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Wisconsin Holocaust Survivors

January 21, 2010

Interviews with 22 survivors of the Nazi Holocaust who settled in Wisconsin have just been published online by the Wisconsin Historical Society. 

Thirty years ago, Society staff interviewed 22 survivors and two American eyewitnesses, yielding 160 hours of tape recordings and more than 3,000 pages of transcripts. These have now been published in their entirety at www.wisconsinhistory.org/holocaustsurvivors

Users can stream the recordings while reading along or download the audio (mp3) and text (pdf) for later use. A search engine leads to anecdotes about specific topics, places, people, and events. Nearly 200 photographs are included. 

Dozens of short excerpts are organized under headings such as "Prewar Life in Europe," "Ghettoes," "Escapes," "Resistance," and "Postwar Life & Immigration." These compelling stories are only one or two minutes long, perfect for classroom use or casual browsing: www.wisconsinhistory.org/holocaustsurvivors/excerpts

Most of the survivors were children or teenagers at the time of the Holocaust, so their memories are a particularly effective teaching tool. A separate teachers' page links to age-appropriate stories and suggests how to use them in classes: www.wisconsinhistory.org/HolocaustSurvivors/teachers.asp

The survivors recall happy childhoods, traditional Jewish communities, the rise of the Third Reich, anti-Semitic violence such as Kristallnacht, the Warsaw and Lodz ghettoes, and conditions at Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps. They describe the fates of their families, starting new lives in postwar Europe, emigrating to the U.S., and the founding of Israel. They also discuss life in Wisconsin's Jewish communities between 1945 and 1980. The interviews were conducted not only in Milwaukee and Madison but in cities from Kenosha to Superior and towns from Monroe to Merrill. 

The collection differs from other online Holocaust resources in its depth and breadth. Although only 22 survivors give testimony, they grew up all over Europe — from Holland in the West to Ukraine in the East, Poland in the North to Greece in the South. Some came from affluent families with servants, while others were middle- or working-class families. An equal number of men and women are interviewed. Some fled their homes in the late 1930s as refugees, while others went into hiding like Anne Frank. During the Holocaust, some worked at slave labor and others survived the death camps. Unlike other Web sites devoted to the Holocaust, the Wisconsin collection provides entire interviews (some lasting up to 12 hours) and complete typed transcripts. The interviews also cover their subjects’ family histories, lives before the Holocaust, and experiences in later life as American immigrants. 

All content may be printed or downloaded to a user’s computer or mp3 player at no cost, for nonprofit educational use by teachers, students and private researchers. Commercial use is prohibited.



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