Essays in Contemporary History
THE COMMUNICATIVE MEMORY
2.1 Intervening Into Memory When I first visited an international oral history conference at Essex in 1978, I was a newcomer to this field just planning a project of our own. The little previ- ous expertise that I had at the time can be boiled down to three personal experi- ences with interviewing and a recent encounter with foreign practices of profes- sionalized oral history. In the sixties I researched for my dissertation on American Denazification in Germany and, alongside archival research, I went to see all sorts of politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, that had been active in these policies – from the American proconsul, the former General Lucius D. Clay, downwards to regional officials and party functionaries in Bavaria, to ask them questions about the loopholes within the archival records, taking notes on my knees. Somewhat spe- cial, but not altogether uncharacteristic, was my interview with the General, then on the board of a major private bank in Wall Street, where he received me in his wainscoted office: he put his feet on his desk and invited me to ask questions, staging sort of a long postponed press conference about outdated news from twenty years back with the little apprentice of history from abroad. In actual fact the outcome was nil – even his memoirs of 1950, then a bestseller, had been written by his military staff – but I got an impression of his personality, his ap- proach and bits and pieces of information about the people he...
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