The contemporary witness has had several functions in the last fifty years, some of them simultaneously: he has been a witness in the legal sense, a document, a staging, an actor, a counter-narrative, a research object, a universalistic and interchangeable deco of historical narratives and metaphor. One almost forgets a very fundamental fact: he is above all also an individual.
-from Jörg Skriebeleit: The Disappearance of Contemporary Witnesses. Metaphor of a transition.
Narratives from the 2nd World War have a great political significance in Austria. The demand for eyewitnesses grew steadily from the trial of Adolf Eichmann until the new millennium. Meanwhile there is a mass of records, documentaries, literature and projects. All of them are shaped by the time of their creation and by who worked on them and with what intention.
Telling about atrocities of war means dealing with personal history and traumatic experiences, with the essence of the time of war. This means the narrative must be embedded in a framework that reworks the context of the story. In school, for example, students are prepared, depending on the background of the witness. In the scientific field and in cinematic works it is also important how these conversations look like and how further work is done with the material. This also depends on how current political debates are conducted and what the social, political and legal context looks like.
In a discussion with the historian Heimo Halbrainer, the teacher's representative Martina Pfistermüller-Czar, Bettina Ramp and the filmmaker Günter Schilhan we will talk about the experiences in the encounter with contemporary witnesses. Moderated by Barbara Wilding.
Supported by the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria.
Dr. Heimo Halbrainer was born in Knittelfeld and studied history and German philology at the University of Graz. His research interests include resistance and persecution, Jewish life, cultural politics, post-war justice. He is the director of CLIO, an association for historical and educational work, and chairman of the Styrian Concentration Camp Association. He has also written numerous publications.
More at: www.clio-graz.net
Dr. Martina Pfistermüller-Czar was born in Traun and studied History and English/American Studies at the University of Graz, Northwestern University in Chicago and Bowling Green State University in Ohio. She also completed the course Pedagogy at Sites of Memory at the PH Upper Austria in cooperation with the Yad Vashem Memorial, Jerusalem. She has been teaching history and English at the GIBS (Graz International Bilingual School) since 1999, as well as subject didactics at the University of Vienna with a focus on National Socialism, right-wing extremism and the use of contemporary witnesses in the classroom.
Günter Schilhan is a journalist and editor at ORF as well as an independent filmmaker with Filmpark, the production company he founded in 1993. He has directed more than 130 documentaries, including Über.Leben about Berthold Kaufmann, who talks about the National Socialist era in the documentary. Günter Schilhan conducted interviews with Maria Cäsar and other contemporary witnesses for ORF.
More at: www.filmpark.at
As a historian, Bettina Ramp has been involved in various projects with contemporary witnesses since 2000, for example within the framework of the Generation Dialogue for the ARGE Youth against Violence and Racism. She gained insights into the examination of school structures in the rector's office of the University of Teacher Education and currently works in the library and education department of the Styrian Chamber of Labor, also with contemporary witness projects.
Barbara Wilding (presenter and organizer) works as a filmmaker in the field of historical and artistic documentary film. During and after studying fine arts in Vienna until 2011, her focus was on political and historical confrontations and reappraisals.
Feminist principles and oral traditions play a major role in the development of narrative strategies. Worker's experience as a seamstress, gardener, in childcare, gastronomy and waste management.