Via NPR, April 10, 2022
Most Holocaust survivors are in their 80s or 90s. With every year, fewer remain to tell us their stories. So museums and archives are using advanced technologies to preserve their testimonies and introduce them to new generations.
For example, at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, you can slip on a virtual reality headset and enter the world of survivor George Brent, at the moment the terrified teenager stepped off a boxcar at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944.
“There was a great deal of shouting –’Raus, raus, schnell, schnell! Leave everything behind!'” he says in the 12-minute film. It’s part of the exhibit “The Journey Back: A VR Experience,” which takes viewers from that first heartbreaking separation from his family to the grueling slave labor Brent was later forced to perform in the mines of the Ebensee concentration camp in Austria.
Brent, now 93 years old, is gentle and good-natured as he recalls making his part of “The Journey Back” on a Zoom call with NPR. He was too fragile to make a trip to Europe, he says, so the VR film based on his testimony used green screens to put him in some of the places he describes, such as the men’s concentration camp barracks and the loading docks at Auschwitz-Birkenau.