Survivors memoirs collected, preserved

These stories are among the nearly 200 memoirs sent so far to the Holocaust Survivors' Memoirs Project, which has received $1 million in funding from Random House.

Elie Wiesel, the project's honorary chairman, has been pushing the idea for years.

Wiesel says the project, set up by the World Jewish Congress, will encourage survivors, many of whom are in their 60s and older, to write down their stories.

The survivors' "stories are unique and what they have to say nobody else has to say," Wiesel, a Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, recently told the New York Times.

"They should feel that people want to know what they have gone through."

The project wants to preserve the memoirs of survivors, according to Menachem Rosensaft, the project's director and editor in chief.

In addition, the project hopes to make these memoirs accessible to scholars, students and the general public to ensure that those studying the period know the experiences of the survivors, Rosensaft says.

So far, most of the memoirs received have come from North America, with a smattering from Latin America, Israel and England.

Most are written in English, with a few in Yiddish. One memoir of life in Buchenwald is written in Hebrew.

Some of the memoirs include experiences in displaced persons camps after the war — and in resettlement in the United States, Britain and elsewhere.

"Here you have the written word — survivors who sat down, often for years, writing down, crossing out, putting down their experiences" and often expressing in writing what they couldn't say, Rosensaft says.

He hopes the first batch of memoirs will come out in the next 12 to 15 months, but it's not clear how they will be made accessible.

Since Random House funded the project, it has first rights to publish any of the manuscripts.

Memoirs can be sent to the Holocaust Survivors' Memoirs Project, World Jewish Congress, 501 Madison Ave., New York, NY, 10022.