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Holocaust remembrance in the digital age: Holocaust survivor makes virtual holographic appearance at the Knesset

While video recordings of survivors’ testimonies have been done before, this is the first use of holograms to tell Holocaust testimonies in Israel

Deborah Weinstein next to her hologram (Photo courtesy eyefeelit)

Just days before Holocaust Remembrance Day, a hologram of Holocaust survivor Deborah Weinstein was installed in the Knesset, permitting her testimony to be heard by Israel’s top lawmakers. 

In Israel, a common occurrence on Holocaust Remembrance Day is the “Memory in the Living Room” (“Zikaron Basalon”) program, in which Holocaust survivors, or their descendants, tell the stories of Holocaust survivors to groups gathered in an intimate and comfortable setting. 

The program has been remarkably successful, allowing survivors, many of whom are not comfortable speaking in front of large groups, to tell their stories. 

Now the organization that started the project has partnered with a holographic projection company to create life-sized stands to simulate the presence of survivors in a variety of settings. 

For Weinstein, who only began telling her own story recently, the hologram display will allow her to share her message with more people, not only this year, but in the future and for generations to come. 

Despite the importance of recording her story for posterity, Weinstein said she was not sure about the technology at first. 

“I was initially unsure about how my life story would be presented through a hologram,” Weinstein said. “However, when I saw it for the first time, I was amazed at how lifelike it appeared. It felt like an extension of myself.” 

Michal Lipman, co-director of the Zikaron BaSalon Foundation, said the placing of Weinstein’s hologram in the Knesset shows the importance of preserving the memory of the survivors and their testimonies. 

A teenager who watched Weinstein’s holographic testimony, and also met Weinstein afterwards, said, “We are a generation that is glued to the screen, and over time we understand that Holocaust Remembrance Day must also be adapted to our generation.” 

As the number of Holocaust survivors declines rapidly, the need to preserve their testimonies for the future is at a critical stage. Approximately 147,100 survivors live in Israel today, with between 42-49 dying per day on average. 

However, the need to tell their story in a way that engages younger generations is important. The Zikaron BaSalon Foundation chose to partner with a holographic marketing and distribution company to demonstrate how technology can allow those testimonies to survive. 

Weinstein’s hologram was first displayed in the Dizengoff Mall in Tel Aviv, before being presented in the Knesset, but the idea of using holograms to tell the stories of Holocaust survivors isn’t new. 

In 2012, the New Dimensions in Testimony initiative of the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies started recording Holocaust survivor testimonies using high-definition 3D capture. 

More recently, Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Project has begun to incorporate machine learning to allow the survivor’s testimony to be broken down into chunks and rearranged in logical units. This allows viewers to ask questions of the holographic image and receive responses to their questions composed of the survivor’s own testimony. 

The technology, first demonstrated at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in 2017, enables the projection of a 3D hologram, which gives the appearance of a person sitting in the room. The person’s natural movements and gestures, all captured accurately, make it seem as if they are really present, telling memories and responding to questions. 

Regardless of how the survivors’ testimonies are captured, these stories are an important part of the story of Israel itself. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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