„It Wasn’t like I Pull Off a Dead Man’s Shoes, I Pull Them Off As I Give Him the Piece of Bread" – the Analyser’s Struggle Against His/Her Own Positive Prejudices

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Julia VAJDA, ELTE University Budapest, Hungary
Can hermeneutical analysis protect us from our own prejudices? Do not we develop blind spots when we want to avoid seeing our interviewees morally reproachable? In dealing with Shoah and other traumatic historical events, it is easy to slip into the fault to see the world in the dichotomy of victims and perpetrators, i.e. goods and evils, just like in fairy tales; hence we inevitably categorize the individuals as belonging to one or the other side.

It can be similarly hard to analyse the interviews unbiased: it does not feel right to think of the persecuted, the Shoah survivor, as „bad”, who sinned against his/her fellow sufferers. It may easily happen that we repress any hypothesis concerning the narration that would make the interviewee look blameworthy.

In the interviews, survivors of camps tell many times that the piece of bread they had hidden under their head for the night disappeared by the morning; their shoes, which were their most precious asset of which they took the best care under those circumstances were stolen; their carefully guarded blanket was nicked. These objects serve and symbolize their chance of survival: nourishment and protection from environmental conditions.

It is impossible that we only come upon respectable survivors who were victims of these atrocities. It is similarly improbable that, out of remorse, all perpetrators of petty crimes would refuse to be interviewed.

However hard it is to accept at a theoretical level and recognize in specific interviews, in many cases the thieves reported in the narratives are the interviewees themselves.

My paper aims to illustrate our struggles when working with such interviews against our also existent, however positive, prejudices.