Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Sought for Electronic Collection; Last Chance to Preserve First-Hand Accounts

This post is for historical informational purposes only. Please do not refer to this post for information pertaining to current Claims Conference programs. Visit What We Do for current program guidelines and information. Thank you.

May 8, 2008


Jewish survivors of the Holocaust around the world are being asked to submit previously unpublished or unavailable memoirs of their wartime experiences to a new electronic collection being established by the Claims Conference.

Information about the Worldwide Shoah Memoirs Collection and instructions for submission are at http://memoirs.claimscon.org. Submissions must be in electronic format or typed, and should be sent in with a summary form and release form, which are available on the website. Submissions can be any length, and in any language.

More than 250 memoirs have been submitted so far.

The program was announced by Professor Saul Friedländer, winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction for “The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945.” In his second volume of a history of the Holocaust, Prof. Friedländer relied on excerpts from journals and letters in writing of the atrocities. “Usually the history of the Holocaust is written from the viewpoint of German documents and archives,” said Prof. Friedländer, who was born in Prague, escaped to France in 1939 and emigrated to Israel in 1948. He teaches history at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Elie Wiesel is the Honorary Chairman of this program. As he has said previously on this topic, “I repeat now what Dubnow said to his companions when they went to their death: Write, write, write! And I’m saying it to you now, to us. Please write. This is the last chance. Thirty years from now, who will still be here?”

The Claims Conference is rescuing old stories with new technology. With increasing numbers of elderly Holocaust survivors dying, it is crucial that their memoirs be preserved so that future generations may learn of the Holocaust from those who survived. Each unique account of survival brings a new perspective to the history of the Holocaust and broadens public knowledge of its scope.

“We are appealing to Holocaust survivors around the world to commit to paper their experiences that have lived so vividly in their memories for more than 60 years. The Claims Conference is going to ensure that their stories will live on long after they are gone. We owe it to the victims who did not survive to establish this collection of first-hand memoirs,” said Claims Conference Chairman Julius Berman.

At this time, the main concern is that all previously unpublished or unavailable memoirs be identified and preserved. This is an international program, as Holocaust survivors live in 75 countries.

Documents in this electronic collection will be made available to appropriate organizations and individuals engaging in the critical work of research and documentation of the Shoah. Survivor memoirs may well reveal previously unknown events or aspects of the Holocaust, as has been demonstrated in the past by accounts told in applications to Claims Conference compensation programs. Survivors will provide first-hand perspective of daily life in ghettos and concentration camps, and in hiding and under occupation.

Ways in which memoirs may be made publicly accessible, after appropriate review, are under discussion.

Inclusion of manuscripts in the Worldwide Shoah Memoirs Collection will be determined by historians and other experts reviewing all submissions.

The Claims Conference is working in partnership with Yad Vashem, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Mémorial de la Shoah/Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine in Paris, the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, and the Holocaust Survivors’ Memoirs Project.

In addition, the Claims Conference is working with several hundred local organizations worldwide to help facilitate the collection of manuscripts.

Submit manuscripts to:

Stella Breckenridge
Memoirs Outreach Coordinator
Claims Conference
PO Box 1215
New York, NY 10113
Email: Stella.Breckenridge@claimscon.org
Tel: +1-646-485-2130
Fax: +1-212-685-5299