By Andrea Schnelzauer
Thanks to a partnership between the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust and the University of Haifa’s Master’s Program in Holocaust Studies in Haifa, Israel, I have had the unique opportunity to intern at the Museum for two months working with the recorded testimonies of Holocaust survivors.
During my internship, I focused on making the Museum’s rich collection of survivor testimony accessible for a wider audience to be used for research and educational purposes. I created a framework for establishing a library of short clips (30 seconds to 5 minutes long) from videotaped survivor testimony of the Museum’s Revson oral history collection, which consists of over 600 videotaped testimonies by Holocaust survivors from different parts of Europe and that were compiled by the Museum during the 1990s.
Such a close engagement with the personal stories of survivors and liberators confronted me with different challenges. Each person’s testimony that I watched had his or her own unique story about life before the Nazi seizure of power, the outbreak of World War II in his or her town, Jewish communities, family, loss, survival, and rebuilding his or her life after 1945. Even though I have been studying the Holocaust for several years, listening to their testimonies and trying to understand every step of their experience was often not easy because of their diverse linguistic backgrounds or because they spoke about people and places with which I was not familiar. Reviewing each testimony required a lot of fact checking and research, which in turn proved to be an amazing learning opportunity about aspects of the Holocaust, World War II, and Jewish life. It was sometimes challenging from an emotional perspective. Hearing about the hardships these people had to endure, the losses they lived through, and the cruelty and human abyss they faced moved me deeply. Yet, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work on this important project.
The full testimonies and the clips that I created from them can help researchers and other audiences learn about different aspects of the history of the Holocaust and Jewish life which would not be accessible without survivors’ accounts. Ultimately, the history of the Holocaust remains abstract and anonymous if it is not reflected in the lives of those who lived through it.
One female survivor’s sentence really stuck with me: “The real story to tell [is that of] those who did not survive. I must speak.” I believe that with this project, the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is making an important contribution to make such stories heard.
Andrea Schnelzauer is currently a graduate student at the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa in Israel. In 2017 she received her undergraduate degree from the Philipps University of Marburg in Germany in Political Science with minors in Sociology and Law. She has worked on various research and educational projects at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and Yad Vashem.