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