Search launched for 'unseen' survivors' memoirs

With the youngest Holocaust survivors in their 70s, a new project aims to digitize memoirs and diaries.

holocaust survivors 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
holocaust survivors 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
With even the youngest Holocaust survivors in their late 70s, a new Claims Conference project seeks to locate, digitize and present to the world thousands of as-yet unknown memoirs and diaries from that period. According to Claims Conference officials, thousands of unpublished memoirs are thought to exist. The next few years may be the last opportunity to preserve and make public the last of these texts. Now, the Worldwide Shoah Memoirs Collection hopes to create a database of these memoirs that will offer future generations living after the last survivors have died direct access to original testimony in the language and style of the survivor. "There are thousands of writings and diaries in the hands of survivors or their families that lie at home because there wasn't the money to publish. Some printed just 10 or 20 copies for the close family. There are texts catalogued in small archives somewhere that nobody touches," according to Gabi Bron, the project's coordinator in Israel. "We know dozens of people have come forward to survivors' groups, and hundreds more wanted to write their memoirs but never did." The project is at a very early stage. The budget will depend on response, and news of the project has yet to reach the Jewish and general media around the world. The structure of the catalog is also unfinished. Though the details have yet to be finalized, the Web site is expected to be arranged according to countries, historical periods and types of story. The system currently cannot accept handwritten manuscripts, and no plans are in place to help survivors type up their memoirs. Claims Conference officials are considering using community center volunteers who are teaching computer courses for the elderly. The Web site,, currently operates in two languages, Hebrew and English, with translation under way into French, German, Hungarian, Yiddish, Spanish, Russian and Polish. Yet Bron is optimistic that the project will be a success. First announced on Tuesday, two manuscripts were located before the end of the workday.