Witnesses from the Holocaust

Eyewitness accounts from survivors of the Holocaust hold a central place in the mission to spread knowledge about its history.

Individual eyewitness accounts bring historical processes to life, events that would otherwise be hard to make sense of. The eyewitness accounts convert vast historical contexts down to the micro level. Individual stories increase our opportunity to interpret and understand historical facts that we otherwise only come across in the shape of numbers, statistics, and foreign place names.

Every account is highly personal, coloured by the storyteller’s own experiences and notions. An eyewitness account is not an absolute truth, but rather a personal perspective on a larger historical chain of events. Only a small number of the survivors that came to Sweden are still alive today. We feel immense gratitude to those among them who allowed themselves to be interviewed, thereby sharing their personal memories. It is important to consider that the survivors represent a very small part of those who fell victim to Nazi ideology. Those eyewitness accounts that are accessible to us come from people who, each and every one of them, constitute exceptions in that they survived.

The Living History Forum has, in cooperation with several other Swedish organisations working with Holocaust accounts, established a network with the purpose of increasing cooperation in the field. One result of this cooperation is the establishment of a web site consisting of the following four parts:

Swedish collections of eyewitness accounts

Here is a list of eyewitness accounts from survivors of the Holocaust available in archives and at different organisations (link goes to page in Swedish).

Most of the interviews with survivors in Sweden have been conducted during the first decade of the 21st century. Very few interviews were carried out in Sweden during the years immediately following the Holocaust. However, there are a few exceptions. One of these is the group of interviews carried out as early as 1945 by The Collaborative Committee for Democratic Reconstruction (SDU), and collected in the book “The doomed bear witness: questionnaire responses and interviews published by Gunhild and Einar Tegen,” 1945. Yet another early gathering of interviews was made by Zygmunt Lakocinski already 1945, when he interviewed Polish women who came to Sweden from the concentration camp Ravensbrück through the care of the Red Cross. Spread throughout archives across the country, there is also a large amount of other types of interviews carried out with survivors for purposes other than to preserve their stories. Instead, these are interviews made in connection with the survivor applying for a residence permit for a certain place, or when a survivor after a few years applied for citizenship. Those interviews can in many cases also serve as a form of eyewitness accounts.

Organisations and institutions working with eyewitness accounts in Sweden

Here is a collection of all the organisations we know of that in some way work with questions concerning eyewitness accounts from Holocaust survivors throughout Sweden (link goes to page in Swedish). Each link includes information regarding the chosen organisation and contact information.

Pedagogic material based on eyewitness accounts

Here is a list of pedagogic material based on eyewitness accounts from the Holocaust (link goes to page in Swedish). The material from The Living History Forum and the Swedish Education Broadcasting Company (UR) is in Swedish. The pedagogic material Eternal Echoes from the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism (SCAA) is available in six languages other than Swedish. Eternal Echoes is the result of the project Interactive Comprehensive Tool for Holocaust Education (ICTHE) 2016–2019, which was co-financed by the EU programme Erasmus+.

Collections of eyewitness accounts from outside Sweden

Here is a list of organisations outside Sweden that have collections of eyewitness accounts from Holocaust survivors with memories connected to Sweden (link goes to page in Swedish). All the organisations listed include Swedish accounts.