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‘Sometimes simply staying alive is a form of resistance’

How do harrowing war experiences affect different generations? Students have made a video about poignant family stories. They interviewed other students and writer Dubravka Ugrešić. The premiere of the film was on 4 May during the online Hour of Remembrance. Watch this online memorial.

Five students speak to camera about their eventful family history. One looks back at Jewish family members who were murdered in the Holocaust and another at how it is to be oppressed as a Kurdish woman in Iran. They do so with the aid of a personal object, a suitcase, for instance, that represents their family’s flight from Nazi Germany.   

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Hour of Remembrance

Watch Hour of Remembrance on 4 May from 19.00 to 20.00. Martijn Eickhoff, a researcher from the institute for war, holocaust and genocide studies (NIOD), will be giving a talk about Nazi science and this will be followed by the video ‘Archaeology of Resistance.’

Hour of Remembrance

War and resistance

The video comes from the ‘Archaeology of Resistance’ research clinic in which students study different forms of resistance. Students Aida Gholami, Berta Navarro and Emma Gerritsen helped make the video. ‘We often look at historical events from a distance and through a literal lens,’ says Navarro, a liberal arts and sciences student. ‘But this project shows us how such events affect future generations.’ The interviewed students talk about their memories of their parents and grandparents’ war stories and how these have affected them.

Two students interview Dubravka Ugrešić by an exhibit at the Resistance Museum while a third student films them.
The students interviewed Dubravka Ugrešić at the Resistance Museum.

Diary page

Aida Gholami was interviewed about her family history. For her object Gholami, who is doing a master’s in arts, culture and media, chose a page ripped out of her diary where she had written about her difficult life in Iran. ‘I write about myself and the women in our family, how we were belittled and treated differently from Kurdish men and Iranians.’ How has the project helped her? ‘The video gave me the chance to hear more stories about oppression and resistance. It’s not an easy topic to talk about.’ 

Navarro says, ‘They aren’t interviews as much as conversations, and that made it special for me too. I was suddenly talking to housemates about family stories that they wouldn’t usually share.’

‘It’s important to pass the stories on, but you do need to think about how.’ 

Jewish doctors under the Nazi regime

In the video a Canadian student talks about how Jewish family members, some of whom were doctors, were murdered during the Second World War. He does this with the aid of a book about Jewish doctors who tried to practise under the Nazi regime. Navarro: ‘The book helped him gain a better understanding of his family history because his family finds it difficult to talk about the past.’ 

Internal resistance

What else have the students learnt from this video project? Navarro: ‘Resistance can be a visible act but sometimes the decision simply to try and stay alive is also a form of resistance.’ 

Gholami agrees. ‘This project got me thinking much more deeply about the concept of resistance and how you shouldn’t take the past for granted. It’s important to pass the stories on to the next generation, but you do need to think about how.’ 

Yugoslavian civil war

The second part of the video is an interview with Dutch-Croatian writer Dubravka Ugrešić. An opponent of the nationalist movement during the Yugoslavian civil war, she was no longer free to work as a literature researcher and therefore fled to the Netherlands. Emma Gerritsen, a liberal arts and sciences student, spoke to her together with the other students at the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam. For Gerritsen it was a memorable experience. ‘The stories have made me even more aware of the impact of war and how this transcends generations. It also affects children and grandchildren.’  

Text: Linda van Putten

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