The Memory of War and Trauma: Living with an Unspeakable Past

The aim of this oral history project is to obtain the life story of one Ethnic German female survivor of WWII who experienced significant trauma during the Soviet invasion of Eastern Europe. Multiple narratives, told over a period of time, will produce a rich and contextualized account of her life experiences before, during, and after the trauma of war and migration, as well as an unpublished memoir that she will be able to share with family and loved ones. This memoir will also be shared by German-Canadian Studies with the larger community and used for ongoing research and educational purposes.
Historical accounts of WWII and its aftermath tend to significantly understate the traumatic experiences of Ethnic German women, which were often internalized and unresolved, and remain invisible or silenced by society at large. Furthermore, oral histories, personal memoirs, and/or autobiographies tend to portray a preferred life narrative and to marginalize storylines that risk exposing one’s vulnerability. Many researchers emphasize that the most empowering experience for a survivor is to share his or her life story with respectful and validating witnesses, and that the community at large must acknowledge its responsibility to witness and learn from these silenced and marginalized stories. It is my hope to provide a safe space for one woman, who wishes to share her story more fully, to be able to do so with dignity, in the knowledge that the story she has independently carried over her lifetime needs to be collectively understood, validated, and honoured.
Elizabeth Krahn, MSW, RSW