A Holocaust Survivor
|Last modified 6/14/00|
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A Guide to Oral History Interviews
Before the Interview:* Make contact with the individual in advance, leaving time for exchange back and forth phone calls* Be flexible with the meeting time and place of the interview* Respect the individuals lifestyle and attempt to work around it* Get a physical description of the individual* Agree to meet in a public location, familiar to both parties* Get a tape recorder and a blank tape in order to document the interview* Prepare a list of potential questions to ask the individual At the Interview:* Arrive early at the designated location to wait for the individual* Make sure that both parties are comfortable in their surroundings* Explain to the individual how the interview is going to work, and how it will manifest itself into a dialogue * Establish confidentiality confines and be sure that both parties agree on what will be shared with others* Be aware of the time frame of the recording tape* Respect the individuals right to refrain from answering a proposed question* Be compassionate and polite in framing questions and probing for greater detail in responses* Listen attentively, and actively engage the individual in the conversation* Allow time for further questions, and exploration* Ask for another interview if necessary* Enjoy yourself, and the person you are interviewing will enjoy themselves...allow them to feel good about themselves and comfortable in sharing their story with you.
Roslyn Kahute: A Daughter's Perspective
I, Esther Hirsch, interviewed Roslyn Kohute, Nina's 51 year old eldest daughter. I was curious to find how she, a child of Holocaust survivors, viewed and reacted to her mother's survival story.
Initially, I think the most crucial aspect in interviewing people, that the interviewer establishes a comfortable environment for both parties, the interviewer and the individual being interviewed. In addition, when dealing with such sensitive issues, I think it is important for the interviewer to understand their boundaries and respect the wishes of the interviewee. I think this helps maintain the flow and rhythm of the interview as well as attains the maximum information form the individual. In addition, I think it is crucial to have background knowledge on the subject matter, as well as knowledge of how the individual may or may not react to the interview. That way the interviewer can be completely prepared for whatever results might occur.
In my interview with Roslyn, I attempted to incorporate my knowledge of interviewing skills in order to respect her limits while encouraging her to extend herself outside the circle.
Previously, I had engaged in research on how children of Nazi Perpetrators view what their parents had done during the Nazi Holocaust. My research culminated in a twenty page paper detailing the different responses that the children held.
In interviewing Roslyn, I wanted to see if their was a connection between the responses of the children of the perpetrators and the children of the survivors.I called Roslyn on the phone and introduced myself, explaining to her that I was working with Professor Marcuse and her mother [Nina] in documenting Nina's story. I then went on to explain that I was interested in meeting and interviewing her. I wanted to investigate Roslyn's reaction and relation to her mother's story, in terms of how it had effected her upbringing and psyche. Roslyn agreed to meet me downtown after work to talk. Excited,I prepared questions to prompt conversation and hoped to delve into the deeper meaning of her potential response.
We met downtown at a coffee shop, I introduced myself to Roslyn, as I prepared her for what we would be doing for the next hour. She was open and willing to share her story with me. I had a tape recorder, a pen, and paper to take notes as I listened to her story. It was a beautiful evening, and we decided to take advantage of the weather, and sat outside to talk. I worked to establish a relaxed, unobtrusive environment where I hoped Roslyn would feel comfortable enough to talk to me about her personal life. I prompted her with questions, and we spoke for the next hour about her life story. As ideas came into my head, I wrote them down and then followed up with further questions. I found her story fascinating, and was left wondering how I would have reacted if I had walked in her shoes. At the close of the interview, I thanked Roslyn, and she agreed to meet with me once more.