The Daily Northwestern

International collaboration works to increase Holocaust awareness

Mariana Alfaro, Reporter

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It took 13 months and two trips across the Atlantic Ocean for an international group of 20 students and two sponsors to create The Memory Archives project, which focuses on increasing awareness of the Holocaust in the Internet era.

The project is a collaboration between the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communication and the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences’ International Media Center, known as the IMC at HAW. The collaborators presented parts of the project Thursday evening at an event.

IMC at HAW director Steffen Burkhardt contacted Medill Prof. Stephan Garnett, the advisor for the Medill Global Journalism program, more than a year ago about the project, which collected stories of Jews who left Hamburg at the start of the Holocaust in search of peace in the Chicago area.

“There is a Sister City alliance between Chicago and Hamburg,” Burkhardt told The Daily. “The idea was looking at the historic roots of this alliance, and we learned that there are many Jewish refugees who fled from the Nazi terror to Chicago.”

The project uses audio, video, photography and writing to tell 10 different stories about Holocaust survivors, their families and their lives in the Chicago area.

“We wanted to find out what happened to these people and how they are remembering Hamburg and Germany and the Jewish life in Germany and what can we learn from them,” Burkhardt said.

Burkhardt said finding survivors living in the Chicago area was difficult.

“It was like finding a needle in a haystack,” Garnett added.

The 10 Medill students – seven graduate students and three undergraduates – were paired with 10 IMC at HAW graduate students, and together each pair interviewed a survivor or a survivor’s family. Sometimes the survivor had passed away, and so the families shared the survivors’ stories.

The Medill students spent time preparing for the project by taking classes on the history of the Holocaust and learning how to approach the subject in a respectful manner.

“It’s hard to imagine beforehand how it’s going to be like sitting across from somebody who survived the Holocaust,” Medill junior Tyler Daswick said.

Organizers and participants said one of the best parts of the project was seeing students from different nationalities and backgrounds interact and work together.

“They were not journalism students, they were German citizens who wanted to experience this,” Daswick said. “What I applaud about the German students is this is something horrible that happened in their history … how courageous they must be to just face it and say we want to learn about this, we want to understand this. To be alongside that was amazing.”

Burkhardt and Garnett said one of the project’s goals was to record the stories of past generations online so younger generations understand the importance of the Holocaust.

“Journalism has the beauty to witness and record witnesses,” Burkhardt said. “We brought these generations to the Internet.”

Garnett emphasized the significance of reporting in a new era of technology.

“What I like about this (project) more than anything else is that it is a merging of the newest kind of journalism with the oldest tenants of journalism,” he said. “Journalism is about people. It is always about the experiences of people … Technology is there to help us deliver the material.”

The Memory Archives are online.

Twitter: @marianaa_alfaro