Jewish Museum's "Lost Neighbours" project deemed a success

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By Daniela Lazarova.

Some time ago the Jewish Museum in Prague launched a series of public appeals on TV and in the dailies for Czechs to help piece together the history of Jewish families who disappeared or were killed in the Holocaust. The project is called " Lost Neighbours " and people have been asked to send in whatever they think could be of use - old documents, photographs, letters or eye-witness accounts of deportations. Leo Pavlat, the director of the Jewish Museum in Prague explains:

"Unfortunately the generation which survived the Holocaust is dying out and many of them take with them documents, photographs and other valuable material. We think it is high time to approach these people and that is why we decided to publish ads in the papers and on TV . We hope that people will search their personal archives and find something. Up till now we've been quite successful - we receive 8 to 10 letters a day from people around the country and it is not just photos and documents that people send - we have received some very moving letters."

Naturally, this gathering of data about victims of the Holocaust has been going on for years but never before has the Jewish Museum openly addressed the non-Jewish public -and its employees feel that there is still a lot of documentation out there which could enrich its database. Leo Pavlat again:

"About eighty thousand Jews lost their lives in the Holocaust and we know their names, their date of birth, where they were from, when they were deported and where they died but the overwhelming majority are only names. Just a name without a face. Relatives who survived the war have provided us with whatever information and documents they have so we do have a fairly extensive data base but now we are approaching non-Jews, people who may have had a Jewish friend in primary school or as a next door neighbour. Say they knew a certain Oto Katz, who later disappeared and have a faded photograph of their class from 1937 or 38 . We may know when and how a certain Otto Katz died but that photograph of him sitting in the front row is likely to be the only real documentation about the boy. That is of immense value to us because we can attach a face to the name and this person is no longer a number."

Leo Pavlat - director of the Jewish Museum in Prague talking about the Lost Neighbours Project- and if you'd like to hear more about it tune in to Friday's Magazine......