THE MUSEUM OF FAMILY HISTORY
A unique, innovative project is underway at the University of Arizona, aiming to reunite families torn apart by the Holocaust. The DNA Shoah Project is a non-profit, humanitarian effort, working to build a global genetic database of Holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren in an attempt to match displaced relatives, provide Shoah orphans with information about their biological families and eventually, when the database has reached sufficient size, assist European governments with the identification of Holocaust-era remains that continue to surface.
The project is the brainchild of entrepreneur and philanthropist, Syd Mandelbaum, a scientist by trade and the child of Holocaust survivors. Upon reading an on-line news story in November of 2005 about the discovery of World War II-era remains outside Stuttgart, Germany, he quickly learned that no database existed to aid in remains repatriation or to alert families to their discovery. After further inquiry, he was introduced to Dr. Michael Hammer, a renowned geneticist at the University of Arizona with a background in Jewish population genetics and the director of the Genomic Analysis and Technology Core (GATC) facility.
The two men’s meeting was fortuitous, as Dr. Hammer’s lab is uniquely positioned to perform the task that they envisioned. Mandelbaum and Hammer rounded out the technological side of their endeavor with the participation and contributions of Howard Cash, President and CEO of Gene Code Forensics, Inc. Mr. Cash designed and developed the forensic matching software, M-FISyS (pronounced “Emphasis”), used to identify victims of the World Trade Center attacks. He also sits on the Michigan State Commission on Genetics, Privacy and Progress, whose recommendations regarding genetic information and privacy have all been signed into Michigan state law.
From the very beginning of this effort, the project’s founders have insisted that their services remain free of charge to the survivor community. To date, operational expenses have been covered by private donations and from in-kind contributions by Arizona Research Laboratories at the University of Arizona. If the project is to achieve its operational goals, however, support from the greater community, the Jewish community in particular, is required.
In addition to the creation of the genetic database, the project has two other mandates: one is the creation of an online memorial, where the families of victims and survivors can upload their testimonies, photos and images of artifacts that illustrate their family’s story. This aspect of the project is unique in that it is user-driven and will create a museum whose content will be determined entirely by its participants.
The second is the development of science-based curricula aimed at high-school students and adult learners. These modules capitalize on pop culture enthusiasm for modern forensic technologies and will supplement existing Holocaust education materials that are already widely available in the disciplines of history, social sciences and the arts.
How can you help? If you are:
The DNA Shoah Project
P. O. Box 210240
Tucson, AZ 85721
Toll-free: (866) 897-1150
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