Viewpoint — The Most Powerful Case I Can Make For Keeping The Cybrary Alive

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The Most Powerful Case I Can Make For Keeping The Cybrary Alive

How Three Survivors, a Child of a Survivor, and A Christian At Auschwitz Formed anInternational Community Powered by Memory, Stories, and Putting Hate On Hold

by Michael Declan Dunn…WebMaster of the Cybrary

Dear Cybrary Friends:

I founded this cyte in April 1995. Since then, it has never ceased to find me. Learning about the Holocaust will do that to you.

This month it has challenged me to step out from behind the scenes and ask you tothink about what we are all doing here.

You can’t study the Holocaust and not be changed. A problem that raises morequestions than answers, a darkness that clouds our understanding, lit by thestories and memories of the survivors. Some knee-jerk and say it never happened. I get 10-20 emails a day at this site, with an average of 6,000 visitors amonth. Ninety-five percent of those emails I get support what we are doing here. The other 5 percent don’t. What’s funny is that we all seem to invest much ofour time with that small 5 percent, fighting their denial. Many sites do thatquite well, which isn’t our job here.

In April we had as many visitors in one month as we did in all of 1995, becauseof our Holocaust Remembrance Chat. All driven by a passion to understand,explore, learn, challenge, and change from the events of the Holocaust.

The Cybrary began with the Imagine Art Gallery, the paintings and poetry of sixthgraders studying the Holocaust; historical texts; and Images. It grows eachmonth, sometimes beyond my capacity to keep up with it, because there issomething so important, a shared importance, that must express itself.

I want to tell you about five people who have made all the difference here, andwhat you can do to help them.

Putting Hate On Hold

Harold Gordon is a survivor and friend. I met Harold online last June, when heasked if I might put some of his book online. He suggested the Books bySurvivors section. I was lucky enough to meet Harold and his wife Joyce inperson a few months later. The power of his passion to teach, to share hisexperiences and to work towards a better world are evident in his work and in hismany speeches to schools and organizations.

You should visit our listening room, where Harold’s speech about “Putting Hate OnHold” shows why we should listen to those who survived. It is not a speech ofanger,nor revenge, but of one person believing that these events can help us alllearn and change, if we want to.

The power is in individual choice, and action.

Abe’s Story

Abe’s Story was contributed by Joey Korn, who edited his survivor father’s workand contacted me in July 1995 to put up the book by the anniversary of hisfather’s Yahrzeit (August 7, 1995). Abe’s Story has been shared by schools, bystudents, and through Joey’s passion to turn his father’s memoirs into apublished book that teachers can take advantage of.

Joey suggested we start a Children of Survivors section, one of the most popularat the Cybrary. Since then he has tirelessly contributed updates, ideas to getAbe’s Story into the hands of those teaching, and drive to let people know aboutthis site.

This site is about Joey’s effort. The power of one individual to elicit changesimply by acting.

How Dark The Heavens

Sidney Iwens wrote this book, and his brother-in-law Leon Tabory contacted meonline to get this story out to the public. Reading this book of survival isamazing, a journal told not in chapters but in days…1400 to be exact.

Each day was a new threat, a new challenge, and a new solution. Sidney and Leonhave contributed their efforts to put How Dark the Heavens online, sharing apiece each month of the whole book. Leon kept the online contact going, whileSidney kept in touch and found people who wanted to thank him for sharing hisstory. We should all thank Sidney for writing the book and Leon for helping putit online.

The power is in acting together and getting the message out, preserving thestories, the voices, and the memories.

A Christian At Auschwitz

Stuart Nichols contacted me back in July 1995 about his book and photographscalled “A Christian At Auschwitz”. This virtual tour through the camp, throughthe eyes and words of a man who has a close bond to these events not because ofrace, color, or creed, but simply because as a human being he stepped into theremains of Auschwitz and was changed.

You can’t look into the Holocaust without changing or shutting down. Stuartchose change, putting his words online, patiently working with me as I tried tofit his pictures and message into the narrow bandwidth of the Web. Stuartsuggested we open the Education…A Legacy Forum, after an email exchange withLeon Tabory inspired the name.

The power is in taking your message, sharing it, and listening to the feedback. And letting it change you.

The Power is In Your Participation

These five people are not the only ones to have dramatically affected what goeson here. Each email I get teaches me what should be here. We constantly getrequests for:

  • a search engine
  • a chronology of the Holocaust
  • more maps and pictures
  • more historical research
  • better lesson plans for teachers
  • a chat area where schools could have students meet online in planned discussions
  • a personalized Web page for instruction built by the visitor
  • a way of encouraging more feedback
  • more audio recordings of survivors; and finally,
  • more survivor stories.

We want to do this at the Cybrary and are working on a plan to make this real. Right now there is a challenge we face, a crossroads. This site has been onlinefor over a year now, building and growing with its audience. To grow evenbigger, we have to find a server that will house this growth. We have to findsome minor ways to fund our efforts so we can provide all this information, allthis interaction for free to all who visit.

Just this month I didn’t have the time to put a survivor’s story online, or toput more pictures up. I can get to it in my spare time, but it slows down aprocess that is rapidly gaining steam.

This is a challenge to many Web sites. I’m looking for a solution. Please comeback for a visit at the end of July, when we invite you to participate, to share,and to take the next step in the evolution of this cyte. We want you to help usfind the best way to promote Holocaust education online. Can you help us create, or share content, or provide suggestions for ways we can keep this site alive? Joey Korn and hisproject, called Alliance for a Better Earth (ABE), are brainstorming with me viaemail to find the solutions.

You are the most important part of what we do. But sometimes that’s not enough. Take the Utne Reader for example, a fantastic Web site with great writing,information, and dialogues with its audience. A cyte that is no longer inexistence because it couldn’t pay the rent online.

I’m facing the same challenge here, so I’m asking all of you for suggestions. But first I’m going to those five people who have inspired this site, along withthe numerous others whose materials are located here.

The power is in working together. The most powerful case I can make for keepingthe Cybrary alive is that we must remember. In the next month you’ll see thefirst signs of what this cyte may become, if it has the freedom to act. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you do, or what time of day it is: the only thing that matters is ifyou are interested in promoting online education about the Holocaust.

The power is in the community. Or as Harold Gordon once related to me in astory, it’s all about peace…the rest is just commentary.

Check back in a few weeks or email me at if you have somesuggestions for what we should do to grow and to better serve the passion forlearning from, and commemorating, the Holocaust.

Until later, Peace. MDD

P.S. Read the thesis that began the Cybrary, a study of Interactive Multimedia and the Holocaust that began in 1993 with an interview with Yehuda Bauer.

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