New Oral History website at the Hebrew University

November 8, 2013 by Dov Smith
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Marking 75 years since the Kristallnacht attacks of November 9-10, 1938, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Oral History Division launched a new website where the public can search and access 900 previously unavailable Holocaust-related voice recordings and transcripts.

girls from BelarusOne of the earliest-recorded oral history archives of the Shoah, this new resource will provide educators with an invaluable teaching tool and will benefit the study, research and production of materials relating to the Shoah.

Even before the website’s formal launch, several families were surprised to discover in the collection their relatives’ Holocaust testimonies, which in some cases they didn’t know existed. (Examples below; interviews with families can be arranged.)

The Oral History division is part of the Hebrew University’sAvraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry. The Holocaust collection has been made available through the generous support of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

The public can access the materials online at http://bit.ly/ohd-shoah, through a new website created with the assistance of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Multimedia Department. (To search the catalogue, use  keyword and oralhistorydiv. For example, Cracow oralhistorydiv.)

Families that discovered their relatives’ Holocaust testimonies in the collection include:

—The Nordlicht family discovered the testimony of Tova Gusta Nordlicht and for the first time heard her account of the resistance in Poland. Her grandson Gal wrote to the Oral History Division: “I never heard this story before, and it was incredible to hear it after all these years.” (Link to her testimony is athttp://youtu.be/gsyap7JBvWk.)

—The descendants of Laslo Samushi discovered his testimony concerning the rescue of Jewish children in Hungary from 1944 until the liberation. (Link to his testimony is at http://youtu.be/pNQjsEsOgxg.)

—The Even Dar family discovered an interview with their grandfather Simcha Even Dar. This is the only recorded documents the Even Dar family has of Simcha’s involvement in the Bricha ( the underground organized effort that helped Jewish Holocaust survivors escape post-World War II Europe to pre-state Israel) and Aliyah Bet (immigration by Jews to pre-state Israel in violation of British restrictions). (Link to his testimony is at http://youtu.be/xphn9-7nHNQ).

This collection is just a small sample of the invaluable archive housed at the Oral History Division (http://oralhistoryeng.huji.ac.il), which contains the memories of individuals from Israeli and Jewish society throughout its modern history. The archive contains rare testimonies from Holocaust survivors, key individuals in the Zionist movement, organizations such as the United Jewish Appeal, men and women who grew up under the British mandate in Palestine, under Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, or in various Jewish communities throughout the world.

Prof. Dalia Ofer, the Max and Rita Haber Prof. of Holocaust and Contemporary Jewry, Emeritus at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry, said: “These on-line testimonies are an outstanding contribution that will help spread knowledge and understanding of the Jews’ daily lives and their struggle to survive during the dark period of the Holocaust. It represents the dedication of the Oral History Division of the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry to enable the public, who often sought out the university’s’ collections, to use the testimonies as part of their regular study and interest in the life of the Jews during this period. Personally I feel gratitude for those who enabled the project, which will allow students to explore the great collection of this archive with ease and success. I recall extensively using the Oral History Division’s general collection in my own research from my first steps as a master student and throughout my work as a teacher and researcher.”

Dr. Sharon Kangisser Cohen, Academic Director of the Oral History Division, said: “The success of the Oral History Division in initiating and completing this project is due to the close collaborative work of different departments in the university. This project is essentially the product of the professionalism and dedication of members of staff at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The accessibility of a small section of our archive will only enhance research and writing of the Holocaust period and its aftermath, but also as we have already seen, it has been significant on the personal level as families are rediscovering their family’s past as people have found interviews with their parents and grandparents, which they had never heard before. We also hope that our archive will be a helpful resource for teachers.”

About the Oral History Division:

The Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry [ICJ] began collecting oral histories for the purposes of historical research in 1959. These early interviews, covering a wide range of subjects and conducted according to highly professional standards, granted the ICJ the distinction of being the most important academic collection of oral documentation in Israel. The Oral History Division’s collection of more than 10,000 interviews in 20 languages constitutes a unique treasure of Jewish memories that will provide future researchers with an invaluable social history of the Yishuv, the State of Israel and Jewish communities in the Diaspora. Researchers can visit the Division to read transcripts and listen to recordings. Digitized interviews are also being made available on the web. Online at http://oralhistoryeng.huji.ac.il.

 

 

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