In contrast to widespread perceptions, the events of the Holocaust were not forgotten after the end of the World War II. The new European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) online edition of early Holocaust testimony shows how Jewish survivors and activists created an extraordinary archive documenting the persecution while its memory was still raw and unprocessed. Even before establishing new homes and while still searching for their families and suffering from illness and deprivation, survivors documented their deportation, the killing of their families and communities, and listed the names of perpetrators.
An estimated 18,000 testimonies have been recorded across Europe, in Palestine/Israel, the United States and elsewhere. Some were collected in large-scale documentation projects, others were initiatives of individuals who paid tribute to the Jewish communities that were decimated during the Holocaust. Some were based on an elaborate methodology, whereas others were compiled with limited knowledge and only short preparation.
For EHRI, early documentation is an important subject which aligns with EHRI’s critical approach to Holocaust sources and their provenance, as well as its focus on “victims’” documents. In the Czech Republic, the edition was prepared by the Jewish Museum in Prague and the Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences.
While containing only 89 carefully selected and edited documents, the EHRI Edition of Early Holocaust Testimony draws attention to the underused testimonies originating from several countries. It brings together testimonies from five archives (the Wiener Holocaust Library in London, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Hungarian Jewish Archives in Budapest and the Jewish Museum in Prague). Next to the English translation, the edition also includes all documents in their original languages. As a digital publication, it is a work in progress, which will be extended in the future.