Oral history is the collection of historical information from people who witnessed significant events first hand. Oral history can be seen as a living history where people are able to share their personal and emotional accounts. These stories have often been hidden away for many years and can be seen as the best way of gaining a full insight to events we cannot even begin to imagine.
The Imperial War Museum holds powerful examples of oral history in the Holocaust section. The exhibition space is designed to take you on a journey of the Jewish, gypsies, pole and disabled population, exploring the way in which such tragic events occurred. The reason that the exhibition was so moving was due to the way the oral histories were distributed throughout each section. As the audience moves through the time line there are videos of survivors sharing thoughts and personal details which you wouldn’t find in a history book. As a result of this the visitors study the space in silence, listening to the compelling voices in the background. It is fair to say that most people have heard about the Holocaust; however we do not understand the extent of the devastation until we understand it from an eye witness. The element which is most striking about listening to the videos is how normal these people are. They spoke about their happy family lives before the genocide, describing the small things which stick in their memory. It really allows for the visitor to put themselves in survivor’s shoes and understand how they would feel in the same situation. For me personally, it is often difficult to understand how such events came to affect good people; however the details of the first stories allow you to understand how the Nazis started off with small segregations which amounted into the state sponsored persecution.
Oral History Society (2015) Welcome http://www.ohs.org.uk/ 28/01/16
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2015) Introduction to the Holocaust http://www.ushmm.org.uk/ 28/01/16