On the basis of examples drawn from her own research in Central and Eastern European history before and after the collapse of Communism, Sonia Combe pointed out at this event how eyewitness accounts can improve our knowledge and understanding of history. Memory does not bring only emotion to the historical narrative as most academic historians claim. It is more reliable than admitted. Most importantly, some historical explanations cannot be found in public records or archives. They can be traced only to the gleanings of memory. Scholars of contemporary history are confronted with a major turn in their profession: they must take into consideration all available eyewitness accounts (interviews, autobiographies, memoirs) and even historical documentary films based on testimonies that are becoming the main way of transmitting history for the general public. Professional historians no longer have monopoly on the Writing of History.
Sonia Combe, a French historian and senior researcher at the Institut des Sciences Sociales du Politique (University of Paris-Ouest), is especially renowned for her expertise on the interaction between history and memory in East European countries, where she has conducted interviews before and after the collapse of the Soviet system. She has worked on the archives of the East German secret services. She also is the initiator of a group of French historians who advocate open access to all archives, some of them going back to the First World War.