In Kuzmino Chronicles: Memoirs of Teenage Holocaust Survival author Dr. Nathan C. Moskowitz shares the story of his parents Holocaust saga as told in their own words. I had the good fortune of interviewing Dr. Moskowitz about his experience talking with his parents, conducting research, and compiling Kuzmino Chronicles. Given the richness of his responses, I have decided to publish our interview in three posts. Part I can be found here and Part II is located here. In “Part III: A Discussion of Holocaust Testimony and History with Dr. Moskowitz,” Dr. Moskowitz discusses the symbiosis of historical accuracy and first-hand accounts of the Holocaust.
Q: I want to talk about the documents included in your book as well as the secondary research conducted in support of your parents testimonies. What was your goal for including this additional historical frame?
Including all this supplementary information was both vital and necessary. My parents are recording memories of what happened to them and their families seventy years ago. Do you trust the accuracy of their memories? Do their recollections reflect their subjective interpretations of events, or can their words be relied upon to represent objective historical reality?
In order for their memoirs to be meaningful seventy years later, they have to be held up to a light, analyzed for accuracy, and fact-checked.
Essentially the concentration camp records, visas, and multiple sundry lists chronologically track my parents’ whereabouts from incarceration to incarceration, and demonstrate very clearly and decisively that they were where they said they were, and the events described occurred when they said they occurred, and hence their seventy year old memories are surprisingly, yet exceptionally reliable. Furthermore, the inclusion of historical research contextualizes my parents’ stories so that when they mention names and words like Dachau Malchow, Ebensee, kapo, SunderKommander, you know what they’re talking about. In addition you can compare my parent’s rendition of events (written by they who do not read history but live history) with recorded history (written by they who read history but do not live history). As a result you can see a remarkable correlation and convergence of both sources. On the one hand, my parents’ memoirs personalize history, and on the other hand the history corroborates my parents’ memoirs. This is an ideal symbiosis.
This approach is also a firewall built against Holocaust deniers, who no matter what will deny the Holocaust either for political purposes and/or as a result of anti-Semitic animus.
Q: As a neurosurgeon, you are no stranger to research; however, I imagine conducting historical research is quite different from running scientific experiments. What was it like, as a scientist, to step into a historian’s shoes and unearth documents about your family?
It was a natural and relatively easy transition. Both Science and History are interested in obtaining truths based on cold-hearted objectivity and reproducibility. I actually structured the book like a scientific article. There is an “Introduction” which includes background information, and a description of methodology. The “Photos and Figures” found at the back of most chapters could be considered the Results section of the book where the objective historical data is displayed and explained in detail with photo legends and figure legends. The conclusions and discussion are not included, but are left to the thoughtful and productive imagination of the individual reader.
Kuzmino Chronicles: Memoirs of Teenage Holocaust Survival is available for purchase on Amazon.
For more information on the use of Holocaust Testimony in historical accountings of the Holocaust, see:
Lawrence Langer, Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991).
Edward T. Linenthal, Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).