Monday, January 28, 2008

A "Web Moment"

I'm sure each and every one of you has had at least one "web moment", where the power of the web simply jumped out at you. It may have been after a web-search yielded an amazing result, or realizing that you're driving to a dinner meeting at http://... using directions you got from online maps, and checking traffic conditions on the web from your car. (I do realize, however, that there is an entire generation out there who has no idea what the heck I'm talking about, and equates the pre-web world roughly with the 19th century).

I (or rather, my dad) had such a moment yesterday, when he found a document on the web, signed by his father in 1956, that he had no idea existed.

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, collected a database of people who were killed in the holocaust. They asked anyone who knew holocaust victims to report their details and contribute them to this database. I found the web site for searching that database (thanks to Yair Kurzion), and told my dad about it.

His task was not easy. Searching for a Levy in database of Jews is like searching for Smith in a phone book of a big American city, and even restricting the search with the first name and the city of origin did not help a lot. But magically, he pulled up the first result and found a document signed by my grandfather (who passed away 40 years ago). My grandfather had reported the death of his brother and sister, who were both deported from Thessaloniki, Greece to the gas chambers in Poland in 1942, along with the vast majority of the vibrant Jewish community of that city. Fortunately, my grandfather, who was a Zionist at heart, left Thessaloniki in 1933 for Tel-Aviv to later be part of the creation of the State of Israel.