Jan Meisels Allen
Ancestry partnered with the USC Shoah Foundation to release 50,000 Holocaust records, to be placed in a searchable database, but some survivor families do not want their histories public. The Ancestry records with the USC Shoah Foundation are an index to survivor video interviews. One would still have to go via a link to the USC Shoah Foundation to access the actual interview. They are free on the USC Shoah Foundation website (http://sfi.usc.edu/). Ancestry also added nine million records from the Arolsen Archives that Ancestry digitized this year. Much of the Arolsen Archives records are free to search on the Arolsen Archives website ( https://arolsen-archives.org/en/search-explore/search-online-archive/) However, as reported by the New York Times, during a soft launch trial run, some survivors and their family members already concerned about such sensitive information made public, are wondering what is free and what is not.
The formal announcement of the partnership and media rollout that was set for August 26 has been postponed to September 2nd.
Evidently, during the soft launch some individuals had an experience that led to the impression that materials were not free. There was a glitch and that is being fixed. Ancestry said “they are working to ‘simplify’ the experience so that there is no possible confusion about the free availability of these two collections”—the Arolsen records and the index to the USC Shoah Foundation testimonies.
Meanwhile some survivors feel betrayed by Shoah’s move to add their family histories to a public website without consulting them given the psychology of victimhood and trauma of the Holocaust’s legacy.
USC Shoah Foundation executive director, Stephen Smith, said when the survivors agreed to record testimonies with the Shoah Foundation, they effectively transferred the rights to them.
No money exchanged hands between the USC Foundation and Ancestry per Mr. Smith.
Ancestry has made its entire Holocaust collection free since 2008. The Holocaust collection has over 25 million records. Ancestry digitized the records at their own expense. However, older records Ancestry obtained from the National Archives shows lists and registers of German Concentration camp inmates were visible only with a paid Ancestry membership. Ancestry said they have corrected an earlier oversight when the free designation for those records were missed.
The collection is divided into three categories: Passenger Lists 1946-1971 -lists of displaced persons, in most cases traveling from a resettlement camp to a final destination, often the US.; Lists of Those Persecuted 1939-1947 registers of people living in Germany who were persecuted by public institutions and corporations. Some of these records include details on those who died, including burial information; and USC Foundation Holocaust Jewish Survivor Interviews. These are records relating to information from Holocaust survivor audiovisual interviews collected and preserved within the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive ©
To read the New York Times article see: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/26/arts/ancestry-holocaust-records.html
At the time of writing this post there was no Ancestry blog post or information on their corporate site posted. The USC Shoah Foundation does have an announcement on their website which may be read at:
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee