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Comparative Study on Mauthausen Interviews

Working on a project of the Vienna-based Ludwig Boltzmann institute for Historical Sociology, historian Alexander Prenninger retraced persecution routes at the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS) for a week. His pertinent findings will become part of a comparative study on oral memory reports delivered by survivors of Concentration Camp Mauthausen. “I have come across plenty of information”, said the Austrian researcher.

The project “Surviving and remembering Mauthausen” concerns a comparative historical-sociological analysis of memory narratives supplied by former inmates of Concentration Camp Mauthausen. Substantiating his research by 860 audio and video interviews made with survivors of the camp complex from 2001 to 2003 under the “Mauthausen Survivors Research Project”, Prenninger analyses in particular the individual lives of the survivors and their ways of remembering and relating events. “Whereas some of the former inmates accurately have in mind every date and even their prisoner number, others tend to recall and relate personal experience, emotion and perception“, said Prenninger.

Preparing for his research at the ITS archives, the historian brought along the names of 200 survivors. “I was able to find documents on almost all the names I have. Their persecution routes can be researched in Bad Arolsen fairly well, as the material of various camps, prisons and ghettos is assembled here in a quasi focal point”, reflects Prenninger. “And on top of that, we have the opportunity of looking into documents from the immediate after-war era thus learning more about emigration.” The hard facts are supposed to confirm and complete the narratives derived from the interviews.

Up to now, only a small portion of the interviews held and recorded in 14 languages has been translated. They are being evaluated in collaboration with 30 cooperating partners throughout the world. Evaluation in this context means to describe and present the different individual lives of the prisoners before, during and after the persecution suffered by the Nazi regime, to analyse their way of coming to terms with their suffering and to gain findings on the authentic camp history. “Regarding this subject as well, the ITS archive keeps innumerable and valuable pieces of information, for instance on labour commandos and outlying camps of Mauthausen“, rejoices Prenninger. “I have extended my stay here and hope that I will be able to come back“.