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Workshops & Conventions


The research plans and projects of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) require continuous discussion and in-depth academic consideration and fine-tuning.


The VWI workshops provide a forum for the in-depth discussion of the core research areas of the institute. These are determined by the International Academic Advisory Board in its position paper and in its recommendations, while the VWI also independently elaborates, formulates, and executes themes, ideas, and concepts. Externals experts are also frequently involved in the conceptualisation of workshops, with their academic institutions then moreover serving as partner organisations in the concrete event.


The format employed since 2011 – the date of the first VWI workshop – of employing a range of presentations partly solicited through a Call for Papers and partly through invitations extended to renowned experts for individual panels or as keynotes has proven most productive.


Beyond this, the VWI also involves itself financially or in content and organisation with various conferences which correlate with the profile of the institute.



What are Interviews About the Shoah Telling us Beside Hard ‘Facts’

Wednesday, 30. October 2019, 15:00 - 18:00

Vienna Wiesenthal Institute, Research Lounge 1010 Vienna, Rabensteig 3, 3rd Floor


A Workshop with Selma Leydesdorff

Selma Leydesdorff is professor emerita of oral history and culture in Amsterdam. Her career is part of the transformation of oral history from mostly a fact-finding method to research on the ways memories are framed and modified over time. Publishing books and editing volumes that have shaped oral history is the main thread running through her academic career. As an editor, she has been co-responsible since 2001 for the publication of many volumes, the themes of which are totalitarianism, subjectivity, trauma, and the transmission of stories. She is an expert on Jewish working-class history. She teaches an annual PhD course on oral history that is attended by doctoral students and postdocs from many countries. Over the past fifteen years, she has interviewed on life in concentration camps and recorded interviews with survivors of Auschwitz and Mauthausen participating in international projects. In 2002, she started a project with survivors of Srebrenica, which brought her major international attention as an oral historian of trauma. The book detailing the Srebrenica story was published first in Dutch, then in Bosnian, and finally in English translation. Since 2008, she has recorded life stories surrounding the trial of John Demjanjuk in Munich, including survivors of Sobibor and co-plaintiffs in the trial. In 2015, she started to collaborate on refugee stories together with ‘unknown singular’, a project that involves refugees in creating life narratives. The project will be continued as an effort to connect various local archives and the creation of connections in databases. In 2017, she published a biography of Aleksandr (Sasha) Pechersky, the leader of the Sobibor Uprising, who fell victim to the antisemitic Stalinist purges after his return to his hometown Rostov-on-Don. She has been using material from archives all over the world and has travelled to meet people who knew about his history. Selma Leydesdorff is a public speaker on the Shoah, Jewish history, trauma and memory, and on oral history.

The Workshop

PecherskyDuring the workshop, we will try to answer the question concerning the knowledge we create by interviewing. Traditionally, historians look for facts, and since the discipline of history is influenced by testimony in court, people want proof of stories. Let us analyse what happens during an interview (Portelli) and how people talk about the Shoah while trying to avoid addressing it directly. How can patience and the creation of a life story create new stories that speak to us and tell in a different way? During the workshop, we will discuss interview fragments of the project The Long Shadow of Sobibor with survivors of Sobibor and the co-plaintiffs at the Demjanjuk trial. This material has been used for the book on the leader of the uprising of 1943: Sasha Pechersky, Holocaust Hero, Sobibor Resistance Leader and Hostage of History (Routledge 2017).

Please register at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by latest Friday, 25 October, 6.00 pm and bring your ID. Material that will be discussed will be sent to you upon registration.

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The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) is funded by:


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