|Testimony and negotiating the Truth of Memory|
|Truth is a problematic concept. The focus of my research is an Ingrian man born in 1922, Tauno, and his story relating to his personal experiences in Stalinīs labour camps in the then Soviet Union from 1939-1950. Speaking about war and mass destruction, the problem is that the concept of "truth" will never cover the entire event, which is difficult to comprehend. Many scholars underline the importance of the search for truth. This process contains at least three central levels of operation: the personal level at which talking about the experiences; the re-interpretation level for providing moral justice; and finally the level of political significance which produces historical documents for research purposes (for ex. Carlo Ginzburg, Luisa Passerini, Martha Minow; These are also important dimensions of truth commissions).
Carlo Ginzburg has considered in a most interesting light the reasons why courtrooms of the 16th century did not think one witness statement sufficient, and required several. He points up the fact that the epistemological foundations of (historical/cultural) research and jurisprudence do not stand alone, and that it is impossible to adapt juridicial principles for the purposes of research. Witness statements are hierarchical: an oral witness statement (or narrative) is a primary source, when it is written down it becomes a secondary source. Experiences can also be divided into primary, secondary, tertiary experiences. As I see it, accounts of experiences in the concentration camps or the narratives of the losing side in the Finnish Civil War of 1918 fall into these same categories. Making the distinction between experience of an event and knowledge of an event is particularly fruitful. The dimensions of the narrative exist in relation to memory, ideology, and the subconscious. In my paper I outline the concept testimony in oral history; Testimony as a form of remembering, and the distinction between experience of an event and the knowledge of an event.