Oral History Corpora

Introduction

The CLARIN Resource Family ‘Oral History’ deals with a specific kind of speech data in the realm of the CLARIN research infrastructure that is related to the personal history of a person or of a group of persons. Oral History interviews are first person spoken testimonies elicited by an interviewer, with the help of a structured or semi-structured topic list, or by asking a number of open questions. There are many similarities with interviews gathered in the social sciences which are defined as ‘qualitative data’, yet an oral history interview can be distinguished by its specific historical and personal character.

Oral history data can be useful for a broad variety of disciplines, such as sociolinguistics, media studies, computational linguistics, trauma studies, visual anthropology, psychology, and many more. The common feature for all disciplines that make use of spoken data is the need to transform the audio signal into a readable text that can be analysed, e.g. by tools that support transcription and annotation, which can be found on https://speechandtech.eu/tech-tools and other CLARIN related repositories.

Such tools can be useful to a broad variety of other disciplines beyond oral history.  The modes of interpretation for attributing meaning to the audio and the transcripts are widely divergent and are determined by the paradigm of a discipline.  It is this hybridity that makes interview data perfectly suitable for multidisciplinary research. The data is created through the interaction of our capability to use our voice, to draw on our memory, and to choose a particular set of words/terms to express ourselves.  Each of these human competences - speech and voice, language and memory - belongs to a specific research domain and it is a challenge to combine the insights/principles from these different domains, in order to discover new knowledge. 

A special CMDI profile for this oral history resource family was created in the CMDI component registry. The name of the profile is OralHistoryInterview CRF and an extensive description of the components and elements of this profile is here. We recommend other curators of oral history collections to use this profile.

The starting point and one of the subcollections in this Resource Family is the The Ravensbrück Oral History Resource Family.

The Ravensbrück Oral History Resource Family is the result of a process of curation and selection of oral history interviews with survivors of female Nazi concentration camp Ravensbrück that have been conducted in different languages. The interviews are collected data that already belong to a specific project or archive - some of which are already accessible online. The metadata of the interviews and the links to the audio/video, where possible, have been integrated in the catalog of this Resource Family. The interviews have been selected with the aim of offering the possibility to compare data that covers similar topics - for instance the role of language for survival in the camp - from a multilingual and multidisciplinary perspective. The dataset covers interviews in Dutch, German, English and Italian and offers a number of research options for scholars of different disciplines. Researchers interested in using the data can make use of an open source transcription service to partly automate the process of transcription. 

For the interviews in the collections below, extensive metadata descriptions are available in CLARIN’s Virtual Language Observatory. 

The Contact person for the Ravensbrück multilingual resources is Silvia Calamai - silvia.calamai@unisi.it

Voices from Ravensbrück

Corpus Language Description Availability

Collection Bruzzone

Size: 4 interviews

Annotation: Orthographic

Licence: Restricted access

Italian

The corpus contains four interviews involving five ex-deportee in the female-only Nazi concentration camp of Ravensbrück (Lidia Rolfi, Bianca Paganini, Livia Borsi, Lina and Nella Baroncini). By clicking on the download button you are brought to a page with a description of the four interviews. By clicking on the name of the interviewee you are brought to a page with a brief description and extensive metadata of the single interview. On the right you can see the corresponding audio- and text files marked in orange. This means they are restricted and you need to contact the owner, prof. Silvia Calamai (silvia.calamai@unisi.it) to get access to this data. The files marked in green are short clips that you can download directly.

The interviews were originally recorded on a series of analog supports by the Italian oral historian Anna Maria Bruzzone (Mondoví, 1925 – Turin, 2015) in preparation for the book Le Donne di Ravensbrück ("The Women of Ravensbrück", Einaudi, first edition 1978). The corpus is composed of 27 distinct audio files, deriving from the digitisation of an equal number of sides from the original 14 audiocassettes. The original supports are storied within the Archivio Storico of the Ospedale Neuropsichiatrico di Arezzo (Siena University), Arezzo (AR), Italy. Links to richly described metadata files are available in the repository of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics:

 

For a relevant publication, see Calamai et al. (2022)

Download

Collection VPRO Selma van der Perre

Size: 1 interview

Annotation: None

Licence: Open access

Dutch

A single interview with Selma van der Perre, divided in three parts of about 45 min, complementary to her memoirs Mijn naam is Selma. The interview was made by Mathijs Deen for the Dutch broadcast organisation VPRO in the series Het spoor terug ("The Trace Back"). Extensive metadata is available here.

For a relevant publication, see Van der Perre (2021)

Streaming 1

Streaming 2

Streaming 3

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - Oral History Collection

Size: 9 interviews

Annotation: None

Licence: Open access

English (mainly), Hebrew, French, German, Dutch

The corpus contains several video interview involving Ravensbrück survivors (Anna Wirbel, Frieda Greinegger Noga, Genevieve De Gaulle, Irene Miller, Janina Pawlica, Joukje Grandia Smiths, Odette Hallowes, Susan Gerofi, Susan Mahrer). You do not need an account to get access to these video-interviews. To get to the single interviews use the search function of the USHMM oral history website. Copies of some of the video's can be ordered. Basic metadata are available for each survivor:

 

Streaming

USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive Online

Size: 7 interviews

Annotation: None

Licence: Account required

English (mainly), German

The corpus contains 7 interviews with the ex-deportees Aniela Popwiez Radyno, Antonia Bruha, Elisabeth Jager, Lore Perl, Renee Scott, Soula Molho, Wanda Lorenc. You need to create an account at the Shoah Visual History Archive to get access to this part of the collection that is freely available. To get to the single interviews use the search function in the VHA online database. Below you can find the metadata of the interviews:

 

Streaming

Getuigenverhalen

Size: 2 interviews

Annotation: Orthographic

Licence: Open access

Dutch

The corpus contains two video interviews with political prisoners: Geert van der Molen (see also metadata) and Tine Boeke Kramer (see also metadata). By clicking on their names you are brought to a page with tabs and extensive metadata. To get access to the text files you need to ask an account at . To request a copy of the videos you need to contact dinekestam@cultuurenco.nl.

Streaming 1

Streaming 2

Streaming 3

Die Frauen von Ravensbrück (Loretta Waltz collection)

Size: 7 interviews

Annotation: None

Licence: Account required

German (mainly), French, English, others

The corpus contains 7 interviews with Aenne Meier, Frieda Hummler, Gertrud Fruhschutz, Gertrud Muller, Gretel Pressl, Maria Zeh, Victoria Ahrend Kupersztajn. You need to request an account to get access to Loretta Walz’ collection of video interviews. To get to the single interviews use the search function in the online database. Below you can find the metadata of the interviews.

 

For a relevant publication, see Waltz (2005)

Streaming

Austrian Mediathek (Brigitte Halbmayr und Helga Amesberger)

Size: 8 interviews

Annotation: None

Licence: Open access

German

The corpus contains 8 interviews involving the ex-deportee Aloisia Hofinger, Anna Redlinger, Antonia Bruha, Erika Gugig, Eva Gutfreund, Friederike Furch, Irma Trksak (split in two parts). The interviews are open access but for most interviews registraton and creating a ticket are required. Part of the interviews is directly accessible, but for some you have to register and request access. Below you can find the metadata of the interviews.

 

Streaming

Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies

Size: 1 interview

Annotation: None

Licence: Account required

English (mainly), French, Hebrew, Slovak, German, others

A single interview with the ex-deportee Clementine U. You need to request an account to get access to The Fortunoff collection. To get to the single interview use the search function in the online database. Below you can find the metadata) of the interview.

Streaming

Publications on the corpora

[Calamai et al. 2022] Silvia Calamai, Stefania Scagliola, Fabio Ardolino, Christoph Draxler, Arjan van Hessen, and Henk van den Heuvel. 2022. Ravensbrück Interviews: How to Curate Legacy Data to Make it CLARIN Compliant. Selected Papers from the CLARIN Annual Conference 2021.

[van der Perre 2021] Selma van der Perre. 2021. My Name is Selma. Penguin.

[Waltz 2005] Loretta Waltz. 2005. Und dann kommst Du dahin an einem schönen Sommertag Die Frauen von Ravensbrück. Kunstmann.