What we do

Our interviews

Since 2000, Centropa has interviewed more than 1,200 elderly Jews still living in the 15 countries between the Baltic and the Aegean (from Estonia and Russia to Greece and Turkey), but we never used video nor did we focus primarily on the Holocaust. Instead, we collected and digitized thousands of family photos. Our interviewers spent up to twenty hours with each respondent, asking them to paint for us a picture of the world they grew up in - as well as the world they rebuilt for their families after the war (we also dutifully record everything our respondents wish to share with us about the Shoah). The interviews are audio taped, transcribed, translated and entered into our searchable, keyworded online database 'Jewish Witness to a European Century'.

Most stories are in English, and we have separate websites and search facilities in German (for our Vienna-based interviews) and in Hungarian. Historians and other researchers are welcome to contact us to read our original transcripts. During the period when we carried out most of our interviews (between 2000 and 2007), more than 140 interviewers, editors, historians, scanners and transcribers worked for us in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Serbia and Croatia. Co-directors of our interview project are Eszter Andor and Dora Sardi. Dora Sardi also manages our Budapest office. Special thanks to Dr Margalit Bejarano, Director of Oral Histories at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who attended our seminars in St. Petersburg, Budapest, Thessaloniki and Istanbul and made invaluable suggestions regarding our methodology.

 

Café Centropa

 

We had no intention of forming senior citizens' clubs, but when an interviewer spends up to twenty hours with an interviewee, they often establish bonds neither side wishes to break. Our chief interviewer in Vienna, Tanja Eckstein, now holds monthly meetings for the single largest Jewish senior citizens' club anywhere in Central Europe, with up to 100 guests attending. In Budapest, our club meets every six weeks, and has between 40 to 60 members. They range in age from 78 to 102. Many of those in their late 80s are still working - in publishing, in string quartets, and as translators.

 

Educational programs

Since 2006, Centropa has produced more than 25 short multi-media films, all based on the stories and old pictures we had been collecting. After showing our earliest films in schools and asking for feedback, we added educational materials accompanying these films. Please go to www.centropastudent.org to view our education website, which has programs available in English, Hebrew, German, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Hungarian and Romanian. Polish will soon be added, as will other languages. We have several target audiences for our educational programs, and they are, in no particular order: --Jewish day schools and congregational schools in North America & Europe --public and private high schools in Israel --public high schools in Europe --public high schools in North America (our newest category) Although we have somewhat different goals with each of these audiences, our two universal goals are to: --connect us all to the lands of Jewish heritage by creating programs about the entire 20th century, not only about the period of the Third Reich --to use these programs in innovative ways so that Holocaust education will have relevance everywhere, --to combat anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial by creating programs that students carry out themselves, and share with other students across borders, oceans and ethnic divides. Centropa's educational programs are unique for two reasons: --the vast majority of our programs are based upon the family stories and tens of thousands of photos we digitized and now have online; --all of our programs were created through the continual feedback of classroom teachers in all the countries in which we work. With seminars that bring teachers, museum educators, school directors, pedagogical experts and university lecturers together, we ask them to share with us the ideas that work best for them.

Click here to see photos from Centropa's 2010 Summer Academy, which brought 75 educators from 13 countries to Prague, Vienna and Budapest for nine days of workshops the teachers ran themselves. If you would like more information about our educational programs, contact Mrs. Lauren Granite, North American Educational Director Mr. Fabian Ruehle, EU Educational Director Mrs. Dora Sardi, Hungarian Educational Director,

 

Exhibitions

Since Centopa has been collecting pictures and stories, it was only logical to create thematic exhibitions based on these stories. Our first exhibition was based on our Bulgarian stories, and it was printed in 2005 in honor of the 100th birthday of Nobel Prize winning novelist Elias Canetti. In 2007, we created an exhibition based on our Romanian stories for Sibiu, the EU Capital of Culture. In 2009, we designed an exhibition based on our Czech stories , which was on display in Terezin for the Czech Republic's Presidency of the European Union. The same year, the Austrian city of Linz, then the EU Capital of Culture, asked us to create our biggest exhibition thus far - more than 110 posters based on our pictures and stories from 15 countries. Our third exibition in 2009 was sponsored by the Spanish government. Based on our Balkan Sephardic stories, this exhibition has been on display in Madrid and Palma de Mallorca, and will continue to travel. Currently, we are working on an exhibition based on our Polish stories, commissioned by the Polish government.

 

Publications

Wie wir gelebt haben: Wiener Juden erinnern sich an ihr 20. Jahrhundert (How We Lived: Vienna's Jews Remember the 20th Century). To be published in the early 2013 in the United States and Great Britain. This is our most comprehensive publication to date, a 254 page book filled with pictures and stories belonging to the 100 elderly Jews we interviewed in Vienna. Noted as "one of the year's most important books," by the Austrian newspaper, Der Standard in 2008. To Begin Again: Jewish Life in Central and Eastern Europe since the fall of Communism in 1989. 154 pages. Edited by Ruth Ellen Gruber A collection of personal essays and stories, written by Jewish authors from Central Europe. Published by the Austrian Foreign Ministry for the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism in 1989. Available via direct order with Centropa (price $5 plus $5 handling and shipping costs). Jewish Witness to a Romanian Century: Pictures and Stories from the Centropa Interviews. This publication was printed in English and in Romanian and was published as an exhibition catalogue for Sibiu 2007 and is now accompanying our traveling Romanian exhibition. Available for free via direct order with Centropa (handling and shipping costs 5$). The Library of Rescued Memories: Pictures and Stories from the Centropa Interviews in the Czech Republic. With an introductory essay by Czech novelist Ivan Klima. Catalogue, in English and in Czech, to accompany our exhibition of the same name. Available via direct order with Centropa (price $5 plus $5 handling and shipping costs) The Library of Rescued Memories: Jewish family stories, films and pictures from the Centropa interviews in fifteen European countries. Centropa's largest exhibition to date was commissioned by Linz 09, the EU Capital of Culture. This catalogue, in German and in English, accompanied the exhibition which continues to travel through Austria and Germany. Available direct order with Centropa (price $5 plus $5 handling and shipping costs) For more information on these books, please contact us.

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