Centropa: Jewish Heritage in Central and Eastern Europe

A nonprofit organization based in Vienna, Austria, the Centropa group is headed by a team of historians, educators, photographers, and other artists and scholars (Edward Serotta, Director). Their site http://www.centropa.org/mainpage/main.asp may be of interest as a teaching tool. "Centropa is the signature project of the Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation, a US-based non-profit corporation with its headquarters in Vienna, Austria."

The site contains a number of different oral history and photographic archives, in addition to sections dealing with contemporary Jewish life in the region and around the world. The basic search options within each of these sections allows visitors to choose a country of interest and to highlight certain themes (such as religious figures or personal letters), so that the results will be customized appropriately. An advanced search option allows visitors to look for materials based on family surname and city. Of particular value for those teaching undergraduate students is the way that the database displays search results. Thumbnail images of the sources appear with options to either view the source more closely, to read an explication of the source by its original owner, by someone who interviewed the owner, or by a project staffer, and finally a map link that allows students to see where the source was produced. While this last feature does include annoying pop-up advertisement (via Mapquest), it does allow students to quickly orient themselves to the source’s location (on a current map of the region). Although the database is much smaller than what one finds at the Holocaust Museum site, it is also a bit less overwhelming and so possibly more amenable to a more focused student project.

The site also includes a section that offers suggestions for eating in different restaurants around Eastern Europe and with travel tips for the area. As we know, our students are often much more interested in food than they are in other historical sources, so this feature may offer an interesting way to draw them into the history.