The famous Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial site in Israel now has its own German website. Sara Eismann, coordinator for the new site, talks to DW about what makes the portal so special.
DW: Why has the German language Internet site of the Holocaust memorial site Yad Vashem been launched now?
Sara Eismann: Yad Vashem’s aim is to disseminate as much as information as possible about the Holocaust. The website has already existed in other languages such as Hebrew and English for a few years. In Germany, there is a relatively large amount of correct information about the Holocaust available, much of it at memorial sites. Many Germans first come to our English website. That's why it made sense to offer it in other languages in which you don't necessarily have the right information. That's either because people don't visit an English portal or because they live in countries in which wide-ranging and accurate information isn't available. That’s why our last project was a website in Persian. We also have one in Arabic. And since the Friede Springer Foundation graciously offered to support us with the portal in German, it was the right moment to do it.
What can visitors expect on the new German language website?
For one, you can find an overview in 40 chapters that tells you about the history of the Jews especially in Germany - from the end of the 1920s until the first years after the Second World War. But we don’t just give you the factual information. We've also used statements by witnesses. In addition, there are entries from diaries, photographs and other documents. And the research area is also a big part of the site.
Among other things, you can find the central database with the names of a total of 4.2 million Holocaust victims. Another special project is our databank on the deportation during the Holocaust, the Shoa. Here, you can trace some 500 transportations of Jews from areas of the Third Reich into ghettos or concentration camps. You can find the exact date of the transportations and how many people were on the trains. And you can also find out some details about the victims - who were in which train, what jobs did these people do? What was their age and what fate did they meet? One of the most important aims is not just to name the historical dates but to shed light on the personal fate of each individual victim.
What kind of content was created especially for the German site?
The 40 chapters about the persecution of the Jews include an additional section about the German as well as German-speaking Jews and their fates. There are four extra online exhibitions for German-speaking visitors. We’ve noticed that it’s one of the most popular aspects of our website in other languages. In the section, "The Righteous among the Nations" information about a large number of German-speaking people was included. That means people who helped Jews during the Nazi regime. We've also included 21 lectures by Holocaust historians in German who speak about issues that are especially relevant for the fate of German Jews or the events in Germany. We also have a large education department that offers educational material such as online courses and teaching aids for international schools for Holocaust studies.
Is this educational material specially developed for Germany or are they similar in all your online languages?
The teaching material was specially created by native speakers solely for German-speaking nations. The German language department in our international school for Holocaust studies has, for a few years now, been offering guidelines for teachers and other educators on their site. This is where Yad Vashem’s German language website was expanded. You can use our online exhibitions in the classroom and at the same time get the teaching material that goes with it.
Did you get the impression at the Yad Vashem memorial site that it was time for a German site because Germans have maybe begun to forget the Holocaust?
You could say that Yad Vashem’s constant aim is to remain up-to-date and interesting for young generations. At a time when there are ever fewer Holocaust survivors, it's all the more important to find new possibilities to get the topic across to young people in particular. And they are mainly online. That isn’t just the only reason for the German website. The aim is to make information accessible to everyone. Our archive has more than 154 million pages of documentation and it's really important to us to present this data in its entire range.
What are your expectations for the new German website?
The site aims to offer a very simple, interactive access to information about the Holocaust. We hope that a large number of people visit the site, read, learn something and want to find out more and by doing that, commemorating the victims in a certain sense.
Sara Eismann is the coordinator for the new German language website of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial that has been online since January 28, 2013. “Yad Vashem” is Hebrew and means “Memorial and Name.” The central Israeli memorial for the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust is the biggest archive as well as documentation center about the extermination of the Jews during the German Nazi regime. Yad Vashem was founded in 1953 in Jerusalem. The website yadvashem.org was launched in 1999, initially in Hebrew and English. It’s now available in Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Persian and now German. In 2012, the portal registered ten million visitors from 200 nations.