EHRI Conference at the Jewish Historical Institute

On 6 December, an international conference „Research and Preservation of the Secret Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto” took place at the Jewish Historical Institute. The event was a part of the EHRI (European Holocaust Research Infrastructure) framework.

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Krzysztof Czajka — Kalinowski and Marta Wojas talk about the digital JHI projects  /  photo: Grzegorz Kwolek (JHI)

The subject of the conference was the activity of the Oneg Shabbat group and their work — the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto. The conference was attended by employees of various scientific centers from around the world, including United States, Canada, Italy, Great Britain.

Three discussion panels were dedicated to a number of subjects related to the fate of the Polish Jews under the German occupation, as documented by Emanuel Ringelblum and his associates. Many of them regarded the Warsaw Ghetto: functioning and role of the mikvot, crime or conflicts between various social groups. Part of the presentation was dedicated to the methodology of collecting data and its analysis adopted by Oneg Shabbat, as well to the documents themselves – their physical dimension, their significance and role as documents.

Maria Ferenc-Piotrowska presented the project of the virtual Encyclopedia of the Warsaw Ghetto, which was initiated in 2018 at the Jewish Historical Institute. It is a semantic database, which – using the documents from the Ringelblum Archive – will make available online the most important subjects related to the Warsaw Ghetto, retrace its topography, publish information about people who lived there, their life conditions, terror and the forthcoming Holocaust.

Krzysztof Czajka-Kalinowski and Marta Wojas discussed the digital projects: Central Jewish Library and the website DELET, one of the most important elements of the Oneg Szabat Program. Thanks to them, everyone has full access to all resources of the Underground Ghetto Archive of Warsaw. The documents, digitalized in very high resolution, provide a valuable source of knowledge for researchers, but also for students, teachers and for everyone interested in the history of Jews in Poland.

the EHRI project

The EHRI project was launched as a European Union initiative, and financed through EU funds dedicated to supporting collaborative research. The first meeting took place in the fall of 2008 in Brussels. Scientific institutions, national archives, museums and organizations dedicated to commemorating the victims of the Holocaust were invited to join. EHRI’s inauguration took place in November 2010 in Brussels. The project was intended to last 4 years but was later extended by 4 extra months (until March 2015). 20 organizations, mainly from the EU but also from Israel and Norway (the JHI was the only Polish institution to participate), took part in the project. The NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam (part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) took on the task of coordinating and dealing with the organizational and financial aspects of the project.

EHRI serves as a consortium, of sorts, for organizations, museums and places of remembrance. Its motto is “Connecting collections”. The goal is identifying sources relating to the Holocaust and creating an online catalogue. Summer Schools are organized as part of the project. Additionally EHRI provides month, and two-month long scholarships to support research in some of the organizations participating in the project. 

The tasks in the project are divided into work packages, Michał Czajka and Monika Taras (before going on maternity leave) from the JHI’s Archives represented the Institute in the WP15 (“Identification and Investigation”) team and Magdalena Siek participated in the WP3 („Access, Privacy and Copyright Policies”) team.

Our task as part of WP15 was creating an index detailing the resources of Eastern European institutions whose collections relate to the Holocaust, and an index of these institution’s archives. 

The results of the EHRI project can be viewed online. The portal includes 3 main sections: information on individual countries, information on the institutions (mainly archives) possessing documents relating to the Holocaust, and archival descriptions. The organizational sections of the website are available in four languages (English, French, German and Polish) and the information on the 57 countries and 1892 institutions is available in English. Since the 152 692 archival descriptions were collected from many sources, this part of the website includes 13 different languages, with Polish being the second most used language after English, due to the large number of documents in Polish archives. 

The EHRI project is currently finished, however, its participants have not ceased their work. The European Union has already confirmed the EHRI II project, 2015–2020. The JHI will participate in this project as well, this time on a larger scale. Apart from further work on informational databases, the JHI will invite scholarship recipients to come to Warsaw and study the documents in our collection.

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