A Holocaust survivor from Dallas is the latest to have his narrative documented in such a manner that future generations would be able to ask questions about his image.

Max Glauben was 17 years old and had already lost his mother, father, and brother to the Nazis when he was freed by US soldiers while on a suicide mission from one German detention centre to another.

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The memories of a Dallas resident who endured the Warsaw Ghetto and Nazi detention camps as a Jew in Poland are now being kept in a form that will allow future generations to ask questions about his picture. Glauben, who turns 91 on Monday, is the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation’s most recent Holocaust survivor to be documented in this manner. 

Over the last five years, the Los Angeles-based charity has conducted 18 interactive testimonials with Holocaust survivors, and chief executive Stephen Smith says they’re in a “race against time” to add more, pursuing a mix of experiences as well as testimony in a number of languages.

As Holocaust Education Week comes to a close, those working to preserve the memory of the atrocities that killed six million Jews during WWII face a race against time.

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The evacuees, whose compelling testimonials supplied first-hand stories to future generations, are becoming older and dying. Meanwhile, according to research conducted this year by the Azrieli Foundation, one in every five Canadian young people has never heard of the Holocaust or is unsure what it is.

For many people and organisations, the solution has been to augment conventional records such as autobiographies and documentaries with presentations in new technology and media.

“I imagined that my expertise might heal hatred, racism, and killings in the world if someone could listen to my tale, my testimony, and be educated long after I was gone,” Glauben stated.

Smith claims that while the foundation, founded in 1994 by film director Steven Spielberg, has approximately 55,000 audiovisual testimonies about genocides in dozens of languages, the majority of which are from the Holocaust, the interactive technology stands out for allowing museumgoers to converse with survivors.

Smith said, “It’s your questions that are being answered,” adding that the responses, particularly on serious themes like forgiveness, maybe very moving. He also says, “You genuinely see people sometimes straining to know what to answer”.

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So far, the organisation has Holocaust survivors speaking in Spanish, English, and Hebrew, and the organisation aims to expand to other languages in the future. Smith said,  “It’s so impactful when it’s in your mother tongue, and you’re staring the person in the eyes and hearing sophisticated language coming back that’s your own language”.

For more than a year, the survivors’ photographs have been displayed in a dedicated theatre at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. According to Museum CEO Susan Abrams, when visitors engage with the photos, the impact is typically obvious: “People cry; people laugh.”

Abrams explained: “Our audience gets the sense that they know these survivors rather intimately because they’re having small group conversations, and in that time, pretty much everything else melts away”.

The photos are presently on display at four museums in Illinois. Other museums can be found in New York, Houston, and Indiana. The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum will begin presenting them in September. Once it relocates to a new building, it adopts a new name – the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum.

According to CEO and President Mary Pat Higgins, the Dallas museum currently invites survivors to speak to kids and has discovered that this is typically the most impactful aspect of their visit. She stated that this technology assures that this can continue.

“Our survivors are ageing, and in 20 years, there will be no survivors who are still able to do it for themselves,” she remarked.

According to Smith, the visuals may be shown on a flat-screen or projected in a three-dimensional manner. Dallas, like Illinois, is constructing a unique theatre that will allow the picture to seem three-dimensional on a stage.

The technology required is easier than many people believe, according to Smith.

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“It’s a video that reacts to human voice instructions,” he explained. “And instead of you seeing a linear testimony, all the portions of the testimony are shattered, and then when you ask it a question, it finds that piece of footage and plays it for you.”

The novelty of the interactive testimonials, according to JT Buzanga, assistant curator at the Holocaust Museum Houston, provides visitors with a reason to return.

“It’s something that creates a relationship that people remember and want to return to,” Buzanga added.

Glauben, who has made it his goal to educate people about the Holocaust, was instrumental in establishing the Dallas Holocaust Museum. After losing his family, he promised himself that he would “do all necessary to educate the public and let them know what type of disaster this was.”

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