Google Archive Brings Holocaust Memory Into the Digital Age

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The Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Museum.

Getty Images.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel has announced it will be partnering with Google to create an easily accessible archive of 130,000 World War II-era photos. (via The Telegraph)

The joint project was announced on January 26, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Most of the material has already been available on Yad Vashem’s website, but its archive wasn’t exactly user-friendly. Now, Google will apply “indexing and optical character recognition (OCR) technology to lots of documents, ranging from visas to survivor testimonials, in order to help people locate more easily online,” according to a report in The Telegraph.

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The decision to facilitate access to material more than 65 years old was in fact made in an extremely contemporary context. The rise of Mahmoud Ahmadenijad as the president of Iran has led to new scrutiny of an event that was finally becoming as past tense as it ever could with the gradual passing of the World War II generation. Indeed, when Ahmadenijad denies the Holocaust it’s possible he’s simply practicing shrewd politics with knowingly dishonest appeals to the gut of the millions in the Middle East who resent both the creation of the state of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.

(More on See TIME’s cover story on the struggle to reclaim prewar assets)

But whatever its motivation, this modern wave of denials has rightly roused the international community dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust so as to prevent another one. On Jan. 23, Yad Vashem launched a YouTube Channel with tesitmonials about the Holocaust available with Farsi subtitles, according to The Jersualem Post. And this latest decision to partner with Google fits exactly into that paradigm. By increasing the reach of first-hand eyewitness accounts, and now of photos and of other items, Yad Vashem is fighting with the best weapon of all — the truth.