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Highlights Archives

Holocaust Survivors' Interviews Now Online

Portion of the cover of "Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust"

Recorded interviews with 22 survivors of the Nazi Holocaust who settled in Wisconsin have just been published online, making it possible to listen and read along as the survivors recount their experiences before, during and after the Holocaust. The Helen F. Bader Foundation of Milwaukee, Marv and Babe Conney of Madison, and the Wisconsin Historical Foundation generously underwrote the costs of the project, which began in 2007.

A Comprehensive Collection

The collection differs from other online Holocaust resources in its depth and breadth. Although only 22 survivors were interviewed, they grew up all over Europe — from Holland in the West to Ukraine in the East, Poland in the North to Greece in the South. Some came from affluent families with servants while others were from middle- or working-class families. An equal number of men and women are interviewed. Some fled their homes in the late 1930s as refugees while others went into hiding like Anne Frank. During the Holocaust, some worked at slave labor and others survived the death camps.

Unlike other websites devoted to the Holocaust, the Wisconsin collection provides entire interviews (some lasting as long as 12 hours) and complete typed transcripts. The survivors recall happy childhoods, traditional Jewish communities, the rise of the Third Reich, anti-Semitic violence such as Kristallnacht, the Warsaw and Lodz ghettos, and conditions at Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps. They describe the fates of their families, starting new lives in postwar Europe, emigrating to the U.S., and the founding of Israel. They also discuss life in Wisconsin's Jewish communities between 1945 and 1980 and their impressions of America. The interviews were conducted not only in Milwaukee and Madison but in cities from Kenosha to Superior and towns from Monroe to Merrill.

Easy Access

Users can stream the recordings while reading along or download the audio (mp3) and text (pdf) for later use. A search engine leads to anecdotes about specific topics, places, people and events. Dozens of short excerpts are organized under headings such as "Prewar Life in Europe," "Ghettos," "Escapes," "Resistance," and "Postwar Life and Immigration." These compelling stories are only one or two minutes long, perfect for casual browsing.

For Educators

Most of the survivors were children or teenagers at the time of the Holocaust, so their memories are a particularly effective teaching tool. A separate teachers' page links to age-appropriate stories and suggests for how to use them in classes. The brief excerpts are particularly effective for use in the classroom. An essay on using sensitive content and links to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum are also included on the teachers' page. Society staff are available to visit your school, organization, temple or church to introduce the collection to students and educators (contact Michael Edmonds for more information at 608-264-6538 or via e-mail.

Rights and Permissions

All content may be printed or downloaded to a computer or mp3 player at no cost for nonprofit educational use by teachers, students and private researchers. Commercial use is prohibited without prior arrangements.

Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust:

:: Posted January 21, 2010

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