By Mara Sonnenschein
Eva Schloss came to the Museum this week.
Over the last few months, I feel like I’ve come to know Eva through the New Dimensions in Testimony℠ installation. The Museum’s installation allows visitors to have virtual conversations with Holocaust survivors Eva Schloss and Pinchas Gutter, via filmed testimony mapped to language recognition software. The technology is complex but the experience of it is simple: It feels like Eva and Pinchas are actually talking with you in real-time.
Because I work at the Museum, I’ve been able to visit the installation frequently. I’ve asked the virtual Eva dozens of questions about her experience during the Holocaust, as well as about her life before and after the war. She’s shown me the numbers tattooed on her arm at Auschwitz. She’s told me about how, before the war, she was “very bad” at school but how much she loved learning to write German calligraphy. She’s described the depth of her depression after the war, and how nurturing a garden and then having children helped her move forward and embrace life.
Sometimes her answers make me laugh. Sometimes they make me cry.
Eva came to the Museum to meet high school students who had just experienced New Dimensions in Testimony℠. After the students asked questions of the virtual Eva, they were introduced to Eva in person. Her warmth and sense of humor were apparent to everyone, like when a student asked her a question and she gave a big smile and responded, “What did my onscreen self tell you?”
She ended her visit by reminding the students that they are the last generation of young people who will have the experience of meeting Holocaust survivors. She warned of a future when there are no survivors left to contradict Holocaust deniers. She explained that she participated in New Dimensions in Testimony℠, an initiative by USC Shoah Foundation, to preserve the dialogue between Holocaust survivors and learners far into the future.
Just as when I speak with her virtually, some of the real Eva’s answers made me laugh. And a couple of them made me cry.
Mara Sonnenschein is Communications Coordinator at the Museum.
Editor’s Note: In the short video below, watch a young child experience New Dimensions in Testimony℠ at the Museum.