Lost recordings of Holocaust survivors uncovered

Misplaced recordings of Holocaust survivors singing melodies and recounting their pasts have resurfaced at the University of Akron.

Wire recordings of Holocaust survivors singing melodies at a refugee camp in France in 1946 are being heard for the first time in decades, thanks to university employees in Ohio who pieced together a device to listen to them.

University of Akron officials say the six songs were sung by survivors in Henonville, France, for psychologist David Boder, who was among the first to record Holocaust survivors telling their stories during the 1940s. He recorded on steel wire, capturing the melodies with lyrics in Yiddish and German.

“Dr. Boder was determined to give the survivors a voice,” said David Baker, a UA professor of psychology and executive director of the Center for the History of Psychology. “Dr. Boder is credited with being the first person to record testimony of Holocaust survivors.”

Boder conducted numerous interviews on wire recorders, which were considered state-of-the-art equipment at the time. He also recorded religious services, folk songs and counseling sessions in addition to his work with Holocaust survivors.

Boder (1886-1961) was a Jewish Latvian psychologist who spent much of his career working in America. He left Latvia after school to study psychology in Leipzig, Germany and later settled in the US.

After the war he travelled to Europe to conduct about 130 interviews with Holocaust survivors. They are thought to be the earliest recordings of their kind.

The Akron Beacon Journal reports that one woman sang melodies that had been sung in a Polish ghetto and a forced-labor camp.

Some of Boder’s spools were donated to the university in the 1960s and archived, but the content wasn’t discovered until a recent project to digitize the recordings.  The spools had been erroneously entered into the finding aid as “Heroville Songs” when the collection was originally processed in the 1960s.

“It’s the most significant discovery from our collections in our 52-year history,” Baker said. “That we could give the world the melody to a song sung by those sentenced to their death through forced labor during one of the most unspeakable horrors and trauma of the 20th century is remarkable.”

Boder’s recordings are also held in the Library of Congress and at UCLA in California. The University of Akron has shared its collection with the national Holocaust Museum in Washington.

Some of the recordings can be heard at the bottom of this page.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff