April 10, 2024
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iRemember: This Yom HaShoah, Video Your Grandparents

How do we remember the Holocaust, and pass on that memory to our children? Survivors are growing older and fewer, and this is now a critical question for educators, leaders and parents to grapple with. The answer might just be in the palm of our hands.

One of the key ways that we as a community have preserved the stories of the Holocaust is through videoing survivors. In 1994, following the release of Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg set up the Visual History Foundation, to record and archive the testimonies of survivors. Since then, many databases have been set up around the world, to record and preserve the testimonies of Holocaust survivors.

That was 25 years ago, and technology now opens new doors to us and opportunities to us. In 1994, only a professional would own and know how to use a video camera. In 2019, we all can take videos on our phones, and we don’t even think twice about it. In 1994, one would have a video developed onto a VHS tape (Google it), which they could then watch, rewind to the beginning, and mail to another person to be able to watch it. Today, we have YouTube, Dropbox, Google Drive, WhatsApp and a hundred other ways to send the videos we take around the world, almost instantly. In 1994, it took a team of professionals to preserve stories of the Holocaust. In 2019, every one of us can do it.

Last year, I travelled to my grandfather in Basel, Switzerland, to make a video of him telling his story. He was born in Budapest in 1931, and fled the Nazis in 1944, eventually making his way to Palestine. Over the course of a few hours, I asked him to share his memories from his incredible life story, so I could record it for friends, family and future generations. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life; hearing his story in first person, getting to ask my grandfather personal question about his life, and more. By the end, I felt closer than ever before to my grandfather, and came away with a video that is simply invaluable.

We all have the ability to do this today. Teenagers can sit with family members, or members of the community, and take their own videos of Holocaust stories. They can ask the questions that they want to know about, and record the stories for posterity. One can buy some gear, like a phone tripod and microphone, if they want to get even better quality videos—but even without these, a few minutes of footage can become a priceless piece of family heritage.

We just finished the Yom Tov of Pesach, where the Torah tells us v’higadeta l’vincha, pass on the Jewish story to your children. Those survivors in our communities have the most incredible and important stories, which our children and future children should be able to hear. Get your phones out, start recording—and ensure that the stories of these heroes are never forgotten.

By Aron White

 

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