UM-Dearborn receives grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany to help Holocaust archive

January 30, 2006

Jamie L. Wraight, curator and historian of the Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive, reviews a drawer of tapes containing interviews that are waiting to be transcribed.

DEARBORN / Jan. 30, 2006---The Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive at the University of Michigan-Dearborn has received a $25,000 grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany to assist with the transcription of the archive's recorded interviews with survivors.

"This grant addresses a genuine need to hire another person to transcribe the tapes in the archive, as well as hire a coordinator for our Web site, which will enhance how we make the oral testimonies and transcriptions available to researchers, students and the general public," according to Jamie L. Wraight, curator and historian of the Voice/Vision Archive. "The Claims Conference is a major supporter of Holocaust education around the world. The fact that we've received this grant from them is an endorsement of what we're doing with the Voice/Vision project. It puts us on par with other prestigious organizations."

Since 1951, the Claims Conference has pursued compensation from Germany for Jewish victims of the Holocaust. In the past decade, the Claims Conference has allocated approximately $900 million to organizations and institutions that provide assistance to elderly, needy Jewish victims of Nazism or engage in research, education, and documentation of the Shoah.

The UM-Dearborn grant is from the Claims Conference's Rabbi Israel Miller Fund for Shoah Research, Documentation and Education.

UM-Dearborn's Voice/Vision Archive currently contains 229 taped interviews with Holocaust survivors, but only 70 of those have been transcribed, Wraight said. At the current rate of about 15 transcriptions per year, it would take nearly 11 years to complete the 159 interviews waiting to be transcribed.

"Thanks to this grant, we'll be able to double that and complete about 36 interview transcriptions each year," Wraight said.

The interview transcripts are available for use through interlibrary loan, the archive's Web site at holocaust.umd.umich.edu and various community outreach activities.

The shortest interview in the Archive is 18 pages, with the longest to date coming in at 350 pages.

"Our interview process is lengthy, with meticulous care given to each survivor's story," Wraight said. "Prof. Sid Bolkosky, who conducts all the interviews, wants to capture the most thorough and informed interview possible to ensure that the testimony is of maximum scholarly value to students, researchers and the public."

The result can be a story running eight tapes long, or about 12 hours of commentary to transcribe.

Wraight begins the transcription process by sending tapes to a woman in Arkansas who volunteers her time to perform the initial transcription. When the tapes and text are returned, another volunteer who is familiar with Yiddish, Hebrew, Hungarian and Polish listens to each interview a second time to edit the written text. Wraight then reviews the interview text and audio to classify and codify every proper name with historical accuracy. The interview is broken into chapters with titles and reviewed one final time to check for inaccuracies. An accompanying map is prepared for each interview, so the listener will have a better understanding of the survivor's location and place in history.

For more information about the Voice/Vision Archive, visit http://holocaust.umd.umich.edu/.

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