Government approves funds to record Holocaust survivors’ testimonies for the future

Ministers in outgoing cabinet okay NIS 3.5 million for creating video testimonies from around the world, digitizing them for use on social media and in schools

Holocaust survivors Eva Schloss, left, Anne Frank's posthumous stepsister when her mother married Frank's father, and fellow survivor Pinchas Gutter are displayed as part of an exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage called 'New Dimensions in Testimony,' in New York, September 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Illustrative: Holocaust survivors are seen in testimonial videos as part of an exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage called 'New Dimensions in Testimony,' in New York, September 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Israel’s caretaker government on Sunday approved allocating NIS 3.5 million ($1 million) toward recording video testimonies of Holocaust survivors for future generations.

The funding will go toward creating recordings of survivors from Israel and around the world.

The campaign is seen as an important measure for preserving the memory of the Holocaust, considering the dwindling numbers of survivors and their advancing age.

The effort is also seen as a countermeasure to Holocaust denial around the world.

The gathered material will be digitized and then used online, primarily on social media, in an effort to make Holocaust education more accessible to younger generations, according to a statement from the government.

The testimonies will also be integrated into the education system in Israel and other participating countries.

Israelis watch the testimony of a Holocaust survivor during a meeting as part of ‘Zikaron Basalon’ project, on the eve of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, in Moshav Kidmat Tzvi, April 7, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

“Our government has led multiple efforts to benefit Holocaust survivors and to continue preserving the memory of the Holocaust for future generations,” Prime Minister Yair Lapid said.

“I’m moved and proud that today we passed this important decision to document the stories of Holocaust survivors from Israel and around the world — a decision that will make a mark for generations to come.”

He thanked Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen “for her intensive work on this decision… for the welfare of Holocaust survivors.”

“I am proud to be a member of a government that approved such an important decision,” said Cohen.

“The average age of survivors is 86, and in fact, we have only a few years left to improve the quality of the lives of the survivors, and secondly to gather as much evidence as possible to be immortalized for the benefit of future generations,” she added.

Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen attends a meeting, in the Knesset, on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Various studies from recent years have indicated that Holocaust awareness is dwindling among younger generations.

A survey published in 2020 by the Claims Conference, which represents Jews seeking compensation for the Holocaust, found that 63 percent of young Americans and 60% of New Yorkers did not know six million Jews were murdered in the Nazi genocide. In New York, 58% could not name a single concentration camp, 19% believed Jews caused the Holocaust and 43% did not know what Auschwitz was.

Education experts have repeatedly said new teaching methods will be required in order to reach out to younger generations and keep the memory of the Holocaust alive as the years go by and firsthand testimonies are harder to come by.

Tobias Siegal and Luke Tress contributed to this report. 

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