Lost Holocaust Survivor Songs Discovered at University of Akron

David Boder's research and spools of wire with recorded voices are part of a collection at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology [image / University of Akron]
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The spools of an antique wire recorder start to spin and the voice of a young woman from over 70 years ago speaks in Yiddish as she describes life in the Jewish ghetto of Krakow, during Would War Two.  It's part of a collection of interviews done by Chicago psychologist David Boder in 1946.  Boder was looking to do a research study on trauma, but his recordings are now part of the earliest testimony given by Holocaust survivors.

These conversations were given to the University of Akron's Cummings Center for the History of Psychology by the late researcher's family in the mid-1960s.  Boder made a duplicate set for the Library of Congress, but one reel hasn't been heard, until now.

A spool full of songs was recently discovered in a mislabeled canister.  University of Akron senior multi-media producer, James Newhall, cobbled together a machine that could play this recording, which was then digitized by the Cummings Center's Jon Endres. The Center's Executive Director, David Baker, recalls it was chilling when these sounds first came out of the speakers.

"It was very powerful and still is,"  he says.  "We've listened to them numerous times, and it's hard to describe the feeling of us all being huddled around this recorder.  It's a bit like hearing the voice of a ghost."

Baker says his staff is still going through these recordings and hopes to feature them in a special exhibit when the University opens a new National Museum of Psychology, later this year.

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