CLEVELAND, OH – The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage has partnered with the USC Shoah Foundation’s Dimensions in Testimony to launch a first-of-its-kind Holocaust Survivor Memory Project in Cleveland. Local Holocaust survivor Stanley Bernath’s story and memories were recorded using state-of-the-art technology. The technology allows Stanley to share his story and answer questions about his past, simulating the experience of speaking face-to-face with a survivor. Stanley is the fifteenth survivor in the world to become an interactive survivor biography.
Each year over 10,000 students from across Northeast Ohio visit the Maltz Museum for student tours Many of these students hear from a local Holocaust survivor who shares their personal and powerful story. This is one of the most meaningful ways students can experience history, by listening to the real-life stories of people who lived through that period of time. In order to preserve the experience, the Maltz Museum is launching a first-of-its kind effort in Cleveland that uses cutting-edge technology to simulate speaking to a living survivor.
“Meeting and interacting with a survivor lifts history out of the books and brings history to life for students,” said David Schafer, Managing Director of the Maltz Museum, who says this is why the Survivor Memory Project is critical now. “We don’t know how much longer survivors will be able to share their stories. Working with the USC Shoah Foundation’s Dimensions in Testimony will enable future generations to interact with a Holocaust survivor long after we are all gone.”
Dimensions in Testimony revolutionizes the concept of oral history, using cutting-edge technology to record survivor stories with hundreds of cameras set up in a dome. The team asks hundreds of questions over the course of two days. The survivor needs to have significant cognitive ability to sit through the comprehensive question-and-answer session in the California studio. Approximately one year after that experience, Stanley Bernath is seeing an interactive version of himself as the beta version readies for Cleveland audiences this summer.
“Years from now none of us survivors will be available, we’ll be all gone,” said Stanley Bernath, who is honored to be the fifteenth survivor in the world to record his story as an interactive survivor biography. He has been telling his story to groups for over forty years and now his story will live on in perpetuity. “Children or adults can always ask questions. They’ll be able to see it and hear what I have to say about what I went through,” he said.
The beta test is an important part of the technology’s process, working out bugs so that when student or adult groups come in the future the technology will work fluidly. The beta begins this month. Starting July 24, every Tuesday through Friday and Sunday at 3pm, Maltz Museum visitors will be able to interact with the beta version and help test the technology. The experience is included with general museum admission and is free for Maltz Museum members.