Centropa was founded in 2000 with two goals in mind: to use the newest technologies to preserve Jewish memory in the lands where it had been all but wiped out, then to disseminate our findings to the largest possible audience.
Although we interviewed 1,263 elderly Jews still living in fifteen European countries, we never used video in those interviews. We wanted to sit with our respondents in their homes, point to their family pictures dating from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first, and ask: who is in this picture? What can you tell me about them?
We were searching for Jewish memory—as told by those who lived through everything a horrid century could throw at them. Between 2000 and 2009, one hundred forty people worked for us as interviewers, editors, historians, coordinators, scanners, and transcribers. And what we secured is unlike any other archive of Jewish memory, anywhere—a total of 22,000 digitized, annotated photo-graphs and documents that are available at the click of a mouse, the swipe of a finger.
Back in 2000, our goal was that in a few years we would close up shop and move on to other projects. But with two articles about us in The New York Times, along with two National Public Radio pieces, and articles in The Times of London, The Guardian, Ha’aretz, Die Zeit, and Der Standard, teachers were writing to us in ever greater numbers, offering to help turn our stories into education-al programs.
We were glad to have their help, and working alongside teachers has been our leitmotif ever since. We never hand them a boxed curriculum because we quickly realized that they know what will work with their students better than anyone.
2019 marked our fourteenth year in education, and with the inclusion of Moldova and Ukraine we now have well more than five hundred schools in our network. Ninety percent of them are public schools and our report will tell you about our progress in places as diverse as inner city Newark, farm towns in Serbia, and in the heart of Tel Aviv.
Because Centropa has, literally, digitized memory, we have been able to adapt to new media in ways we could not have dreamed of in 2000. Since then, the world of social media and new technology has changed radically, but one thing has not: for as long as man could communicate, we have been addicted to stories. The magic in Centropa is that we combine the annotated pictures we’ve collected with both old and new technologies to create traveling exhibitions, walking tour apps, multimedia films, printed catalogues, and eBooks.
This annual report will illustrate how we tell stories, and how, even in these dark times, we challenge stereotypes and bring people together. To do that, we raise around a million dollars a year; we spend just about the same amount. Those dollars help us run social programs for Holocaust survivors in Vienna and Budapest; bring Holocaust education to students in inner city and rural schools in America and in countries like Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine; and we invest in teachers through professional development seminars that send them back to their classrooms inspired, motivated, and better equipped than ever to take the story of Jews in twentieth century Europe and make it relevant and meaningful for their young charges.
This annual report is filled with examples of how we do all this, and if what we do resonates with you we’d be glad to have your support. For seventeen years, we have taken a very different approach to preserving Jewish memory and disseminating our findings, so please join us in partnership and we can make an even greater impact.