Tech­nol­ogy brings im­ages of Holo­caust sur­vivors to life

The Record (Troy, NY) - - LOCALNEWS - By Jamie Sten­gle As­so­ci­ated Press

DAL­LAS >> 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 be- ing 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 CEOMary 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.”

ROBERT KUSEL/ ILLI­NOIS HOLO­CAUST MU­SEUM & ED­U­CA­TION CEN­TER VIA AP

In this Oc­to­ber 2017photo, vis­i­tors watch Holo­caust sur­vivor Fritzie Fritzshall at The Abe & Ida Cooper Sur­vivor Sto­ries Ex­pe­ri­ence in the Illi­nois Holo­caust Mu­seum & Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter in Skokie, Ill. The ex­pe­ri­ence com­bines high-def­i­ni­tion holo­graphic in­ter­view record­ings and voice recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy to en­able Holo­caust Sur­vivors to tell their deeply mov­ing per­sonal sto­ries and re­spond to ques­tions from the au­di­ence.

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