific requirements and demands of legal testimony leave traces in other forms of speaking about the Holocaust?

26th June 2017
Dubnow Institute

Welcoming Address and Introduction: Dagi Knellessen (Leipzig) & Katharina Stengel

(Leipzig/Frankfurt a. M.)

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)