Tuesday, July 12, 2016

6/27/16 - 7/8/16

This past two weeks I have really delved into the content of the Boder spool collection. As of now I am 15 spools in. Most of these are from the Displaced Persons box and the Sylvia Case Study box.

It seems that my previous assumption that we have very little of the Holocaust material was confirmed. So far in the Displaced Persons box I have found:

  • Spool 05: Interviews with people in the US in 1946, including interviews with veterans who suffered from traumatic events in the war. All of these men seem to be suffering from "nervousness" and anxiety. One is of a paratrooper who came under friendly fire during a jump. The others do not go into great detail about their wartime experience.
  • Spool 06: A collection of songs from the Henonville displaced persons camp in France in 1946. The spool in question is very likely one of the lost Boder spools that I have read about -- in fact I am all but 100% positive on this. I am extremely excited about this find, but have to speak to Dr. Baker about it before I can confirm anything or before the recording is made available in any way. In any case it was amazing listening to this spool that has not been heard likely since 1946.
  • Spool 07: This spool is labeled "The last 20 minutes are a transcription in German of spool 83 which is damaged - conserve German text." The beginning of the I have not listened to as thoroughly as I should so far, but it seems to be one Holocaust interview in English. The last portion has a man speaking in German, I would have to assume that this has to do with the Holocaust recordings, but I did not go past German II in high school many years ago so I have no idea what the person is saying.
  • Spool 09: This spool is a recording of the Midwest Public Forum in 1946. I have been unable to find out exactly what the Midwest Public Forum was but I would assume it is like the Cleveland City Club or something to that extent. In this forum there are two speakers, Senator Claude Pepper of Florida and also Dr. David Petegorsky. Senator Pepper was known for being extremely leftist and even pro-Soviet Union before the start of WWII. Dr. Petegorsky was the National Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress at the time and during the war was the Deputy Director of the Canadian Wartime Information Board. The talk is fascinating as it focuses on two subjects: how to get Europe back together after the war and also the question of what happens to the Jewish people. Petegorsky goes on about the idea of creating a Jewish state where Jews and Arabs would coexist peacefully (interesting to hear the concept some 70 years later). What is most interesting to me, however, is a portion of the recording where the speaker talks about the amount of Jews that died. He said that many still would not believe that 6 million had died, another thing that is odd to hear 70 years on. This spool brings up historical points that as a person in 2016 I would not think to ask. Also, there is no mention of the word Holocaust as it was not yet a term used for the events that happened. 
A clip from Spool 09:

  • Spool 12: This spool takes us back to the United States and has nothing to do with the war. This spool is labeled "Chicago Hospital Dunning, Andy, and Helen" and according to the intro by Boder is part of research by David (? possibly Mandel) and Irene Sherman. Irene spent many years working with the Chicago Board of Mental Hygiene and did a wide variety of research. The spool includes interviews with two patients at Dunning State Hospital (also known as the Chicago State Hospital and a place where horror stories came to life). These two are Andy and Helen, and they are mentally ill.. The spool concludes with what sounds like a whole day room of patients singing "Oh My Darling Clementine." This, of course, could be left over from a previous recording, but it is creepy none the less.
  • Spool 16: The final spool that I have so far digitized in the Displaced Persons box. This spool is a child language study by John Chapman under the guidance of Dr. Boder. As Chapman says in his intro it is a Language Study of Half Orphans conducted at the Klingberg Children's Home in Chicago in 1951. The interview is with one 11 year old girl (her name is mentioned, but it is possible she is still alive). Much of the interview involves her coming to the home, what she does throughout the day and when she goes to visit relatives. She also seems to be a baseball fan as she is talking about the Indians beating the Cubs. Go Tribe!
A clip from the very beginning of Spool 16:

This then takes us to Sylvia, I have so far digitized six of these spools and since the time of my last blog post I have tracked down Sylvia and have mapped out her family based on both what she says on the spools and also genealogical research. While I do have her full name, where she was born, all I will say is that she was born in Indiana and her father is a mighty interesting man within the communities in which he lived.

One thing I will do is post a picture of Sylvia. The only one I can find.

For the time being I am not going to put up any clips of these spools. It just doesn't seem right.

I have about another 10 Sylvia spools to finish. Something tells me her story will just continue getting more interesting.

For the next blog post I am going to have a bit of a change of pace and will be outlining how the wire recorder machine works, the process of using the machine, how to rewind and some thoughts on perfecting the digitization process.


  1. Really interesting stuff, Jon! Nice job balancing historical content and digitization process.
    - Emily Gainer

  2. Jon this is great material. At some point I'd like to come down - after my leave is done - and look through this material. I think you are doing a great service to the academic community and the public here.