Thursday, August 14, 2008

An exercise in imagination, technology and judgment


Digitizing the Holocaust
By Bob Davis

August 14, 2008

JERUSALEM – “Yad Vashem, the famed Holocaust museum here, is planning for a world without Holocaust survivors. The museum aims to capture the interest of future generations by retelling the stories of those who survived the Nazi persecutions and those who perished. It is an exercise in imagination, technology and judgment.

“The museum is digitizing 75 million records over the next three years, videotaping interviews with one-time concentration-camp inmates and using art and multimedia displays -- even a YouTube channel -- to create a record that will outlive the now-elderly survivors. "We have to set up a dialogue in the ... “

Yad Vashem then is going to digitize some of its records – 75 million or so, which I suppose is only a fraction of what these energetic folk have been able to put together. Once Yad Vashem gets these first 75 million records into its digital system, the institution might be able to provide the world with the name, with proof, of one person who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. Can’t wait.

What would we say to the possibility that by the time we enter a world without Holocaust survivors, we will have entered a world where it is understood there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz? The folk at Yad Vashem would have to exercise their powerful imaginations, their complex technology, and their deep moral judgment in interesting new ways. Are they up to it? Are they not?

Follow the money.


When my wife watched Michael Phelps on television come up out of the Beijing Olympic pool after having won his sixth gold medal she said to me in Spanish: “That young man makes me nervous.”

We were to the other side to the U.S. Navel Hospital in Balboa for me to have a Pet (full-body) scan to see where the Lymphoma is going, if anywhere, and afterward we drove south to Chula Vista to Henry’s Market. There I stopped at the cold box to pick up a half-gallon of Altadena (not pasteurized) milk. As usual, most of the Altadena milk was in plastic bottles, but some of the half-gallons were in cartons. For the first time I chose to buy the carton. It was my first conscious “green” buy at the grocery market. What’s happening to me?

I’m making an effort to get rid of stuff. Give away books I’ll never read, boxes of old papers and magazines I’ll never refer to, duplicate copies of old manuscripts and drafts of work I never finished typed out on paper before I had a computer. The usual stuff. This morning I came across three soiled index cards held together by a rusty paper clip. The top card listed the names in one column of some of the guys who were in my platoon in Korea. I must have been thinking I would write something about them. That was thirty, forty years ago. The list goes like this.

Jack Dyche
Big Ben
Steubbins (dead)
Gray (dead)
O’Neal (dead)
Smith (dead)

Re the Smith fellow: for the record, it wasn’t me. I have mentioned some of these guys here and there in one story or another, but I never put together anything good on any of them. I don’t know why I made the “dead” references. It’s not that I was going to forget those I had last seen as corpses. I probably had something in mind.

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