A trove of papers and photographs documenting the lives of Holocaust victims and survivors includes notable names like Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel and former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. But Benzion Baumrind might have stayed forgotten to his descendants without the records kept by a humanitarian aid agency.
A genealogist discovered Baumrind, one of 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust, was in her family with one stray document buried in a database of historic papers and photos kept by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
With over 500,000 names, and more than 1,000 photographs, the searchable collection documents the relief organization's vast efforts during World War II and the postwar era in 24 countries, from China and Japan to the Dominican Republic and Bolivia. The records, made available online for the first time Monday at jdc.org, open a singular view into the lives of survivors that the JDC aided during that cataclysmic period.
Until now, the organization's archive has been largely inaccessible, kept at a private storage warehouse a short subway ride out of Manhattan.
Volunteers entered names in a database for over a year; rare, fragile documents were scanned into the computer system. Users of the site can submit names to identify people they recognize in the photographs, which may be later added to captions.
"A website like this is where history meets technology," said Gideon Taylor, an executive with the New York-based committee. "It's taking history out of the dusty files … and bringing it out into the community."
heartwebsite.org: Financed by the Israeli government, it's an online database of more than half a million pieces of property lost by Holocaust victims, and a first step toward restitution.