How Crowdsourcing Aided a Push to Preserve the Histories of Nazi VictimsHistorians in the News
tags: Holocaust, Nazis, archives, public history
While the coronavirus pandemic has painfully upended lives and businesses around the world, the lockdowns it caused are providing a unique boost for one group’s effort to help heal a generations-old wound: Nazi atrocities.
As the virus prompted lockdowns across Europe, the director of the Arolsen Archives — the world’s largest devoted to the victims of Nazi persecution — joined millions of others working remotely from home and spending lots more time in front of her computer.
“We thought, ‘Here’s an opportunity,’” said the director, Floriane Azoulay.
Two months later, the archive’s “Every Name Counts” project has attracted thousands of online volunteers to work as amateur archivists, indexing names from the archive’s enormous collection of papers. To date, they have added over 120,000 names, birth dates and prisoner numbers in the database.
“There’s been much more interest than we expected,” Ms. Azoulay said. “The fact that people were locked at home and so many cultural offerings have moved online has played a big role.”
It’s a big job: The Arolsen Archives are the largest collection of their kind in the world, with more than 30 million original documents. They contain information on the wartime experiences of as many as 40 million people, including Jews executed in extermination camps and forced laborers conscripted from across Nazi-occupied Europe.