Friday, April 4, 2014

April 4, 2014: Holocaust Museum Visit

Yes folks- I fast-forwarded a bunch of years. I am posting from the library in the Holocaust Museum today. Jason and I are here doing research like a good nerdy couple. You may remember that the librarians/historians at the Holocaust Museum reached out to us when they discovered that some of their newly acquired archives might be of interest to us. And they were incredibly interesting- and opened up a whole new world of information! The files they contacted us about were the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) files - and those are the letters we are going through right now.

When we first started this blog, we had my Opa's autobiography, and a box of letters that were not organized or all in English. As we had the documents translated, and dug deeper into the letters in conjunction with Opa's books - we found clues that led us to more information. Before we were contacted by the Holocaust Museum, we had very little detailed information about Opa's process of immigrating to the United States. Now we have almost a play-by-play! And with each new discovery, of course there are more characters, more stories, more clues, and more mysteries. So that is why we are doing some more research with the fine people of the Holocaust Museum today.

In addition to resources like Opa's file with the AFSC, the Holocaust Museum library also has documents, studies, and even thesis papers that involve the stories of the people affected by the Holocaust. One of these thesis papers that Ron (a librarian at the museum) shared with me was a fascinating insight into the culture of the work-place for the American consuls working in Vienna (then part of the German- annexed Austria). These were the folks who (among other things) processed refugee requests for immigration to America. I'm probably going to write up a little spotlight on this because it was really helpful to get an idea of what was happening on the inside of the American immigration offices on foreign land. I keep asking the questions of why the consuls were so strict in their interpretation of the immigration law, and this paper gives me insight into answering that question.

I share all of this nerdy research to remind my readers that often the answers (or at least the treasure chest of clues) are out there if you are willing to search for them. It boggles my mind how much information is out there once I find the right place to dig. The Holocaust Museum has been a treasure- and I know there are likely other places I haven't even discovered yet that will hold the next clue. Also- there are people who are really, really smart. These people navigate a very complex database and get you 20 pages of primary documents in 5 minutes, when it would have taken me an hour to get the first page. You may think a google search is a final search- but there are folks who are specifically trained and skilled at research- and many of them want to do this- for YOU. Most of these folks are called librarians. Go make friends with one now- it's fun.

We live in a time when speculation and opinion are given an incredible amount of air-time. Let me tell you- the truth is way more exciting. Way more informative. Way more instructive. And really, a million times more productive to process. SO- become a research nerd. I used to be too lazy for it- but now I see the benefits of a well-researched paper. There is nothing without a human bias- and the human part is very important- but my PSA for today is: Do your homework- you'll like it, really. Oh- and go be friends with a librarian.

1 comment:

  1. I was so sorry to miss your visit yesterday! Ron's been telling me all about it. You've been finding such amazing stuff. I'm so excited to see the end product, but don't forget that we're here if you need anything along the way. I hope you'll be able to come up when Ron presents on the AFSC later this summer.

    (USHMM Archives)


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