Milena Callegari Cosentino is a PhD Teaching Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Limerick. Her PhD title is ‘Rhodes and the Holocaust: Repercussions and legacies for later generations’. In this blog post she describes her fieldwork in Warsaw this summer, funded by the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
“During the month of July I went to the Resource Centre at POLIN Museum in Warsaw to listen the Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive interviews recorded in the 1990s with Holocaust survivors from Rhodes Island. I watched and transcribed eighteen interviews, most of them were in English, being two in Italian, two in Spanish and two in French. All my notes and transcriptions were in English. The interviews were recorded in different places such as South Africa, United States of America, and Italy, where the survivors and/or their descendants were living at the time of the interview.
“Usually interviewees had a quite linear structure of the survivor’s childhood, family, friends, traditions, and education, followed by the gathering of the Jewish community at the Aviation building in Rhodes in July of 1944, and then their deportation to the port of Piraeus, in Greece. According to some interviews, they remained there for 3 days at the Haidari concentration camp, and then were sent to Auschwitz.
“After their arrival in Auschwitz concentration camp the survivors received different directions, some were sent to other camps and the work, treatment, and experiences for survival vary. They also had different experiences of liberation, some were liberated by Russian soldiers before the end of the war, others by British, and others by Americans at the end of the war. After liberation most of them went to Italy, were they could meet some survivors from the community of Rhodes and start to get contact with relatives who migrated from Rhodes before the war and were living in other countries as the United of America, Belgian Congo, and Rhodesia. Hence they started to arrange the documents necessary to migrate. After settling in the new place, they looked for a work, got married, and had children.
The interviews were recorded 50 years after the Holocaust. By then survivors were seniors, most had children and grandchildren. At the end of some interviews they showed pictures from Rhodes, of their families, of people who perished at the Holocaust, and also of their descendants. Descendants present were offered the opportunity to express and share their responses to the survivors’ experiences.”