A Contextual Analysis of Holocaust Oral Testimony in Britain and Canada

Madeline White

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis is an interdisciplinary analysis of archived collections of Holocaust oral testimonies produced in Britain and Canada since the end of the war. It draws principally on the theories and approaches of oral history and archival science to illustrate the benefits of the contextualisation of oral testimony for the study of the Holocaust. As such, it contributes to a relatively new and developing literature on Holocaust oral testimony which examines the construction of audio and audiovisual testimonies within particular social, cultural and archival frameworks. This literature has hitherto focused almost exclusively on the US context; this thesis seeks to redress the imbalance by focusing on the comparatively understudied British and Canadian collections of Holocaust oral testimony. In addition to drawing attention to lesser known but equally valuable collections, this thesis demonstrates that engaging with oral testimonies in full awareness of the contextual specificity of the medium enhances our understanding of what the sources can tell us about the Holocaust, as well as what they cannot tell us and – crucially – how they tell us about the Holocaust.

Archivist Eric Ketelaar’s concepts of archivization and archivalization provide a useful framework for a postmodern examination of oral testimony which illustrates how decisions made in the process of establishing an oral history project incontrovertibly shape the nature of the material produced. Building on this contextual analysis is an assessment of British and Canadian testimonial landscapes and an exploration of the ways in which oral history has been mobilised as an historiographical response to the Holocaust by communities, scholars and governments over time. To this end, this thesis advocates for the greater accessibility of contextual information relating to Holocaust oral testimony collections, in order that (re)contextualisation might become a standard approach to engaging with this source material by all who use it.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Stone, Dan, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Feb 2021
Publication statusUnpublished - 2021


  • Holocaust
  • Holocaust testimony
  • Testimony
  • Oral history
  • Britain
  • Canada
  • British Library
  • Holocaust Survivors Centre
  • The Living Memory of the Jewish Community
  • Refugee Voices
  • Association of Jewish Refugees
  • Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre
  • Sara and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre
  • Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre
  • Canadian Jewish Congress
  • Holocaust Documentation Project
  • Life Stories of Montrealers
  • Living Testimonies
  • Oral testimony

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