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Posted at 11:20 AM ET, 05/03/2011

Holocaust Museum and Ancestry join records and technology to form an unprecedented online database

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has joined Ancestry. com, the online family history resource, to help people research the lives of Holocaust victims and survivors.

The museum and Ancestry announced Tuesday that the museum will provide its millions of records from the World War II murders of Jewish citizens and other people to the public through a specially designed software program of Ancestry.

The World Memory Project, the new partnership, will eventually be the home for the largest online resource of individual information about the Nazi persecution. This will make the museum’s records available online for the first time.


(Elaine Culbertson finds her grandfather’s name on a file. By Miriam Lomaskin, courtesy of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Starting Tuesday, the museum is recruiting the public to help index information from 10 collections of its 170 million documents. The records range from deportation lists to shipping records to burial records.

As the online indexing progresses---and anyone with an Internet connection can participate--researchers and family members can search a name. “World Memory” will be a free program, said Quinton Atkinson, the Ancestry’s director of content. “This project gives people the ability to discover missing information about the people the Nazis tried to erase from human history,” he said.

Not all of the museum’s records relate to individuals, said Yavnai, but researching any name is painstaking. “Part of the indexing is going through them page by page,” Yavnai said. The software was tested by 450 volunteers who ended up indexing almost 50,000 records.

Alfred Traum, a retired engineer, knows the value of going through records line by line. For the last three years he has volunteered at the museum and helped index some deportation lists.“There was a ledger card at the top of each list, written in this beautiful handwriting. Then the list of people being sent to their death was typewritten,” Traum said.

Now 82, he was born in Austria, Vienna and was sent to England during the war.

One day, working at the museum, he found two names on a deportation list he wasn’t expecting--his parents, Elias and Geselle Traum. “I had known that they didn’t survive the war for many years. It wasn’t any surprise. But seeing it written in this cold manner was horrific. It had the place where they were born, the date they were born and when they were deported to Minsk,” Traum described.

He hopes the new project, with the millions of names listed on a form, will help bring some closure to families.

By  |  11:20 AM ET, 05/03/2011

 
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