Holocaust Memorial Museum Launches Kickstarter to Digitize 200 Diaries

iStock
iStock

Reminders of the Holocaust persist as photographs, artifacts, and audio recordings, but some of the most moving remnants from the period can be found in the pages of diaries. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is home to hundreds of journals filled with the firsthand accounts of people entangled in the genocide. Now, it’s unrolling a plan make these documents more accessible to the public. As Mental Floss contributor Erin Blakemore reports for Smithsonian, the museum hopes to crowdfund $250,000 through Kickstarter to digitize, preserve, and translate over 200 diaries from the Holocaust.

The campaign, titled “Save Their Stories: The Undiscovered Diaries of the Holocaust,” launched on June 11, one day before Anne Frank’s birthday. The Kickstarter page reads:

“Most people are familiar with the diary of Anne Frank, and her personal account is often the first introduction that many have to the devastating history of the Holocaust. But it’s not the only diary of its kind.

"Each of the diaries in our collection has an important story to tell, of suffering and strength, persecution and perseverance. Written by people young and old, from diverse backgrounds and countries, they bring to life a broad spectrum of individuals’ experiences during the Holocaust. Now, in the face of growing Holocaust denial, we must bring more stories to light before we lose the firsthand memories of survivors and witnesses who can shed light on the context of these diaries and other priceless artifacts in the Museum’s collection.”

The museum will use the money it raises to digitize the diaries and make them available to the public online. The plan also includes the transcription and translation of the diaries of three Jewish refugees who were forced to leave their homes during World War II. The three diary authors selected for translation are Joseph Strip, a boy who scribbled his accounts in a math notebook; Lucien Dreyfus, a journalist and teacher who survived Auschwitz; and Hans Vogel, a boy who drew maps tracing his escape from Paris.

Pages from the diary of a Holocaust survivor.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Kickstarter

Pages from the diary of a Holocaust survivor.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Kickstarter

If the Holocaust Memorial Museum reaches its funding goal by July 13, you can expect to see the diaries on its website by the end of 2019.

[h/t Smithsonian]

On This Day in 1953, Jonas Salk Announced His Polio Vaccine

Getty Images
Getty Images

On March 26, 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk went on CBS radio to announce his vaccine for poliomyelitis. He had worked for three years to develop the polio vaccine, attacking a disease that killed 3000 Americans in 1952 alone, along with 58,000 newly reported cases. Polio was a scourge, and had been infecting humans around the world for millennia. Salk's vaccine was the first practical way to fight it, and it worked—polio was officially eliminated in the U.S. in 1979.

Salk's method was to kill various strains of the polio virus, then inject them into a patient. The patient's own immune system would then develop antibodies to the dead virus, preventing future infection by live viruses. Salk's first test subjects were patients who had already had polio ... and then himself and his family. His research was funded by grants, which prompted him to give away the vaccine after it was fully tested.

Clinical trials of Salk's vaccine began in 1954. By 1955 the trials proved it was both safe and effective, and mass vaccinations of American schoolchildren followed. The result was an immediate reduction in new cases. Salk became a celebrity because his vaccine saved so many lives so quickly.

Salk's vaccine required a shot. In 1962, Dr. Albert Sabin unveiled an oral vaccine using attenuated (weakened but not killed) polio virus. Sabin's vaccine was hard to test in America in the late 1950s, because so many people had been inoculated using the Salk vaccine. (Sabin did much of his testing in the Soviet Union.) Oral polio vaccine, whether with attenuated or dead virus, is still the preferred method of vaccination today. Polio isn't entirely eradicated around the world, though we're very close.

Here's a vintage newsreel from the mid 1950s telling the story:

For more information on Dr. Jonas Salk and his work, click here.

Drunken Thieves Tried Stealing Stones From Notre-Dame

Notre-Dame.
Notre-Dame.
Athanasio Gioumpasis, Getty Images

With Paris, France, joining a long list of locales shutting down due to coronavirus, two thieves decided the time was right to attempt a clumsy heist—stealing stones from the Notre-Dame cathedral.

The crime occurred last Tuesday, March 17, and appeared from the start to be ill-conceived. The two intruders entered the cathedral and were immediately spotted by guards, who phoned police. When authorities found them, the trespassers were apparently drunk and attempting to hide under a tarpaulin with a collection of stones they had taken from the premises. Both men were arrested.

It’s believed the offenders intended to sell the material for a profit. Stones from the property sometimes come up for sale on the black market, though most are fake.

The crime comes as Paris is not only dealing with the coronavirus pandemic but a massive effort to restore Notre-Dame after the cathedral was ravaged by a fire in 2019. That work has come to a halt in the wake of the health crisis, though would-be looters should take note that guards still patrol the property.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

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