Crowd of Jews - one is wearing a visible Yellow Star.
Jews in Occupied Europe.
Wiener Holocaust Library Collections

The Wiener Holocaust Library’s new digital resource, Testifying to the Truth, will soon be freely accessible online. This online database shares eyewitness accounts from the Holocaust, many of which have never been available to the public online before and have been translated, by a team of the Library’s volunteers, into English for the first time. We would like to sincerely thank all of the Library’s volunteers who have been a part of this translation effort. This project would not have been possible without them.

Topics covered by the eyewitness accounts range from descriptions of the experience of living through Nazi ghettos, concentration and death camps, to the stories of those who hid from the Nazis, either in plain sight using false identities, or in attics and cellars. The authors were Jewish, Roma and Sinti survivors as well as Germans who witnessed Nazi persecution. There are also several testimonies from those who participated in resistance activities against the Nazis and their perpetrators and those who managed to escape from the death camps.

“We all have a duty to fulfil towards our past.” In the 1950s, Dr Eva Reichmann, the Library’s Director of Research, embarked on an ambitious effort to collect eyewitness accounts from those who had lived through the Holocaust. Over the course of seven years, this initiative resulted in the gathering of more than 1,300 written reports in seven different languages, collected at a time when immediate post-war efforts to gather survivor accounts had begun to wane. Interviewees recounted their experiences of events from 1933 through to the end of the Second World War as well as its aftermath. Trained interviewers – many of whom were often survivors – recorded, transcribed, edited and indexed the accounts under Reichmann’s direction.

The launch of the first 380 translated and digitised accounts will see the work started by Dr Reichmann in 1945 made fully accessible to the public. The rest of the 1,185 testimonies will be released later this year.

Cataloguing, translating and editing of The Wiener Holocaust Library’s collections of early eyewitness accounts have been ongoing on a small scale since 2011. However, it was only in April 2014 that more intensive work could begin. With thanks to a grant provided by the Department of Communities and Local Government we have been able to widen the access to this unique collection which results in its online publication today. 

Join us at the launch event on Thursday 28 January, 6-7pm, for a panel discussion with guest speakers. Book here.