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Children's Questionnaire of Josef Munzer

Munzer, Josef report 1946
Yad Vashem

The first Jewish historical commissions for documenting the Holocaust formed before the end of World War II.1 Moyshe Feygnboym, leader of the Central Historical Commission in Munich, described the organizations' purpose in 1946. He wrote: "We, the survivors, the surviving witnesses, must create for the historian documentation that will take the place of the aforementioned sources so that he may create for himself a clear picture of what happened to us and among us."

 Jewish historical commissions assembled survivor testimonies through interviews and questionnaires.2 The methodology for these testimonies varied. Some interviews were conducted personally and recorded in the individual survivor's voice. Others were edited later by historical commission staff. Some interviews occurred in small groups and became collective narratives.

Since its inception in 1946, the Central Historical Commission in Munich had recorded and preserved testimony from children. The commission used these testimonies extensively in its publication, Fun letstn khurbn ("From the Last Extermination"). Although adults often filled out the commission's complex questionnaires themselves, children generally did not.3 In the featured document, for example, the interviewer—about whom we know very little—evaluates the mental and physical state of this orphaned youth. Such opinions could have larger implications for future immigration prospects.

The questionnaires for displaced children and youth served a particular purpose. The form presented here was likely created by United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) to document Munzer's displaced status and help him to emigrate from Europe to live with his relatives, but it was preserved by the commission in Munich for the purposes of historical documentation.4 This questionnaire is the result of an interview designed to obtain specific information about an "unaccompanied child," and it reflects the perspective and opinions of the interviewer rather than of Munzer himself. How might these considerations affect the use of such forms as historical sources? How might indirect testimonies such as this provide additional information to historians?

Isaac Schneersohn formed the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine (Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation) in April 1943. By 1944, Jewish historian and survivor Filip Friedman had founded a similar effort in Lublin, Poland.

For more on Jewish historical commissions in the immediate postwar period, see Laura Jockusch, Collect and Record! Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). See also the related item Moyshe Feygnboym: "Why Historical Commissions?"

See Beate Müller, "Trauma, Historiography and Polyphony: Adult Voices in the CJHC's Early Postwar Child Holocaust Testimonies," History & Memory 24:2 (2012): 157–195; and Boaz Cohen, "The Children's Voice: Postwar Collection of Testimonies from Child Survivors of the Holocaust," Holocaust and Genocide Studies 21:1 (2007): 73–95.

UNRRA stands for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, a United Nations agency aimed at providing relief to the victims of the war. It was founded by the Allied governments and neutral countries in 1943, and became part of the United Nations in 1945.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Yad Vashem
RG Number 68.099M
Date Created
May 28, 1946
Page(s) 2
Author / Creator
Fryer, N. A
Central Historical Commission, Munich
Language(s)
English
Location
Föhrenwald, Austria
Document Type Report
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