Digital World: For a Holocaust wiki

The wiki model would be my choice for recording and disseminating information about the Holocaust.

By DAVID SHAMAH
April 29, 2008 09:53
Digital World: For a Holocaust wiki

holocaust 88. (photo credit: )

It takes a lot of chutzpah - as well as a mean heart and a huge dose of anti-Jewishness - to be a Holocaust denier. And yet, there they are. You'd think that it would be difficult to disprove the Holocaust, what with all the documentation and testimony - but there they are, ready at the drop of a hat to "prove" that there was no way millions of Jews could have been burned in the furnaces of the death camps, because the ovens were too small and too inefficient to burn the bodies. They have a great deal of difficulty understanding that six million Jews could be killed over the course of eight or so years. Yet you never hear them disputing the Rwandan genocide (http://tinyurl.com/52yj2), which, had it gone on for a similar amount of time at the same rate of murder, would have claimed about 25 million victims. But like so many other things in life, Holocaust denial - and deniers - are one of those annoyances that never seem to go away. As long as there is anti-Semitism in the world (and it's almost always linked to anti-Zionism today), there are going to be those who will ignore the plain facts. These people can't be - and refuse to try to be - educated. You can't argue with these people (although if you were going to, anything you would need to know about how to do it would be at http://tinyurl.com/y647oa). There is only one response appropriate for Holocaust deniers, but it's not appropriate to discuss in a column like this. I'm much more concerned with the normal people, Jews and non-Jews, who accept the reality and historicity of the Holocaust. For all the information, books, stories, personal testimonies and school projects, there are still many people who have only a sketchy idea of what the Jews of Europe went through during the Shoah. According to Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, "There is tremendous ignorance about the Holocaust, people who don't know what the Holocaust is. What I'd like to see you do is to fight ignorance. What we can do is to learn, study and remember." If this is true for educated adults, it's even more accurate for kids, at the grade school, high school and even university levels. That lack of education, says Lipstadt, means there is a vacuum when it comes to knowledge about the Holocaust, and vacuums tend to get filled - one way or another. Thus, without preventive measures, Holocaust deniers get an opportunity to spread their poison. There are several archives and compendia of Holocaust information on the Internet, but the well organized ones do not lend themselves to casual surfing (i.e. you have to know what you're looking for), while many others give only cursory attention to many important details. What's needed, in my opinion, is a resource that will be approachable by kids and others who are more in tune with the cyber way of doing things, enabling them to access information using a format they understand and are used to. Like a wiki. A wiki, as most people know by now, is a collaborative effort by many people working together to build a body of information. The most famous wiki, Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/), attempts to define and classify everything within the sphere of human knowledge. But there are many other wikis that deal with more limited areas of knowledge - like geography, history, TV and specific TV shows. (A partial list of public wikis can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/ub6q7.) Wikis are also big in business and especially in schools, because they allow many users to work together on a project, creating results as well as community. That's why the wiki model would be my choice for recording and disseminating information about the Holocaust, especially the aspects of it that are not as well known to many people, such as life in communities in Europe before and during the war, individual and family stories and experiences, and the fate of the survivors. While many schools and organizations have done individual projects in some of these areas, there is no single compendium available for them to pool their information, to allow themselves and others to get a fuller picture of the events. Imagine a scenario where schools from around the world would work together on wiki pages describing the experiences of Jews in Polish villages occupied by the Nazis, and their subsequent detention in ghettos and deportation to work and death camps. A page could be dedicated to each village, with descriptions of the communities, daily life before and during World War II and the fate of individuals whose stories have been told. Chances are that survivors and their children, who may have been interviewed already in the context of a class project, are scattered throughout the world. Schools and groups working together could contribute what they know, with others filling in the gaps for a more complete picture. Eventually, you would get a rich, detailed view of life in prewar and Holocaust-era Europe, where the experience of those who were persecuted gets a perspective usually found only in books - with students and others committed to the information that they are contributing to, accessible to them using methods they can understand. It's also the perfect antidote to the Holocaust deniers, showing them up for the isolated nut jobs they are, instead of the "academics being persecuted for their alternative views" persona they try to cloak themselves with. Once the facts are out there in an easy to access format, using resources available to everyone, these jerks don't have a chance. Other benefits of using a wiki can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/gcx7q. So what do you need to start a wiki? Not much - just some dedicated people willing to run it (and especially to make sure that only relevant information goes in), a place to host it and wiki software, like Ziwiki (http://www.ziwiki.com/), which will not only let you set up a wiki, but host it as well. You could also build the framework off-line by using one of the many free wiki software packages at http://tinyurl.com/8upsh. There are lots of organizations that could take this project upon themselves. One of them should, not only because the deniers need to be shouted down, but because the stories of the Holocaust need to be told - in a way that everyone can hear. http://digital.newzgeek.com


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