The European Holocaust Research Infrastructure
A Human Network. A digital infrastructure.
Watch a short film about EHRI.
The European Holocaust Research infrastructure (EHRI) project commenced work in October 2010, in the year that the world commemorated the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Over a 54-month period the project undertook an ambitious and innovative programme to support research into the Holocaust. The project’s activities were undertaken collaboratively by a consortium of 20 partner institutions and a large network of associate partners that brought together the expertise and perspectives of three disciplines: Holocaust studies, archival science and e-Research/digital humanities.
Dispersal of the archival source material
EHRI’s overriding ambition was to overcome some of the hallmark challenges of Holocaust research: the wide dispersal of the archival source material documenting the Holocaust across Europe and beyond, and the concomitant fragmentation of Holocaust historiography. It sought to alleviate this situation by initiating new levels of collaborative and trans-national research through the development of innovative methodologies, research guides and user-driven transnational access to research infrastructures and services. To facilitate this, EHRI designed and implemented a Portal/Virtual Research Environment that offers online access to in-depth information about a wide variety of disparate and dispersed Holocaust archival materials and to a number of online tools. Building on integrating activities undertaken over the past decades, EHRI transformed the data available for Holocaust research around Europe and elsewhere into a cohesive corpus of resources.
Coherent programme of work
EHRI has achieved its objectives by tightly integrating networking, trans-national access and research and development activities into a coherent programme of work. Our networking activities have helped to foster a pan-European perspective among relevant stakeholders, and a widespread recognition of the need for integration and enhancement of existing Holocaust research activities.
Movement towards European integration
EHRI has become a leader into the movement towards European integration of Holocaust sources and research; has investigated new methodologies; has developed research guides that virtually re-unite physically distributed sources; and has supported a new generation of researchers through its training programme.
Our trans-national fellowship programme has enabled 42 individuals from 12 countries to further their research by granting them access to the resources and expertise available at 5 state-of-the-art research infrastructure, and has helped to frame our own research agenda.
Our joint research and development work, finally, has led to the investigation and identification of more than 1,800 archival institutions and their collections in 51 countries; the formulation of shared standards, guidelines, vocabularies and user requirements for the EHRI portal/VRE; and the integration of more than 150,000 descriptions of archival materials that are relevant to the Holocaust. It culminated in the development of the EHRI Online Portal/VRE. The EHRI Portal/VRE is a a free-to-use online environment that offers researchers and other interested parties access to all the data integrated and created by the project, and features a range of tools that facilitate the exploration, sharing and enhancement of these data.
EHRI has first and foremost strengthened the existing clusters of excellence in Holocaust research, but it has also established itself as a 'best practice' model for other archival and humanities projects. Although EHRI is primarily geared towards the needs of scholarly communities, the online availability and open access to reliable and properly contextualised Holocaust material is equally important for the larger public, as its research topic is deeply rooted in the development of European societies.
The achievements and results of the EHRI project are sustained and further enhanced through a four-year follow-up programme, supported through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. A new consortium of partners has been set up that will enable EHRI to establish connections and working relations with communities of researchers and institutions in different parts of Europe, especially in Eastern and Southern Europe. EHRI focuses in particular on those Holocaust archives that are not part of larger infrastructures and/or are ‘hidden’ to most researchers.
Challenges to memory
European support for the study of this most traumatic historical event is essential to achieve a comprehensive approach to the history of the Holocaust as a shared European phenomenon and to address the challenges to memory. As the witnesses will soon no longer be able to testify, it is even more important to collect all available evidence, to preserve it and to make it available, thereby ensuring that Holocaust documentation will remain a key part of our European cultural heritage.