Consistency and change in the repeated narratives of Holocaust survivors
In this article, we study the oral history interviews of eight survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau. We give a detailed analysis of a central narrative in their life story, the “selection narrative,” the experience of being forcibly separated from family into groups for labor or death, as it is told in the late 1970s-to-early 1980s and again in the 1990s. We study patterns of structure and variation in the referential aspects of narrative, how narratives recapitulate past actions, and the evaluative aspects of narrative, how narratives are interpreted. Our analysis of these eight sets of repeated narratives focuses on four processes that help structure consistent accounts over time: the past, previous tellings, culture and the interview situation. In each set of repeated narratives, the selection narrative maintains significant portions of the complicating action and evaluations over time. At the same time, various changes are evident that alter the style or interpretation of the narrative. In other words, changes were, in large measure, observed in “how” or “why” the narrative was told but not in “what” was recounted. Our data suggests that despite changes in context, critical aspects of our identities endure over long periods of time.
Keywords: Holocaust survivors, Change, Remembering, Consistency, Identity
Published online: 15 December 2006
Cited by other publications
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