WITH time to work, volunteers preserve Nazi victims' stories:

As the virus prompted lockdowns across Europe, the director of the Arolsen Archives - an archive in Bad Arolsen, Germany, devoted to the victims of Nazi persecutions - joined millions of others working remotely from home and spending lots more time in front of her computer.

IT'S A BIG JOB : THE AROLSEN ARCHIVES are the biggest collection of their kind in the world, with more than 30 million original documents.

They contain information on the wartime experiences of as many as 40 million people, including Jews executed in extermination camps and forced laborers conscripted from across Nazi-occupied Europe.

The documents which take up 16 miles of shelving, include things like train-manifests, delousing records, work detail assignments and execution records.

Gathered up by the Allied forces after World War II and stored in Bad Arolsen, a small town north of Frankfurt, the material was used by the International Committee of the Red Cross after the war to assist in reuniting thousands of families and to help many more reach some sort of closure.

The archive began scanning and digitizing its collection in the late 1980s. In the last year, 26 million scanned documents have been posted online. For descendants, relatives, historians and curious members of the public, the online collection is a singular resource.

''No one can overstate the importance of that archive,'' said Deborah Dwork, a Holocaust historian at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. ''It's quintessential.''

Yet searching the records for specific people remains difficult. Most of the archive collection -particularly handwritten prisoner lists from concentration camps and other hard-to-read material - is not indexed by name.

''We've had 20 or 30 staffers indexing documents day in and day out for 20 years, but we have 30 million documents,'' Ms. Azoulay said. ''It's just not feasible to do it all ourselves.''

Over the past five years, the archive has turned to private companies, including Ancestry.com, in an effort to accelerate the process of extracting names, birth dates and other identifying details.

Faced with scans of mid-20th-century German cursive, smudged stamps and decayed paper, computers could take the effort only so far.'' The documents aren't homogenous, and it's difficult for a machine to read the names properly,'' Ms. Azoulay said.

She estimates that half of the approximately 40 million names in the archive are still missing from its database.

And finishing the job is a priority. ''Otherwise the names are lost,'' said Paul Shapiro, the director of international relations at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

That's where crowdsourcing comes in.

In 2019, Ms. Azoulay sought help from Zoonverse, a crowdsourcing platform that allows volunteers to contribute to academic research projects by analyzing large data sets a little bit at a time.

THE LISTS AND CARDS ARE SPARSE BUT EVOCATIVE. A few minutes indexing the Dachau records is enough is get sense of how sprawling the Nazi's terror apparatus was in both geography and time.

A prisoner card for Karl Frohlich shows that the Viennese musician was 16 when he was sent to Dachau in 1939, Jan Cieslak was sent there from Poland less than a year later. Geno Fischer, a Hungarian Jew, arrived in 1944, around the same time as Ibrahim Dzinalic, a Muslim from Sarajevo, which was then part of Yugoslavia.

Indexing the names has a practical purpose for historians and the relatives of victims. But. Mr. Shapiro of the Holocaust Museum says the project's greatest value may be as a tool to help people trace their relatives' fates and to keep the past alive.

''These collections are an insurance policy against forgetting,'' he said.

The Honor and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on Past, History, and Future Lessons, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Andrew Curry.

The World Students Society thanks author Andrew Curry.

With respectful dedication to the Victims, Grandparents, Parents, Sufferings, Mankind, History, Lessons, Leaders, Students, Professors and Teachers of the world.


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