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Presentation for College Interns at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Living Memorial to the Holocaust

Presentation Date: 01/06/19
Location: Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, Edmond J. Safra Plaza, 36 Battery Place, NY, NY 10280

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Tomorrow (January 6, 2019), I will have the honor of addressing a special group of college interns who will begin to code recorded testimonies of Holocaust survivors at the Museum. This work is extremely important as the coding of individual testimonies will allow to identify them and pull them together for the purpose of research and education. The group of college students will be undertaking an intense and demanding task of listening for many hours a day to the testimonies of survivors, in order to make sure that these testimonies and the details they include will be easily available and accessible for future generations, long after there will no longer be survivors living among us.

The importance of this project cannot be emphasized enough, since interviews with survivors of the Shoah have been increasingly recognized as an important and unique source of data for the full grasp of the experiences endured by victims of the Holocaust. In fact, some experts argue that research and documentation of extreme trauma without the direct personal language of testimonies of survivors distorts the very phenomenon which it attempts to study by sanitizing the texts. The impact of such sanitized documentation often leaves potential students emotionally numb and disinterested.

The Museum of Jewish History aims not only at documenting the historical facts but also, very importantly, at teaching lessons about dangers of discrimination, bigotry, and apathy to the suffering of others and to the abuse of power. For these lessons to be communicated meaningfully, the individual personal testimonies of real people, the witnesses to the catastrophic events of the Holocaust, must be recorded and must be made accessible. It is therefore an incredibly important and commendable effort by the Museum and by the college interns who will perform this task.

                  Irit Felsen


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