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Memory mirrored through three generations

How does the view of Nazi persecution and the Holocaust change over three generations? Jennifer Allen of the University of California, Berkeley is attempting to answer this question. “The International Tracing Service archive will be an important source for my studies,” said Allen. “Nowhere else is there such an extensive collection of letters from survivors and their relatives in one location.”

The ITS archives houses approximately three million correspondence files called T/D Cases (Tracing/Documents) from the last 60 years. Allen plans to analyze descriptions given by survivors and their succeeding generations for their tone of voice, emotions and perception. “I will study the language people use to express themselves on the topics of loss and memory,” said the American. “I would like to integrate emotions and personal experience in the historiography.” The historian will especially focus on Germans regarding nationality.

During her first one-week visit to Bad Arolsen, Allen checked out what the archives had to offer. Her interest was piqued by T/D cases as well as the C/M 1 questionnaire (Care/Maintenance) which includes witness statements and letters from the immediate post-war period. “My research is coming along pretty slowly as I first have to get to know the archives. But I´m returning home a strong advocate of researching at the ITS.”

In addition to the ITS archives, the American visited the National Socialist Documentation Center in Cologne and the artist Gunter Demnig, who conceptualized the “stepping stones” project. “I´m focusing on the culture of remembrance in terms of artwork and memorials as a side project,” reported Allen. A first article on her current research will be published at the end of the year, when she plans to apply for a scholarship to work on her dissertation.