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Yad Vashem and Google Buddy Up

Holocaust Museum release massive searchable photo archives

Stephanie Butnick
January 27, 2011

Yesterday, Google announced the latest development in their partnership with Yad Vashem – a digital collection of 130,000 photographs and documents from Yad Vashem’s archive. (The first development was the Yad Vashem YouTube channel introduced in 2008). The collection of full resolution photographs is accessible on the Yad Vashem website, where a press release hails the “first step towards bringing the vast Yad Vashem archive online over time.”

According to the press release, “Google has implemented experimental optical character recognition (OCR) technology to carry out this project, making previously difficult to locate documents searchable and discoverable online.” Whatever that means technically, it sounds like there’s a great new resource available for anyone looking for photographs of relatives or doing any level of research and scholarship on pre-war Jewish life in Europe or the Holocaust.

But lest we get too excited about the availability of such important archival material and the potential for increased remembrance and education, Google reins us in just a few search results below its own press release. “With Google’s Help, Internet Becomes New Front for Battling Holocaust Deniers,” is a headline over at Fast Company. In the blogpost, David Zax points out that while the Internet offers new ways to combat Holocaust denial, “digital tools can be used by both sides.”

He ends by posing this question: “As information becomes more readily and widely available, will the truth win out? Or will deniers evolve, becoming increasingly ingenious in their conspiracy theories as the likes of Google are in their information dissemination?”

Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.