The Bad Arolsen Conflict
As previously reported in the media, the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) and Footnote.com announced in September 2009 the forthcoming release of the Internet’s largest interactive digital Holocaust collection. The collection has recently been released and it includes 26,000 Holocaust related photos, millions of names and records which are now available online for the first time.
Dr. Michael Kurtz, assistant archivist of the United States NARA and author of America and the Return of Nazi Contraband commented: “working with ‘Footnote’ these records will become more widely accessible and will help people now and in the future learn more about the events and the impact of the Holocaust.”
The announcement goes on to explain: “The Holocaust collection is the latest in a continuing partnership between ‘Footnote.com’ and the National Archives to scan, digitize, and make historical records available online. The goal is to give more people access to these and other historical records that have previously only been available through the research room of the National Archives.”
Russ Wilding, CEO of ‘Footnote” stated: “These pages tell a personal story that is not recorded in the history text books; they give visitors a first-hand glimpse into the tragic events of the Holocaust and allow users to engage with content such as maps, photos, timelines and personal accounts of victims and survivors.”
Included online at Footnote.com:
The collection can be viewed at: http//www.footnote.com/holocaust
The collection also includes nearly 600 interactive personal accounts of those who survived or perished in the Holocaust, provided by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The project incorporates social networking tools that enable visitors to search for names and add photos, comments and stories, share their insights, and create pages to highlight their discoveries. There will be no charge to access and contribute to these personal pages.
Memberships on Footnote.com are $79.95 annually and $11.95 monthly. Users, however, can use the database on a “pay-per-image” basis for $2.95 per record. Access to the “Stories” section of the site and pages created with Footnote’s social media tools were expected to remain free.
So, in addition to the ‘JewishGen’ and ‘Yad Vashem’ data bases, there are now two more major research sources available: 1) the ‘ITS’ records being held at the USHMM and only available via USHMM intermediaries or to in-person researchers at the Museum, or 2) The records assembled by the National Archives and now offered by ‘Footnote.com’ (for a fee).
The ‘Footnote.com’ database is searchable by name or other content—something the USHMM said could not be done—and it is available on the Internet. Reportedly, it may be somewhat tedious to use in the beginning. For months and years we had urged the USHMM in Washington, D.C. to make the records they had received from ‘ITS’ in Bad Arolsen available online and to distribute them to other Jewish museums, to Jewish institutions, and to major libraries all over the country. They claimed that it could not be done and that it was impossible to place these records on the Internet. They directed all individuals interested in accessing these records to complete request forms and to ask for the assistance of the museum’s researchers in Washington, D.C.
Now NARA and ‘Footnore.com’ have debunked their assertions and have placed millions of records on the Internet. One would expect that the USHMM—which owes its existence to Holocaust survivors—would offer an explanation and/or apology for their lack of cooperation, but we are not holding our breaths.
Leo Rechter is the president of the grass-roots organization, National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors.