Home Institution

Emory University

Publication Date

Fall 2010

Program Name

Argentina: Social Movements and Human Rights

Abstract

After World War II ended and Nazi’s prisoners were released from concentration camps, labor camps, and ghettos, many refugees immigrated to Argentina, either to live with a relative who had emigrated before the war or because the language was similar, or because life was easier there, among other reasons. Today there are around 800 Holocaust survivors living in Argentina, 450 of them just in Buenos Aires. Despite the efforts of the testimonial project done by Steven Spielberg and the Shoah Visual History Foundation to record oral histories of survivors around the world, including many in Argentina, there is still a lot of work to be done. Many survivors are reaching the final stage of their lives and have yet to record their testimony. More recently, the Holocaust Museum of Washington D.C. has made the initial efforts to conduct an oral history project in Argentina with a representative list of survivors; however, due to lack of funding, the project has not taken off, and already three of the survivors on the list have passed away. Inspired by these efforts, this project aims to understand the importance of testimony to both the survivors and society. Through interviews with six survivors, as well as observations of the organizations that work with survivors and interviews with three professionals, it is clear that the motivation driving some survivors to give their testimony includes: fighting to avoid future genocides; avoiding societal indifference; fighting for human rights; fulfilling the Jewish obligation to teach your children; and several more. Theoretical research then reveals that the contribution of testimony to the historical record of the Holocaust is a widely debated issue, calling into question the validity of testimony as a historical source. The paper concludes with the idea that testimony contributes both to the historical record and to the formation of collective Memory about the Holocaust, but in a limited manner. Testimony should not be seen as the only source for historical truth; yet it is makes a valuable and unique contribution to the way we think about and reflect upon the Holocaust.

Disciplines

History | Inequality and Stratification | Jewish Studies

 

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