The Value of Testimony for Elderly Survivors of Holocaust Trauma: Implications for Testifying in Later Life

By Pamela Griffiths.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

A worldwide escalation in collecting Holocaust testimony from elderly survivors since the mid-nineties has neglected the effect of the testifying experience on the testifiers. This research explores their experience. The testifiers may not previously have spoken of their traumatic past prior to giving testimony. Ten Holocaust survivors were interviewed, usually in their homes, to understand and illuminate this experience. All were refugees to the UK and most had been in concentration camps. Using a qualitative methodology, case studies were developed for each participant. Further contextual data was collected from attendance at events such as book launches, documentary films and Holocaust exhibitions. Findings included testifiers’ frequent need for ongoing support post-testimony. A discrepancy between the public and personal dimensions of testimony was apparent. Although considerable value was identified from the experience, adverse aspects were evident too comprising changed relationships with family and friends, as well as post-testimony fatigue. Testifiers found support in the “community of testifiers,” however this could be an abstract concept. To cope with the earlier years of silence the survivors had used specific strategies. Potential training needs for archive interviewers were noted as well as implications for researchers in this field.

Keywords: Holocaust Survivors, Value of Testimony, Traumatic Experience, Refugees, Qualitative Research, Holocaust Testimony, Later Life

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.95-105. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 301.265KB).

Dr. Pamela Griffiths

Lecturer, School of Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University, London, London, UK

Pamela Griffiths is a physiotherapist and psychotherapist who is a lecturer on the MSc Health Promotion and Public Health at Brunel University, UK. She has worked clinically in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and the USA, and carried out research with refugees in the eastern Mediterranean. Her PhD was carried out at the University of London and the Tavistock Centre exploring the experience of elderly survivors giving Holocaust testimony in later life. Pamela also works as a psychotherapist in London and is trained as a retreat guide. She is a member of the Brunel Institute for Ageing Studies (BIAS) and supervises postgraduate research projects. Her recent interests include enhancing appreciation of the multi-levels of the research encounter.