In late 1997, and into 1998, Roger Fredinburg was the national talk show host for a 21 week series on the Holocaust entitled, WE MUST REMEMBER. I was his executive producer at the time and with the help of my best friend, Chey Simonton, we found amazing guests to tell the story of those horrible years during WWII.
I called my boss, Roger Fredinburg, and told him I’d been studying anti-Semitism in the church for nearly 10 years, and it had led me to the Holocaust. I asked him if I could put people on the radio to be interviewed by him until we’d done a full overview of the history and the horrors these people went through. Roger was more than happy to accommodate us, and we set aside two hours every Wednesday night to hear scholars, historians, survivors, resistance fighters, and children of survivors.
All three of us agree, this program was a highlight of our lives, and we believe we are blessed because we completed it. At the end of the program, the station gave free copies of the tapes to any university or college. We also had a request for tapes from Stephen Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. After the program, I was blessed to have visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and had a VIP tour.
The many transcripts of this series were done by my very best friend, Chey Simonton. Following is her letter about what she went through to put these tapes into words.
Transcription typing is a painstaking process, difficult for anyone to understand who has never done it before. I laugh when I see “Help Wanted” ads for transcription typists — must type 70 words per minute. That’s a clear sign of someone who has never done this type of work! Typing speed counts for nothing in this kind of work— listening, concentrating on hearing the words is the heart of transcription. It’s necessary to adjust the speed and volume of the recording and concentrate on listening, hearing the words—- rewinding and listening over and over to the same little 30 second or 60 second sound-byte so that it can be typed and punctuated accurately. It’s not unusual for a 60 minute recording to take 6 to 8 hours or more to type, if there are multiple speakers or unusual accents.
When I took on this project for Roger I agreed readily. Kelleigh Nelson is my best friend, and we had worked together in 1997 to find just the right guests to tell the story Kelleigh had in mind. I was in Seattle with a high-speed internet connection to search Amazon. She was in Knoxville without a computer. Roger Fredinburg, our dear friend and veteran radio host was in Medford, Oregon. Roger paid for all the long distance phone calls necessary for us to track down the guests. Kelleigh called and scheduled them; one or two each week for 21 weeks.
That was all years ago and I’d forgotten much of it until the cassettes from those interviews came back to our attention in 2010. Technology changed. Casettes were converted to MP3 files and everything old was new again! Then the typing commenced.
As I mentioned before, the art of transcription typing is the art of listening. Over and over, I re-wound and relistened to passages; the story told by Dorit Bader Whiteman of the Kindertransport where mothers and fathers took their children, their babies, to the Vienna train station in the middle of the night and handed them over to strangers so their precious children may have a chance to live although the parents expected to perish; Rochelle Sutin, a 14 year-old who escaped barefoot from a Nazi labor camp in Poland and survived in forested wilderness in October until she stumbled on a camp of Jewish Resistance deep in the forest and found Jack, a boy she knew from school who had a place prepared for her because his mother (who had been killed by the Nazis) appeared to him in a dream and told him Rochelle would come. My God, such stories—true stories that break your heart!
There are roughly 30 hours of interviews here. As far as I know, this is the most comprehensive presentation of its kind. Scholars, survivors, historians, every aspect is touched on. It builds logically from Michael Berenbaum, the head of the National Holocaust Museum, who set the stage, through James Pool explaining Hitler’s rise to power, to the stories of survivors of the camps and Nazi persecutions, to Irving Belmont, the young US Army officer who oversaw the Landsberg Displaced Persons Camp and after the surrender, and Dr. Henry Feingold, the final guest. When asked how to recognize the beginning of tyranny he said, “it’s the faceless bureaucracy— the machine without humanity.”
Roger is a remarkable interviewer. He asks simple questions, the questions I would ask if I had the chance, then lets the speaker get on with the telling. I am so proud that he is my friend.
I was hard-pressed to decide to what extent I should edit as I typed. I itched to do so; but, I didn’t feel comfortable changing the words of those remarkable people, the survivors who told their stories in elderly voices in English, a language that is not their mother tongue. Should I have left spoken words untyped? Should I condense and combine? Transcription is an art as much as a skill, and I have a lot to learn. In the end, I made very few changes. Any errors in spelling, punctuation and editing are mine.
Chey Simonton , January 2011
Unfortunately, Roger’s introduction, and my introduction to this wonderful series have been lost over the years, but the transcripts of our guests, many who have now passed, are intact for your reading. This is Pesach (Passover) for our Jewish friends, and Resurrection Week (Easter) for us Christians. I believe it is a perfect time to start this amazing series. I hope you enjoy reading these interviews as much as we enjoyed putting this program together. I cannot think of another host who could have done such a wonderful job with the people he interviewed. The music he chose, the ease he put our guests at, the delicacy of some of the questions could not have been done by anyone other than my good friend, Roger Fredinburg.
The first in the series is Dr. Michael Berenbaum, Director of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.