ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Ancestry.com recently announced it would be digitizing millions of Holocaust documents, making them searchable online for the first time ever.
The website is partnering with the Arolsen Archives, International Center on Nazi Persecution in Germany to make these records available to Ancestry members and non-members alike.
It’s something the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg is working hard at as well.
“It’s one of our really critical purposes, is to take the documents and the artifacts and the objects we’ve been lucky to be given by survivors or family of survivors or liberators and to not only to make sure that they’re preserved for the future but look for ways to share them,” said Elizabeth Gelman, executive director of the museum. “So what we’re doing is we are digitizing the museum’s complete collection. So at a certain point, we’ll be able to have it so that everyone will be able to find a way into our collection and be able to do research.”
The museum has over 20,000 items, including objects, artifacts, photos and documents.
Gelman said the Florida Holocaust Museum works with a number of different Holocaust centers and sites throughout the world. All share their information as best as they can.
“We, in particular, have a lot of testimonies that people have given, I believe it’s about 300 hours of Holocaust survivors and liberators who have given their testimonies of what happened with them,” she said.
Those testimonies are being digitized, and also archived, so it’s easier for someone doing research to find what they’re looking for.
Gelman said the museum believes strongly in access and the goal is to make these documents available to the public for free.
“We feel that each one of these objects and documents tells the story of people who lived through this terrible time in history and the more we can make them all accessible, the more research can be done and the more that we can learn from the Holocaust,” she said.
According to Ancestry, their collection includes Africa, Asia and Europe passenger lists of displaced persons from 1946 to 1971. That collection includes displaced people leaving Germany and other European ports.
The collection also includes Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German individuals persecuted between 1939 and 1947. Ancestry notes that these documents may include information on those who died, including burial information.
The records include those from the American Zone of post-war occupied Germany, according to Ancestry.
Ancestry confirmed they will continue to add “a significant number of documents from the Arolsen Archives” from other allied zones including the British, Soviet and French zones to its database in early 2020.
The documents will be donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. to also be posted to their website.
The Florida Holocaust Museum is open seven days a week beginning at 10 a.m., with the last admission being sold at 4 p.m.