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Museum Acquires the Centropa Collection, a Unique Project that Features Rare Testimonies of Holocaust Survivors Living under Post-War Communism

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For 10 Years, CENTROPA Researchers Collected and Preserved Photographs, Documents and Testimonies of Holocaust Survivors in 15 countries between the Baltic and the Black Sea of Over 1,200 Testimonies and 25,000 Images; Largest Number Come From Ukrainian Survivors

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has acquired the Centropa collection, which provides a rare look into the largely untold experiences of Jews who survived the Holocaust and remained in Europe, many of them in communist countries.

“The Holocaust’s echoes continue to reverberate. We see it in the alarming rise of global antisemitism. In President Putin’s lies about the Holocaust and Nazism in an attempt to justify his brutal invasion of Ukraine. The Centropa stories could not be more timely,” said Museum Chairman Stuart E. Eizenstat. “Understanding these personal histories can help us to understand the present, and this collection will give scholars and the public new insights into a lesser known chapter of the Holocaust and its immediate aftermath.” 

The collection, created by the Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation (Centropa), provided a platform for elderly Jews to share their stories, which date from childhood memories about the 1920s and 30s, through the early 2000s. The collection’s 1,230 audio interviews were recorded in 11 languages and total nearly 40,000 pages of transcriptions.

These survivors also shared approximately 25,000 of their privately-held photographs and personal documents, then annotated every one of them. Together, the testimonies, images and documents provide a view of the entire 20th century, as told by witnesses who, in many cases, survived unimaginable horrors.

The 276 Ukrainian interviews are especially important as they offer childhood stories of life in the shtetls in the 1920s, surviving Stalin’s forced famine of the 1930s, their flight from Nazi Germany in 1941 or how they fought with the Red Army, some all the way to Berlin. Their postwar stories are just as illuminating, as many suffered from Stalinist postwar antisemitism as they were hounded out of their jobs, refused admission to university, or saw their friends and family persecuted in the name of Communism.

“The Holocaust survivor accounts most people have encountered come primarily from survivors who emigrated to Israel and the West,” continued Eizenstat. “Their post-war circumstances differed greatly from those who lived in the former Soviet Union. Under communist regimes, Holocaust survivors were once again trapped in dictatorships where antisemitism, although not genocidal, was state policy as was hostility toward Holocaust remembrance and commemoration. The uniqueness of the Jewish experience during the war was expunged from official memory. And of course, none ever received any compensation for their suffering and loss.” 

Centropa was founded in 2000 by Edward Serotta, an American journalist who had been working in Central Europe since the mid-1980s. The Centropa team spent ten years interviewing 1,230 Holocaust survivors, including Ukraine (276); Hungary (116); and Russia (109). Centropa also interviewed nearly 100 Sephardic Jews still living in ex-Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.

Most of these in-depth interviews are available in English and the Museum expects to make the entire collection cataloged and findable through the Museum’s Collections Search portal in late-spring 2024. Visitors will be able to request original interview recordings, tens-of-thousands of photographs and documents, transcripts and translations of each interview, and interviewee background materials including family trees and more. 

“Time was of the essence in capturing these testimonies, lending incredible urgency to our work,” said Serotta, Centropa’s founder. “The number of survivors with first-hand memories of pre- and post-war events is rapidly dwindling. By having it become part of  the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s collection, scholars, educators and the general public worldwide will have access to this singular archive that deepens our understanding of the Holocaust and its continuing legacy in Europe today.”

About the Museum

A nonpartisan federal educational institution, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, dedicated to ensuring the permanence of Holocaust memory, understanding, and relevance. Through the power of Holocaust history, the Museum challenges leaders and individuals worldwide to think critically about their role in society and to confront antisemitism and other forms of hate, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. For more information, visit


Aside from its unique approach to preserving Jewish memory in the lands where the Holocaust took place, Centropa is deeply involved in Holocaust education in North America, Europe and Israel, as well as in public history programs such as podcasting, publishing and filmmaking.