With the end of World War II and the Holocaust now over 75 years in the past, the question becomes even more urgent: How will future generations hear from those who were witnesses?
On Feb. 4, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans opened a glimpse of that future with the opening of “Dimensions in Testimony: Liberator Alan Moskin,” where pre-recorded interviews, artificial intelligence and video clips create an environment where visitors can learn from Moskin’s experiences and interact with him in a question and answer session.
Dimensions in Testimony is a project of the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation, creating interactive biographies to have life-like conversations well into the future.
About two dozen survivors, liberators and witnesses have been interviewed for the interactive project. The interviews were done in a green-screen environment, with up to 2,000 possible questions. Using natural language technology, questions are transformed into search terms, with the system selecting the best video clip to match the question.
The New Orleans installation is a beta version of the exhibit and will be used to help the USC Shoah Foundation refine the experience. A handful of institutions are hosting the exhibit, including the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, and the Holocaust museums in Dallas and Houston.
The New Orleans installation will be on display through July 25.
Moskin was born in 1926 in Englewood, N.J., and currently resides in Rockland County, N.Y. His father was a pharmacist, served as elected city official, and eventually became one of the few Jewish mayors in New Jersey.
When Moskin was 16, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and America entered the war. In October 1944, Moskin was drafted in the U.S. Army and after completing his basic training, he was deployed to England as a Private First Class in Patton’s Third Army, 66th Infantry, 71st Division.
Moskin fought on the front line across France through the Rhineland and into Austria. In May 1945, his unit liberated a prisoners of war camp in Lambach, Austria and then they liberated the Gunskirchen Concentration Camp, a sub-camp of the Mauthausen concentration camp, where he and his fellow soldiers learned for the first time about Nazi mass murders of Jews and were shocked with suffering of the prisoners.
Until he was honorably discharged in June 1946, Moskin served in the army of occupation in Austria. He attended the Nuremberg Trials during this time.
After the war, he became an attorney, and now spends his time volunteering with Jewish war veterans, speaking to students, working with local Holocaust museums, and as a volunteer color guard at naturalization ceremonies.
The New Orleans installation of “Dimensions in Testimony” is made possible through support from the Franco Family Fund and Karen and Leopold Sher. It is in the Joe W. and Dorothy D. Brown Foundation Special Exhibit Gallery, located on the second level of Louisiana Memorial Pavilion.