EHRI 10 Years | Statements

Tuesday, 17 November, 2020

The European Holocaust Research Infrastructure celebrated its 10 year anniversary in November 2020, a remarkable achievement for a project that started with a lifespan of 4 years - and that is now growing into a permanent infrastructure. To mark the occasion, we asked some prominent people who have been involved with EHRI and supported the project over the decade for a statement on EHRI and/or Holocaust Studies.

Katharina von Schnurbein, European Commission Coordinator on Combating antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life. Katharina von Schnurbein took part in a roundtable discussion at the EHRI Conference "Holocaust Studies in its Social Setting" in 2019.

"The European Union is built on the ashes of the Shoah. And in the face of populism and nationalism we see narratives about the past being challenged, including on the Holocaust. Suddenly it seems debatable who was a victim, who was a perpetrator and who collaborated. So, research on the Holocaust based on historic documents, accessible and digital archives will remain important. This is what EHRI offers and the high number of hits per month on the EHRI portal (17.000 users) testifies its important role. The world is increasingly connected and EHRI provides this connection and interactions for Holocaust research. So, in fact, I am convinced that EHRI’s relevance will significantly increase in the coming years.

EHRI is highly relevant for a second reason. As the witnesses are passing away, we will need new ways to tell their stories, to ensure remembrance of their lives and how they were brutally ended. To prevent its repetition. Not only against the Jews, but also against any other minority. Researching, commemorating and teaching about the Holocaust, and how the legacy of the Shoah impacted European democratic values, is an essential instrument in the efforts to prevent antisemitism and racism today, a priority on the EU agenda. Our youth need to understand Europe’s shared past, to build up a Union of equality for the future.

As we see antisemitism, conspiracy ideologies and Jew hatred on the rise, not only across Europe but globally online and offline, I often ask myself, what we can do, not only to contain it, but to role it back. Understanding – if this is possible at all – how the Holocaust came to pass is one important pillar in this prevention work. I see EHRI as a bridge builder between understanding better the tragedy of the Holocaust, why it took place, how it unfolded, what were its consequences and the implication this has still today. EHRI can shed light on what the erasing of the Jewish community meant locally and why it is therefore our responsibility to foster Jewish life today. In short: EHRI can provide research on the past which has concrete implications on the policy making against antisemitism and in support of Jewish life today. I hope this aspect will be strengthened in the coming years."

Sara Bloomfield, Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, United States. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has been a partner of EHRI since 2015.

"EHRI is helping to bring the study of the Holocaust and access to Holocaust documentation to a truly transnational level. In addition to EHRI’s numerous seminars, workshops, and fellowships that support individual scholars and archivists, the EHRI Portal is making Holocaust collections scattered across myriad archives, museums, memorial sites, and institutions around the world searchable through a single online portal. EHRI’s international community of Holocaust institutions and technical experts has developed innovative approaches to Holocaust data that make new discoveries possible through digital humanities and has helped to bring Holocaust studies into the 21st century and ensure its future vitality. And with the Holocaust receding in time and Holocaust distortion and antisemitism on the rise, making the documentation and evidence of the Holocaust accessible to new generations worldwide could not be more important."

Robert-Jan Smits, President of Eindhoven University of Technology, Former Director-General of Science and Innovation - European Commission. Robert-Jan smits has supported EHRI from the start.

“My congratulations to EHRI with its tenth anniversary.  So much has been achieved during the last decade: a strong community of scientists has been built, joint research projects developed, access to unique archives made possible and training to young scholars provided. And this all with one overarching aim: to commemorate and educate so that this darkest chapter of Europe’s history will never be forgotten. The current wave of antisemitism, xenophobia and aggressive nationalism makes EHRI more than ever relevant and its establishment as a permanent European research infrastructure will secure its future for generations to come. I am proud to have contributed to the birth of EHRI and will continue to provide my support."

Wendy Lower, John K. Roth Professor of History and Director of the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College. Wendy Lower has been involved in an EHRI Summer School in Holocaust Studies and she gave a keynote at the EHRI Conference "Holocaust Studies and its Social Setting" in Amsterdam, 2019.

"Among the greatest achievements of EHRI is the creation of an international network of both archival institutions and researchers, especially the fostering of doctoral degrees in Holocaust Studies.

I have participated in the summer programs for doctoral students and witnessed how they are able to learn the history as well as develop close relationships with scholars and others in their cohort.  This networking is essential for building and sustaining a field of study, education and memorialization.

The mix of scholars, archivists, and museum professionals is also unique and necessary.

Another great achievement is the website portal. This virtual access consolidates collections on one site, allowing one to make the European connections and comparisons in this history which is otherwise demarcated by national collections. The access alone is a great stride, but as a researcher it also opens a window into the European dimensions that are otherwise lost by going to each individual state, regional archive. This illustrates how digital humanities actually works. Other fields of study have not accomplished this so brilliantly and efficiently.  The content on the website, such as the historiography and mini histories by experts is also excellent. I use it and refer colleagues and students to the site."

Laurent Romary, Researcher Inria - team ALMAnaCH. Inria is the National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology in France. Inria has been a partner in EHRI since 2015.

"EHRI has opened the perspective of bringing together all information sources about the Holocaust by creating a strong network of small and big archives together with in-depth scholarly inquiry.

EHRI is relevant for keeping the memory of the Holocaust to the younger generations and understanding the processes that lead to this inhuman disaster. It is also an exemplary endeavour to the efforts we still have to make to record and analyse our history for the benefit of mankind.

By linking heterogeneous and often fragmented sources of information, EHRI has allowed both archives and researchers to enrich their knowledge about the Holocaust within a larger context.

Information about the Holocaust should not just be made available to a small group of scholars but brought widely to the public. In a time where globalization of communication networks makes it possible for any kind of non supported idea to be widely spread, EHRI provides sourced and accountable knowledge that may prevent false historical assumptions to gain weight."

Aliki Arouh, Chief Archivist of the Historical Archives of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki.

“With the rapid development of the internet over the past decades and the digitization of more and more archives, in an era where data is swiftly transmitted and the amount of information is vast, EHRI’s mission to provide access to dispersed sources relating to the Holocaust and encouraging collaborative research becomes even more significant. 

The EHRI project, that was already a very powerful tool, has now, during the pandemic of Covid-19, provided yet another new perspective on cooperation and endowed the Holocaust Researchers’ community with significant opportunities and solutions. 

By working together we create a strong, global network that will keep the history and memory of the Holocaust alive.

Gabor Kadar, Director Yerusha Project. Yerusha (Hebrew for "inheritance") is an online platform which unites Jewish archival heritage held in hundreds of archives, libraries and museums across Europe.

"The European Holocaust Research Infrastructure has built an institutional network the breadth of which is unprecedented in the field of Holocaust studies. Forging the cooperation of so many organizations of academic excellence has been a trailblazing effort with spectacular success. The research infrastructure built, operated, and continuously extended by this network is an exemplary digital humanities project bringing together on one platform a plethora of scattered information on the archival traces of the Shoah. The resounding recognition of EHRI by professionals in the field of Holocaust research as well as the wider audience has been well deserved."

Jennifer Edmond, Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at Trinity College Dublin; President of the Board of Directors of DARIAH-EU. DARIAH-EU is the pan-European infrastructure for Arts and Humanities scholars.

"EHRI represents one of the first organised efforts in the cultural domain to bring together a research community around the idea of building a common, shared infrastructural platform. This may sound like a simple or natural thing today, but that is only because of early visionaries like EHRI doing the very hard work of building consensus while respecting difference, and creating common cause where a tradition of critique is not just a given, but in many ways a strength.

The knowedge about individuals, cultures and societies that EHRI facilitates, are of huge relevance, and will remain so as long as people are people, I fear.  Perhaps more importantly, however, the manner in which EHRI fulfills this mission is one that drives a convergence of the records of this seminal moment in our past with the full range of analogue and digital tools we have available to us now to explore them. In this way, EHRI helps not only to keep the lessons of this legacy alive, but aligned with our new modes of engagement with them.

Infrastructures like EHRI play an important role not only in facilitating enhanced access to the sources that can build understanding and aid the verification of conclusions, they also ensure that voices that might have otherwise been marginalised by the inequalities of historical investment in cultural heritage are heard.

It would be far too easy in our fast-developing, technologised age to think of the lessons of the past as distant from or irrelevant to the experiences of today. Yet one does not need to look very far to see rising intolerance, populism and even genocide. Times may have changed in some ways, but not enough to make us immune to the cost such trends, and it is only by remembering and taking very seriously the lessons of events like the Holocaust that we can hope to avoid their repeat."

Veerle Vanden Daelen, Deputy Director Kazerne Dossin, Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre on Holocaust and Human Rights in Belgium. Kazerne Dossin has been a partner of EHRI since 2016. Veerle has been Work Package Leader of Data Identification and Integration since 2011.

"EHRI has brought to light amazing work that has been carried out worldwide to collect, preserve and open up archives, documents, objects and testimonies on the Holocaust. This very often are local initiatives, small or big, in various local languages. The EHRI portal does not only bring the sources to the attention of the researchers, it also brings the different institutions and people who work on this endeavour in contact with each other. This includes archivists and researchers at large aggregating institutions such as the Arolson Archives, Yad Vashem or the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, archivists at national archives and volunteers in small community archives, who all contribute and put so much effort in this work. Their work now receives more visibility and recognition.

But EHRI also provides support and a community; this project connects both the sources on the Holocaust and the people working on them. The Holocaust took place on such a vast geographical area and the sources have spread worldwide, there is no one who can master all the sources, their languages, contexts, particularities on his own. Moreover, all these sources are in one way or the other interconnected (because of the deportations from one country to another, the family ties of the victims, the different locations of the perpetrators, etc.). Cooperation and community are key for Holocaust documentation and research. There are for example Jewish families from Austria or Czechia, who migrated to Belgium before the war. They may have fled to another country, they may have been arrested and deported to Auschwitz. Jewish survivors from Romania or Hungary may have migrated after the war to another European country, the US or Israel.  In all these cases, sources on these victims of persecution are available in multiple languages, spread over multiple institutions and countries. Connecting these sources and the people who preserve and research them is to me one of EHRI’s main achievements and continues to be one of EHRI’s most important goals. This is the precondition to enable the advancement of Holocaust research.