I was able to travel to Strasbourg last week to conduct an interview and attend a conference at the Conseil de l’Europe about transmission of the Holocaust to future generations. I boarded a train in Lausanne to Basel, and then transferred to the “France” sector, and got on a train from Basel to Strasbourg. I am truly fascinated by the Alsace region. It is France today, but was once part of German territory. It is close to Germany and Switzerland, yet feels incredibly French (at least today). There are French stores and businesses, authentic boulangeries, and small, quaint streets. Also, the Cathedral is an amazing sight, incredibly large, and unique in color (photos to follow). I arrived in Strasbourg on Tuesday evening after 4 hours on the train, dropped my bags off at the Hotel Patricia, a wonderful, small, old hotel/hostel with uneven wooden floors and old carpets, and went directly to climb the Cathedral stairs, as tired as I was at 6:00 pm after traveling all day. I made it to the top on a gorgeous day, and had a beautiful view of the region. I am glad I decided to take advantage and climb the Cathedral that day, since it rained the other days I was in Strasbourg.
On Wednesday evening I interviewed a lovely woman and her brother. It was a great interview, and, to my surprise, I learned that it was her first time interviewing. I forgot to bring them the gift (a jazz CD from NOLA) that I usually give to than the survivors, but instead they insisted that they should be the ones thanking me for my work. I was incredibly pleased.
The conference began on Thursday in Strasbourg. It was hosted at the Conseil de l’Europe in conjunction with the “Living Memory of the Holocaust” group, about transmitting the history and memory of the Holocaust to future generations. There were speakers from different fields, each giving a 30 minute presentation. I met a lot of interesting and incredible people there, and got some very good ideas for my own research and how to proceed. There was one woman, a survivor from the Rwandan genocide, and her testimony and comments made me wonder if there has been a series of interviews conducted with survivors of the Rwandan genocide yet. Just something to think about and for me to look into, something that inspired me in my own work and close relationship to conducting oral history testimonies. On Thursday night we saw a theatrical piece about antisemitism in modern Europe, by an Israeli actor and his Dutch father. It started out slow but ended up being very interesting. I walked around Strasbourg a lot, over 20 km in 4 days, and really got to see the city. I hope to keep in contact with some of the speakers from the conference and with the “Living Memory” association and Council of Europe. Overall, the conference was well done and the speakers very good and inspiring.
I find myself thinking constantly about my “next move”, both physically and with my research. I am looking forward to my trip to Le Chambon this weekend, to witness where an entire community in France worked toward saving Jewish children during the war. I also am excited for Laura’s visit and the presentation at the US Embassy and the Lausanne Jewish Community, both scheduled for June 14, 2012. Antoine, a talented film student at UNIL, has been working with me to make a short documentary style film for the presentations and my future use, and I am very pleased with it so far! I want the film to show the complexities of the refugee situation, but also give the viewers a taste of the poignancy of the testimonials first hand, and how the survivors felt about their experiences during the war. I think that the photos, video, and my lecture will provide an interesting and dynamic presentation of the subject, and will be a good capstone to my Fulbright year! I hope to post some photos tomorrow when I have stronger internet at the university.