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Remembering the Holocaust: The David P. Boder Collection

[Holocaust Museum glass wall with names of Holocaust victims, Washington, D.C.]

Carol Highsmith. [Holocaust Museum glass wall with names of Holocaust victims, Washington, D.C.]. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day—to honor the millions of victims of the Holocaust and Nazism, to promote educational programs and events, and to prevent further genocide. The resolution, passed in 2005 by the United Nations General Assembly, condemns religious persecution and intolerance, rejects all forms of Holocaust denial, and encourages UN member states to commemorate and renew commitments to end humanitarian injustices worldwide.

January 27 is also the day in 1945 that Auschwitz, a major concentration camp located in German-occupied Poland, was liberated by the Soviet Union.

Beyond the many news broadcasts related to World War II subjects in the NBC Radio Collection and other radio news collections, the Recorded Sound Section also holds a fascinating and important set of interviews with Holocaust survivors conducted by David Boder, a Russian Jewish immigrant to the US who was a psychologist and professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Boder traveled to Europe in July 1946 and over the course of the next several months recorded 130 interviews with displaced persons throughout France, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany. Boder conducted the interviews in nine different languages and recorded a great variety of experiences, including those of children and teenagers, as well as the stories of non-Jewish displaced persons. In total, he recorded over ninety hours of audio on two hundred magnetic wire spools.

Wall of Remembrance at the U.S. National Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C.

Carol Highsmith. Wall of Remembrance at the U.S. National Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Boder’s interviews provide us with one of the earliest records of the experiences of Holocaust survivors and result both from his professional interest in the psychological effects of serious trauma as well as from his conviction that the American public should have a better understanding of what happened to victims of the Holocaust and displaced persons throughout Europe.

In his lifetime, Boder transcribed, translated into English, and self-published seventy of the interviews. The University of Illinois Press published eight of the interviews in 1949 in a volume titled I Did Not Interview the Dead. By 2009, the Illinois Institute of Technology was able to transcribe and translate all of the interviews, as well as to create original-language transcripts for the seventy completed by Boder.

The recordings and can be found in the Online Catalog and listened to in the Recorded Sound Research Center, and are also available with transcripts on the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Voices of the Holocaust website.

For more information on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, see the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia. Read more about David Boder and the Displaced Persons Interview Project on Voices of the Holocaust and in Alan Rosen’s The Wonder of Their Voices: The 1946 Holocaust Interviews of David Boder (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

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