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Trove Of Historic Records Of Holocaust Goes Online

1970
1945
AP 2 May 2011

 

This photo provided by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee shows a group of French Jewish refugee children who arrived from Marseilles via Spain at the Rossio train station in Lisbon in 1943. In the first row, the second boy from the left, is Henry Sluck, who was a child when he was brought to the United States in 1943  a vessel that the JDC booked to rescue survivors fleeing Europ...
Enlarge Associated Press

This photo provided by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee shows a group of French Jewish refugee children who arrived from Marseilles via Spain at the Rossio train station in Lisbon in 1943. In the first row, the second boy from the left, is Henry Sluck, who was a child when he was brought to the United States in 1943 a vessel that the JDC booked to rescue survivors fleeing Europe. The photo is part of a collection of over 500,000 Holocaust era names and photographs from the JDC global archive being made available online for the first time in the JDC's history. Slucki, 76, of Los Angeles, Calif., was a child when he was brought to the United States in 1943 aboard the Serba Pinto, a vessel that the JDC booked to rescue survivors fleeing Europe.

This April 21, 2011 photo shows a page listing the names of orphan children from Buchenwald who were in Paris being helped by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) during the Holocaust period, at the JDC offices in New York, as a volunteer enters the information into a computer.  The information is part of a collection of over 500,000 Holocaust era names and photographs from th...
Associated Press

This April 21, 2011 photo shows a page listing the names of orphan children from Buchenwald who were in Paris being helped by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) during the Holocaust period, at the JDC offices in New York, as a volunteer enters the information into a computer. The information is part of a collection of over 500,000 Holocaust era names and photographs from the JDC global archive being made available online for the first time in JDC's history.

In this April 21, 2011 photo, Claus Hirsch reacts as he is interviewed at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee offices  in New York. Hirsch, a German-born Jew whose family fled to the Shanghai Ghetto to escape Nazi persecution during World War II, is one of the volunteers entering data for JDC as part of a project which includes over 500,000 Holocaust era names and photographs from ...
Associated Press

In this April 21, 2011 photo, Claus Hirsch reacts as he is interviewed at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee offices in New York. Hirsch, a German-born Jew whose family fled to the Shanghai Ghetto to escape Nazi persecution during World War II, is one of the volunteers entering data for JDC as part of a project which includes over 500,000 Holocaust era names and photographs from the JDC global archive and make them available online for the first time in JDC's history.

 This photo provided by American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee shows Claus Hirsch standing on a street corner in Shanghai, where his family lived after fleeing  Nazi persecution during World War II. Hirsch, who now lives in New York, is helping the JDC to index the names of Jewish survivors, as part of a digitization project to put the organization's historic records online.
Enlarge Associated Press

This photo provided by American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee shows Claus Hirsch standing on a street corner in Shanghai, where his family lived after fleeing Nazi persecution during World War II. Hirsch, who now lives in New York, is helping the JDC to index the names of Jewish survivors, as part of a digitization project to put the organization's historic records online.

 
In this April 21, 2011 photo, an image of Claus Hirsch, taken when he was a child in the Shanghai Ghetto, is seen on the computer screen, as Hirsch is interviewed at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in New York. For the first time in the history of the JDC, a collection of over 500,000 Holocaust era names and photographs from their global archive is being made available online. ...
Associated Press

In this April 21, 2011 photo, an image of Claus Hirsch, taken when he was a child in the Shanghai Ghetto, is seen on the computer screen, as Hirsch is interviewed at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in New York. For the first time in the history of the JDC, a collection of over 500,000 Holocaust era names and photographs from their global archive is being made available online. Hirsch is one of the volunteers entering data for the project. The image of Hirsch, which he said was taken in either 1944 or 1945, was displayed on the screen for the purposes of this photograph. The image, which originally belonged to Hirsch, has been included as one of the images in the project.

In this April 21, 2011 photo, Linda Cantor, foreground, and Claus Hirsch enter information on orphan children from Buchenwald who were in Paris being helped by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee(JDC) during the Holocaust period, as they volunteer at JDC offices in New York.  The information is part of a collection of over 500,000 Holocaust era names and photographs from the JDC gl...
Associated Press

In this April 21, 2011 photo, Linda Cantor, foreground, and Claus Hirsch enter information on orphan children from Buchenwald who were in Paris being helped by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee(JDC) during the Holocaust period, as they volunteer at JDC offices in New York. The information is part of a collection of over 500,000 Holocaust era names and photographs from the JDC global archive being made available online for the first time in the JDC's history. Hirsch is a German-born Shanghai Ghetto survivor.

 In this April 21, 2011 photo, Claus Hirsch gestures as he is interviewed at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee offices  in New York. Hirsch, a German-born Jew whose family fled to the Shanghai Ghetto to escape Nazi persecution during World War II, is one of the volunteers entering data for JDC as part of a project which includes over 500,000 Holocaust era names and photographs fr...
Associated Press

In this April 21, 2011 photo, Claus Hirsch gestures as he is interviewed at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee offices in New York. Hirsch, a German-born Jew whose family fled to the Shanghai Ghetto to escape Nazi persecution during World War II, is one of the volunteers entering data for JDC as part of a project which includes over 500,000 Holocaust era names and photographs from the JDC global archive and make them available online for the first time in JDC's history.

 
A trove of papers and photographs documenting the lives of Holocaust victims and survivors includes notable names like Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel and former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. But Benzion Baumrind's name might have stayed forgotten to his descendants without the records kept by a humanitarian aid agency.

A genealogist discovered Baumrind, one of 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust, was in her family with one stray document buried in a database of historic papers and photos kept by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

With over 500,000 names, and more than 1,000 photographs, the searchable collection documents the relief organization's vast efforts during World War II and the postwar era in 24 countries, from China and Japan to the Dominican Republic and Bolivia. The records, being made available online for the first time on Monday, open a singular view into the lives of survivors that the JDC aided during that cataclysmic period.

"We can get broader pictures of the actual everyday social life in the aftermath of war," Kenneth Waltzer, director of the Jewish Studies Department at Michigan State University, said of the collection.

Until now, the organization's archive has been largely inaccessible to the public, kept at a private storage warehouse located a short subway ride out of Manhattan.

Volunteers entered names in a database for over a year; rare, fragile documents were scanned into the computer system. Users of the site can submit names to identify people they recognize in the photographs, which may be later added to captions.

"A website like this is where history meets technology," said Gideon Taylor, an executive with the New York-based committee. "It's taking history out of the dusty files... And bringing it out into the community."

The committee plans to put even more documents from its archive online later this summer.

The project is one of a growing number around the world aimed at making available on the Internet primary records about the Holocaust.

"It is a world phenomenon that's launched by the technology," said David M. Kleiman, president of Heritage Muse Inc., a New York-based genealogy technology firm.

The collection offers glimpses of the lives of children who survived the Holocaust to become moral and spiritual leaders, politicians and artists.

There was the 16-year-old teenager who would become an author and one of the world's most esteemed humanitarians — Wiesel — listed on a document naming 426 orphaned boys from the Buchenwald concentration camp who were taken to Paris by the committee in 1945. Also on the list: a future Chief Rabbi of Israel and one of the youngest surviving prisoners of Buchenwald, Israel Meir Lau, who was 7 years old when he was liberated.

Begin, the future Israeli prime minister, is named on a list of 9,000 Polish Jewish refugees receiving the agency's aid in Vilna, Lithuania, in 1940.

Another person named in the files is Peter Max, the famed New York artist whose cosmic-colored works became a signature style of the hippie 1960s.

"Looking back, it's amazing that people had the will to organize, to create organizations to help people who fled other countries and were in dire need," said Max, who was 6 months old when his family, the Finkelsteins, fled Berlin, and found safe haven in Shanghai, where the JDC also had a relief operation.

For Linda Cantor, the past president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of New York and a volunteer who helped put the names online, the collection helped her find a relative she never knew about.

A researcher with 30 years of experience in genealogy, even she was surprised when she came across a document that connected her to Baumrind, who lived in the Polish town where her family was from.

That document, a list of Polish Jews expelled by the Nazi German government and living in the border town of Zbaszyn, Poland, between 1938 and 1939, showed that her great-aunt was named as Baumrind's contact in the United States. It was a tantalizing clue that would help her document him as a cousin.

"My discovery allowed him to have a place in somebody's memory," she said.

The committee, commonly known as the Joint, was founded in 1914 to help Jews in need in war-ravaged Europe and Palestine. During World War II, it provided assistance to refugees from Lithuania to Japan and helped Jews escape Europe, including by booking them on ships headed for the Americas.

Claus Hirsch, 76, of New York, fled Berlin with his parents and brother and found asylum in Shanghai and had to rely on the Joint for hot meals. As a volunteer, going over lists of names and keying them into the database, it has been an emotional experience.

"It's nice to see a name on a list," he said, before he began to weep. "I saw names of people I had known years ago. And I hadn't thought about them in 30 or 40 years."
 

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