CULTURE CDEC Digital Library, a Trove of Testimonies on Italian Jewish Life

cdecBy Rossella Tercatin

Every family has drawers full of photos from the past, and every single one of them could be a potential piece in the mosaic of history, if only there was a venue to collect and categorize them. For Italian Jewish families, this opportunity is now offered by the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation (CDEC), a Milan-based non-profit and research center that was created to study and preserve the knowledge, awareness and documents of what happened during the Holocaust. Today it is a pillar not only of Holocaust studies in Italy, but also on Italian Jewish life and history in the contemporary world.

To add relevance to the CDEC’s activities, the center offers a Digital Library where all the pictures they received from 2001 onwards are accessible online, from every corner of the world, together with many videos, and other documentation.

“It is a long-term project, that aims at enhancing a heritage of history and remembrance that too often remains shut in the drawers in the homes of Italian Jewish families,” historian Gadi Luzzatto Voghera, CDEC director, wrote in Pagine Ebraiche last week. “It is material that we cannot risk losing and that we are trying to make the most of through thematic initiatives that in the future will be able to help scholars or interested people to find faces, landscapes, atmospheres, memories, and objects.
Luzzatto pointed out how prominent exhibits are already being enriched by artifacts or pictures provided by people as the exhibits were already on. “It happened with the exhibit on the Nazi raid of the Jewish Ghetto in 1943, curated by the Foundation for the Museum of the Shoah in Rome.”

This is also how the CDEC and the Foundation for the Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah in Ferrara acquired some of the material for an exhibition on Italian Jews during the First World War, that will open in September 2017.

“Nowadays our young people use these pictures as means to communicate sensations, ideas and flavors. Through Instagram or Snapchat they tell each other much more than what we understand, proving that images today are the main tool of communication. Using and emphasizing pictures from the past help us to link our historical research with the contemporary world, maybe even assisting it to find a purpose,” Luzzatto concluded.