Tech keeps sto­ries alive for Holo­caust sur­vivors

Me­mories pre­served in a way that will al­low fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to ask im­age ques­tions through in­ter­ac­tive tech­nol­ogy

Santa Fe New Mexican - - NATION & WORLD - By Jamie Sten­gle DAVID J. PHILLIP/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Max Glauben was 17 and had al­ready lost his mother, fa­ther

and brother at the hands of the Nazis when U.S. troops res­cued him while he was on a death march from one Ger­man con­cen­tra­tion camp to an­other.

The rec­ol­lec­tions of the Dal­las res­i­dent who as a Jew in Poland sur­vived the War­saw Ghetto and Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps are now be­ing pre­served in a way that will al­low gen­er­a­tions to come to ask his im­age ques­tions. Glauben, who turns 91 on Mon­day, is the lat­est Holo­caust sur­vivor recorded in such a way by the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Shoah Foun­da­tion.

The Los An­ge­les-based foun­da­tion has recorded 18 in­ter­ac­tive tes­ti­monies with Holo­caust sur­vivors over the last sev­eral years, and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Stephen Smith says they’re in a “race against time” as they work to add more, seek­ing both a di­ver­sity in ex­pe­ri­ences and tes­ti­monies in a va­ri­ety of lan­guages.

“I thought that my knowl­edge could cure the ha­tred and the big­otry and the killings in this world if some­body can lis­ten to my story, my tes­ti­mony, and be educated even af­ter I’m gone,” Glauben said.

Smith says that while the foun­da­tion founded in 1994 by film di­rec­tor Steven Spiel­berg has about 55,000 au­dio­vi­sual tes­ti­monies about geno­cides in dozens of lan­guages — the ma­jor­ity from the Holo­caust — the in­ter­ac­tive tech­nol­ogy stands out for al­low­ing mu­se­um­go­ers to have a di­a­logue with sur­vivors.

“It’s your ques­tions that are be­ing an­swered,” Smith said, adding that the replies, es­pe­cially on weighty is­sues like for­give­ness can be es­pe­cially poignant. He says, “You ac­tu­ally see some­times them strug­gling to know what to an­swer.”

So far, the foun­da­tion has Holo­caust sur­vivors speak­ing in English, He­brew and Span­ish, and the group hopes to get peo­ple speak­ing in even more lan­guages.

“It’s so pow­er­ful when it’s in your mother tongue and you’re look­ing the per­son in the eye and you are hear­ing nu­anced lan­guage com­ing back that’s your own lan­guage,” Smith said.

For more than a year now, the Illi­nois Holo­caust Mu­seum and Education Cen­ter has fea­tured the sur­vivors’ images in a special theater. Mu­seum CEO Su­san Abrams says that when vis­i­tors in­ter­act with the images , the im­pact is of­ten ob­vi­ous: “Peo­ple get teary; peo­ple laugh.”

“Our au­di­ence comes to feel that they know these sur­vivors some­what in­ti­mately be­cause they’re hav­ing small group con­ver­sa­tion, and in that mo­ment, pretty much ev­ery­thing else fades away,” Abrams said.

The Illi­nois mu­seum is one of four cur­rently fea­tur­ing the images. Other mu­se­ums are in Hous­ton , In­di­ana and New York. The Holo­caust mu­seum in Dal­las will start show­ing them start­ing in Septem­ber, af­ter it opens in a new lo­ca­tion and with a new name — the Dal­las Holo­caust and Hu­man Rights Mu­seum.

The Dal­las mu­seum cur­rently brings in sur­vivors to talk to stu­dents and has found that’s of­ten the most mean­ing­ful part of their visit, ac­cord­ing to Pres­i­dent and CEO Mary Pat Hig­gins. This tech­nol­ogy en­sures that can con­tinue, she said.

“Our sur­vivors are ag­ing, and so in 20 years we won’t have any sur­vivors who are still able to do that them­selves,” she said.

Smith said the images can ap­pear on a flat screen or be pro­jected in a way that ap­pears to be three-di­men­sional. Like Illi­nois, Dal­las is build­ing a special theater so the im­age will ap­pear three-di­men­sional on a stage.

Smith said the tech­nol­ogy in­volved is sim­pler than many peo­ple think.

“It’s ac­tu­ally video that re­sponds to hu­man voice com­mands,” he said. “And all that’s hap­pen­ing is rather than you watch­ing a lin­ear tes­ti­mony, all the bits of the tes­ti­mony are bro­ken up, and then when you ask it a ques­tion it finds that piece of video and plays it for you.”

JT Buzanga, as­sis­tant cu­ra­tor at the Holo­caust Mu­seum Hous­ton, said the unique­ness of the in­ter­ac­tive tes­ti­monies gives vis­i­tors a rea­son to re­turn.

“It’s some­thing that makes the con­nec­tion that peo­ple want to re­mem­ber and want to come back,” Buzanga said.

Glauben, who has made it his mis­sion to tell peo­ple about the Holo­caust, helped found the Dal­las mu­seum. He says that af­ter he lost his fam­ily, he told him­self he would “do any­thing pos­si­ble to ed­u­cate the peo­ple and let them know what kind of tragedy this was.”

Matthew Rosca-Hal­magean, 17, cen­ter, a stu­dent at Westch­ester Acad­emy for In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, asks a ques­tion to Holo­caust sur­vivor Wil­liam Mor­gan us­ing an in­ter­ac­tive vir­tual con­ver­sa­tion ex­hibit at the Holo­caust Mu­seum Hous­ton on Fri­day.

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