How We Preserved Jewish Memory: Jewish Witness to a European Century


Between 2000 and 2009, Centropa interviewed 1,230 elderly Jews still living in the 15 countries between the Baltic and the Aegean. Click here to see a chart of where we interviewed and how many pictures we digitized.
We did not conduct interviews in North America, Israel or elsewhere. Our goal was to create a database of Jewish memory, based entirely on the stories of those Jews who remained in the region.

Our interviewers spent up to a dozen hours with each respondent, and we asked them to tell us stories about their entire lives—from tales of growing up in the 1920s to stories about their grandchildren in the early 2000s. For more information about our interviewing methodology, click here.  

All Centropa interviews have been audio taped, digitized, and transcribed. We have translated over a thousand of the interviews into English and 240 are available in Hungarian or German, with others accessible in Polish, Russian, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Turkish, Polish, and other languages. In the English interviews, we removed the questions posed by our interviewers and edited the stories so that they read as autobiographies.

We invite historians and graduate students to contact us to access the original word-for-word transcriptions or listen to the audio files, as 34 master’s and PhD students have done since 2005.

Eszter Andor and Dora Sardi, based in our Budapest office, were co-directors of the Central European interview project. Eszter and Dora were actually the founders of Centropa, along with Edward Serotta. Both Eszter and Dora went on to write our interviewers’ workbook, which was then translated into Russian, Polish, Serbian, Bulgarian, Turkish, German and Czech.

The project in Ukraine, Moldova, and the three Baltic states was coordinated under the aegis of Professor Leonid Finberg of the Institute for Ukrainian Jewish History in Kyiv, with Marina Karelsteyn acting as coordinator. Marina and her team interviewed more than 400 of our 1,230 respondents. 

Most of our Russian interviews were directed by the team at the Adain Lo Jewish community center in Saint Petersburg. Our team in Russia focused primarily on front line soldiers’ stories and survivors of the siege of Leningrad.

Special thanks to Dr Margalit Bejarano, Director of Oral Histories at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who attended our seminars in St. Petersburg, Budapest, Bucharest, Thessaloniki, and Istanbul, making invaluable suggestions regarding our methodology.