“I Know It’s My Father Because I See His Face Every Night When I Go to Sleep” – Rethinking Credibility of Witnesses Identifications
In the past years, both holocaust research and holocaust-related films research used eyewitnesses and their testimonies as a primary source, assuming that one who was there is a person who could tell the story and identify people and events the best way. When it comes to films, we tend, many times, to show witnesses a film, taken so many years ago, and not always high quality preserved, assuming they will remember many details about it: how the film was produced, who were the people in it, what happened to them after etc.. The credibility we give witnesses largely determines the allocation of efforts to find them and document their testimonies.
In my lecture, I would like to question this methodology, and ask about the reliability of the witnesses – do they really remember all the films content and characters after all the years? Did they have what to remember – how much did they know to begin with? Can we use widely-accepted historical methods with testimonies when it comes to survivors who identify themselves, their relatives or friends on the screen? Is the credibility we attribute to these testimonies based on an assumption of historical accuracy, or simply because there is often no better alternative?