Sociological Research on the Holocaust - in front of the direct testimonies. Some methodological remarks
Institute of Applied Social Sciences University of Warsaw Warsaw, Poland
The analysis of direct data - the testimonies of participants and witnesses of the past events ? enables the researcher to get into the social reality constructed by individuals: to their consciousness, memory and to the ways of thinking about their own experiences.
We can be interested in events from the past of certain societies or in individuals´past experiences from two different perspectives:
1 - first perspective, the historical one, is focusing on giving the answer to the question: how it was? Then, the description of the past events is very important: chronology, reconstruction of facts and details which have confirmation in historical empirical data, in sources of the rime. The experiences of individuals, participants of these past events - in order to know what these experiences were really alike - can be reconstructed mainly from the documents and testimonies originated from the time of these experiences (or created shortly after that time).
2 - second perspective, sociological one, is applying to the past from the present time. For the sociologist can be important how the historical events of his interest are remembered today by their participants and witnesses (not only by them): how they describe them, how they see and judge their role in these events, what importance they attribute now (at the time of the narration) to the past and experience long ago.
I will explore in this paper the nature and the role of the direct testimonies used in the sociological research on the Holocaust as well as some methodological issues they could arise.