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February 24 2014

February 06 2014

Rotterdam Exhibit Features Anne Frank's Childhood Keepsakes

A collection of marbles that belonged to Jewish Holocaust victim Anne Frank will be displayed for the first time at an exhibition in Rotterdam through May.

Frank gave the marbles, as well as a tea set and a book, to a childhood friend for safekeeping before going into hiding from the Nazis. She then stayed in what is referred to as the "Secret Annex" in a house in Amsterdam for a little more than two years with her parents and sister, according to the Anne Frank House museum.

When the war ended, Toosje Kupers, now 83, tried to return the belongings to Frank's father, Otto — the family's only survivor — but was told to keep them as a reminder of her friend. She donated the items to the Anne Frank House museum, which has already displayed the tea set and the book, after she found them when moving nearly 70 years later. Read more...

More about Museum, Holocaust, Anne Frank, Anne Frank House, and Netherlands
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May 23 2011

Crowdsourcing Helps Holocaust Survivors Find Answers

About a thousand times every month, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum gets a request for information about a victim of the Holocaust. The museum houses more than 170 million documents naming more than 17 million people targeted by the Nazis, including Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, political prisoners, and many others.

Researchers rely on a combination of historical knowledge and guesswork to pick through the proverbial haystack of microfilm documents. Sometimes it takes weeks to answer an inquiry. Sometimes the question is never solved.

At that rate, according to Lisa Yavnai, director of the museum’s Holocaust Survivors and Victims Resource Center, many of the most important inquiries — those from aging holocaust survivors who want information about their families and friends — would go unanswered before their deaths.

To make the search more efficient, the museum paired with genealogy resource Ancestry.com to launch the World Memory Project, a crowdsourced indexing of the museum’s microfilm documents. Since May 5, about 1,500 volunteers have downloaded Ancestry’s indexing software to tag online documents with the names, locations and other important information that make them searchable.

Together, they’ve already indexed more than 124,000 records — an astounding number, considering that a museum employee dedicated to the same task indexed 1,000 records per month.

The cumulative efforts of volunteers have paid off. For instance, Yavnai says, researchers were able to find a photograph of one man’s father using the newly formed database. It was the first image he had seen of his parent in more than 65 years.

Eventually the goal is to make the entirety of the museum’s records available for public search on Ancestry.com.

It’s not the first time the museum enlisted the Internet’s help in documenting the Holocaust. In March, the Remember Me web project launched. It publicized photos taken by relief workers during the immediate postwar period, in an effort to identify their subjects. So far about 80 have been identified.

Yavnai says she’s not surprised that so many people have participated in the new digital efforts.

“I think people, when they hear about the Holocaust, they might feel like it’s something terrible, but they can’t really do anything about it,” Yavnai says. “But you can still help victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution by helping them find information and answer questions they’ve had for more than 65 years.”

More About: crowdsourcing, holocaust, museum, Remember Me, World Memory Project

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February 04 2010

Facebook Profile For Holocaust Victim Brings History to Life

Virtual memorials are nothing new — people have been paying their respects to departed loved ones on Facebook and Myspace for years. But a Facebook page set up for Henio Zytomirski, a 6-year-old Polish boy who was killed during the Holocaust, is truly revolutionizing the way we recount history and remember the dead. His profile is, in essence, a virtual museum.

Last summer, a group of people in Lublin, Poland, and Israel — including Henio’s cousin Neta Zytomirski Avidar — created a Facebook profile for the boy, who was sent to the Majdanek death camp in 1942. According to the AP, the idea grew out of a group called Grodzka Gate-NN Teater, which uses the arts to remember victims of the Holocaust. Henio was chosen because there were so many photos and letters available to draw from, which makes his profile a truly rich reading experience.

The profile functions as kind of a piecemeal storybook, with Polish status updates in Henio’s voice as well as photos and other updates in the third person that tell his tale. Henio’s own voice is simple and touching, as you can see in the selection below. (Rough Translation: “I am seven years old. I have a mom and dad. I have a favorite place. Not everyone has a mom and dad, but everyone has their favorite place. Today I decided that I will never leave Lublin. I will stay here forever. In my favorite place. With Mom and Dad. In Lublin.”)

According to the AP, not everyone is happy with the project — the news company cites Adam Kopciowski, a historian at Lublin’s Marie Curie-Sklodowska University who specializes in Jewish studies, who thinks that writing in the dead boy’s voice is ethically unsound and amounts to “abuse toward a child that has been dead for the past 70 years.” Others have also raised the fact that the page — much like Doppelganger Week — violates Facebook’s TOS.

Still, Henio’s cousin makes very clear in a note on the profile that the young boy’s voice is meant to be purely speculative, and that he is to function as a symbol:

“We try to reconstruct his life in the ghetto from survivors’ testimonies, from documents, from knowing the history of Lublin during the Nazi occupation. From all of these we try to guess what might have been his testimony.

Henio is also a representing figure, a symbolic figure, an icon. His figure represents the destruction of the ancient Jewish community of Lublin.

His figure brings to Facebook the story of the Jewish community under the Nazi occupation regime and of its ruin.”

And judging by his 3,000+ fans, scores of thankful wall posts and avalanche of virtual gifts, people have become enamored of the long-lost boy.

Aside from being a touching memorial to a tragically departed boy, Henio’s profile is also a fascinating use of social media as an educational tool. Most of us have probably visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Upon entering, you receive a passport depicting someone who experienced the Holocaust, and throughout your tour through the museum, you learn his or her fate. Henio’s page brings this experience to another level, allowing you to interact with the boy, and to learn about his life in a way that integrates fully into your own social media experience.

This profile only goes to show how sites like Facebook are no longer silly time wasters or places to troll for your next collegiate hookup, they provide us with news, entertainment, advertisements and, now — as more and more people are seeing it as both a news portal and source — education. I recently became a friend of Henio’s, will you?

Tags: facebook, holocaust, social media

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