Prague is one of a few sites in Europe that has been chosen as an access point for Hollywood director Steven Spielberg’s collection of Holocaust recollections. The link with the Spielberg-financed Shoah Foundation has already created strong interest locally after only a few weeks.

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg created the Shoah Foundation in 1994 after he had finished the award winning film Schindler’s List. The film recounts the true story of a factory boss who tries to save his Jewish workers from extermination in the Nazi death camps.
The foundation filmed thousands of survivors’ accounts of the camps; not just from Jews, but also other victim groups such as Roma, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The aim was for the collection to be an historical archive and education tool for future generations.
Jan Haji? is a director at Charles University’s Institute of Formal and Applied Linguistics at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics. He played a key role in establishing the Prague connection. The Czech capital is only the third European city after Berlin and Budapest to become an access point. He takes up the story.

Jan Haji?
“The archives contain 52,000 testimonies of people who survived the holocaust during World War II and this is more than 100,000 hours of video recordings which are now accessible. Half of it is in English but there more than 1,000 Czech and Slovak testimonies which can now be seen by people here.”
Charles University together with the University of West Bohemia in Plze? first forged links with the Shoah Foundation as part of a wider consortium of universities and businesses trying to catalogue the massive amount of video material in 32 languages and translate it using computer technology.
“Charles University in Prague cooperated with the Shoah Foundation in the past in developing technology for better access to the testimonies. And then when the foundation had all these testimonies indexed and accessible to people they asked us to create this access point for people in Prague and the Czech Republic so they could see them and search through them.”

Since the Prague outpost opened at the end of January, there has been strong interest from people making appointments to plug into those Holocaust memories at one of Charles University’s libraries in the centre of the city. Mr. Haji? is also hoping that the Malach Visual History Centre, as it has been named, will also provide a basis for further cooperation with the Shoah Foundation. The massive task of using technology to index, catalogue and translate all the material is still far from completed.