The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national institution for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history. The Museum is the central repository in the United States for the study of the Holocaust and serves scholars, students, educators, genealogists, and the broader public by providing access to its collections, which include: photographs, artifacts, films, music, archival documentation, books, testimonies from Holocaust survivors, perpetrators, and eyewitnesses, and more. These collections, combined with scholarly programs, help sustain the fields of Holocaust and genocide studies and preserve the memory of this tragic history.
As part of the Museum’s effort to collect, preserve and disseminate information about the Holocaust and Nazi-era persecutions, the project aiming to digitize the Gestapo archives of the Moravian Provincial Archive in Brno, Czech Republic (Moravský zemský archiv v Brně – MZA) was launched. iGuana’s ScanFactory division in Prague was entrusted with digitizing the Gestapo archives for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. To date, nearly 700.000 pages of documents of the estimated 1.500.000 contained in the MZA Gestapo archives were successfully scanned & indexed by the iGuana team. iGuana continues to work in close collaboration with the Moravian Provincial Archive and the United States Holocaust Museum to digitize the remaining records.
Gestapo Brno: Archive Records & Digitization Process
The Gestapo Brno archives contain various types of records, including investigative and arrest files and administrative records. The investigative and arrest files concern mostly Czech individuals arrested on a variety of charges such as making anti-German or political remarks, listening to foreign radio broadcasts, sabotage, malingering, anti-social behavior, possession of arms, miscegenation, economic, religious, civil, administrative and other offenses. The records also contain documentation pertaining to Gestapo actions against Czech resistance groups and Jews, the disbandment of Czech organizations, the confiscation of properties and assets, and situation reports.
The Gestapo files & records scanned by iGuana come in a wide range of formats, including: oversized (e.g. maps), printed or handwritten, loose or stapled, bound or unbound, stitched together with a piece of string, crumpled, poorly legible, containing photographic material, etc. Many documents are extremely fragile and require utmost care in handling, both during preparation and scanning. Any staples, stitches or other binding material has to be carefully removed prior to scanning by the iGuana digitization specialists using specialized tools. It is imperative that the order of the documents in a file is preserved exactly after scanning, irrespective of whether an individual file contains only a few pages or hundreds of pages of material. After scanning, all documents must be returned to their original state i.e. stapled, stitched or otherwise bound together in exactly the same way, in exactly the same places and in exactly the same order. This requires precision work by highly trained specialists, each working on a dedicated set of documents at a time, utilizing special tools and scanning equipment, manually preparing and scanning the documents and file folders, and never sharing any part of their work with another member of the team.
All work for this project is performed exclusively on-site at the Moravian Provincial Archive with no document or file ever leaving the archive’s premises. iGuana installed specialized scanners at MZA to digitize these invaluable documents. Different scanners are used to digitize different types of documents, and certain documents are digitized separately due to their condition or non-standard size. All scanning is performed manually. Additionally, our staff must continuously clean and maintain the scanners in perfect condition to guarantee that no document is ever damaged during scanning and to ensure preservation-grade image quality. Due to the complexity of the work involved and to ensure best possible quality, iGuana specialists work in shifts of maximum 2 people at a time. Lastly, all scanned documents / digital images are manually indexed in accordance with strict museum and archive standards.
It is our hope that by assisting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Moravian Provincial Archive in digitizing these materials we can contribute to their mission of advancing, disseminating and preserving the knowledge and memory about the Holocaust for future generations.