WW2 Relevance

|   27 June 2018

Who are you?

This is me, just over twenty years ago.

And because I’m working with testimony from people who were also recalling events from twenty – or even more – years ago, I’ve started wondering the extent to which I am still the person in this photo.

Demonstrably, I look older. Equally obviously, I can’t do some of the things I could then. Like sprinting in the parents’ race at school…

But am I essentially the same?

In my experience, so many people who lived through the Nazi period talked about themselves as two people. The one who was the committed Nazi and the one, post-war, who wasn’t. Now, I’ve never been tested like that, for sure. But just recently, at a commemorative event, a relative of one of my dearest colleagues – now deceased – read one of my colleague’s diary entries about me. I didn’t know he had kept a diary until that moment. But in this extract my colleague reported what I’d said to him at his ‘appraisal’ meeting at the BBC. I had no recollection of saying any of things he recorded – it was, in any case, a deeply selective section of what I must have said.

And yet, I know it must be true. It sounded like me, and I trusted my friend to recall it accurately later that same day.

I think a lot about this. How we can’t control how people record and remember us. And how we forget so much over time. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a reminder of how we are always tempted to judge ourselves by our intentions and other people by their actions.

No matter what I forget, I need to always remember that fact, especially when dealing with transcript material of interviewees from the war.

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