Spring 2015

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International Reporting Project Preserves Holocaust Survivors’ Stories

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Adina Sella’s earliest memory is praying for the sound of machine-gun fire. She and her family could escape bullets, but bombs from the Allies meant sure destruction. 

It was 1943, and Sella and her family were hidden under the stairs of a farmhouse in Anghiari, a village in central Italy near Florence, as the occupying German forces retreated from a punishing Allied assault. When the opportunity arrived, the family fled through the forest, crawling through the brush as flames and flashes burst around them. After the war they settled in what was then Palestine.

Sella is now a retired psychologist in Chicago. Her life story, once the stuff of family legend, is now part of the Memory Archives, a new digital storytelling anthology produced by 10 students from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and 10 students from the International Media Center at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany.

The Memory Archives, the work of 10 two-person teams over six months, includes written stories, short videos, audio collections and photos designed to preserve the stories of Holocaust survivors from Hamburg who are connected to the Chicago area. Each student team interviewed survivors and their families in the United States and then produced their stories at the University of Hamburg.

“The opportunity for me not only to hear Holocaust survivor stories but to preserve them is what drew me in,” says sophomore Jesse Kirsch, one of the three undergraduates who worked on the project. “There was a moment when I was in Germany standing outside the synagogue where my survivor had his bar mitzvah and then had to clean up after Kristallnacht [“Night of Broken Glass”]. Standing on the same ground and connecting two lifetimes, I can’t put it into words.”

All 10 Memory Archives projects can be viewed at thememoryarchives.org.