8 May 2019 Family Memories of War and Flight

8 May 2019 from 4.10 pm – 5.30 pm
Stout Research Centre, 12 Waiteata Rd, Kelburn

Presenter: Professor Alexander Freund
How do families “reminisce” about the experience of war and flight? In this presentation, I look at interviews with members of three families who experienced state violence and displacement in the wake of the Second World War. Two of the three refugees (men born in Central Europe between 1928 and 1936) were interviewed in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1978 and 1989, respectively. In order to help us understand how memories and stories change over long personal, familial, and historical time periods, we re-interviewed the two men in 2012/13. We then interviewed some of their children and grandchildren to help us understand how stories of war and flight had been transferred across – and negotiated among – generations. These artificially “re-constructed,” partial family memories were characterised by sparse interaction, silences, unspoken assumptions, and imagined memories. Later generations added new details and re-interpreted their elders’ stories to better fit their own lives. Such findings raise more questions: What exactly is “family memory”? What kind of a “family memory” is this – or is it “family memory” at all? How can we use such memories for our study of history, the history of memory, and the historical role of memory in society?

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Alexander Freund is a Professor of History at the University of Winnipeg, where he holds the Chair in German-Canadian Studies and serves as the Director of the Oral History Centre. A native of Germany and immigrant to Canada, Freund has been focusing on the transatlantic, especially German-North American, history of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Recent publications include: History, Memory, and Generations: German-Canadian Experiences in the Twentieth Century (forthcoming); The Canadian Oral History Reader (2015, edited with Kristina Llewellyn and Nolan Reilly); Oral History and Ethnic History (2014); “Under Storytelling’s Spell? Oral History in a Neo-liberal Age” (Oral History Review, 2015); “Transnationalising Home in Winnipeg: Refugees’ Stories of the Places Between the “Here-and-There”” (Canadian Ethnic Studies, 2015); and, ““Confessing Animals”: Toward a Longue Durée History of the Oral History Interview” (Oral History Review, 2014).

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