Online Shoah Archive Tells New Stories of Heroism

As 75th Kristallnacht anniversary approaches, Hebrew U. website gives access to 900 previously unavailable voice recordings, transcripts.

David Lev,

Holocaust survivor displays his tattoo
Holocaust survivor displays his tattoo
Flash 90

A new Hebrew University website, sponsored by the school's Oral History Division, allows users to search and access 900 previously unavailable Holocaust-related voice recordings and transcripts. Many of the interviews include testimonies recorded in the 1930s, constituting some of the earliest recorded oral history archives of the Holocaust.

The site, which goes on line Thursday, was established to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht attacks of November 9-10, 1938.

Even before the website's formal launch, several families were surprised to discover in the collection their relatives’ Holocaust testimonies, which in some cases they didn't know existed, and which feature important acts of heroism and rescue that were previously unknown, even to family members of the interviewees.

One of the interviewees, Tova Gusta Nordlicht, discussed her experience in the Polish resistance, recounting incidents that family members had never heard before. Also previously unknown as the work of Laslo Samushi, who helped rescue Jewish children in Hungary from 1944 until the liberation of the country by allied troops.

Even Dar family discovered an interview with their grandfather Simcha Even Dar, in which he described his involvement in the Bricha movement (the underground organized effort that helped Jewish Holocaust survivors escape post-World War II Europe to pre-state Israel) and Aliyah Bet (immigration by Jews to pre-state Israel in violation of British restrictions).

This collection is just a small sample of the invaluable archive housed at the Oral History Division, which contains the memories of individuals from Israeli and Jewish society throughout its modern history, said Hebrew University. The archive contains rare testimonies from Holocaust survivors, key individuals in the Zionist movement, organizations such as the United Jewish Appeal, men and women who grew up under the British mandate in Palestine, under Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, or in various Jewish communities throughout the world.

More web sites with collections of interviews will be opened in the future, Hebrew U officials said.

“These on-line testimonies are an outstanding contribution that will help spread knowledge and understanding of the Jews’ daily lives and their struggle to survive during the dark period of the Holocaust,” said Prof. Dalia Ofer, the Max and Rita Haber Prof. of Holocaust and Contemporary Jewry, Emeritus at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry. “I feel gratitude for those who enabled the project, which will allow students to explore the great collection of this archive with ease and success. I recall extensively using the Oral History Division’s general collection in my own research from my first steps as a master student and throughout my work as a teacher and researcher.”

Dr. Sharon Kangisser Cohen, Academic Director of the Oral History Division, said: “The success of the Oral History Division in initiating and completing this project is due to the close collaborative work of different departments in the university. This project is essentially the product of the professionalism and dedication of members of staff at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"The accessibility of a small section of our archive will only enhance research and writing of the Holocaust period and its aftermath, but also as we have already seen, it has been significant on the personal level as families are rediscovering their family's past as people have found interviews with their parents and grandparents, which they had never heard before. We also hope that our archive will be a helpful resource for teachers.”