Time is running out to save the world’s most precious testimony

Manfred Goldberg, a holocaust survivor and the first survivor to feature in Testimony 360, a new interactive learning programme for delivering Holocaust education in UK schools
Manfred Goldberg, a holocaust survivor and the first survivor to feature in Testimony 360, a new interactive learning programme for delivering Holocaust education in UK schools

Almost 80 years ago, Manfred Goldberg saw British tanks approaching. A platoon had stumbled upon a group of starving, emaciated, exhausted prisoners on day seven of a death march. By the time he was liberated, Manfred was 15 years old, and had spent 12 of those years living under Nazi rule. His younger brother, Hermann, disappeared from Precu labour camp, and to this day Manfred still does not know when, where, or how he was murdered. The not knowing haunts him to this day.

When Manfred talks, he speaks slowly and deliberately. He wants every word he says to matter – and it does. He shares his testimony so that people know what happened, not just to him, but to his beloved brother, Hermann. He revisits his most painful memories, like so many Holocaust survivors have done for decades, so that the world will know the truth of the past and so that their murdered families, friends, and communities will be remembered.

As anti-Semitism reaches appalling levels, survivors want the next generation to know where antisemitism can and did lead. They want young people to see beyond the statistics and understand the impact that the Holocaust, the appalling crescendo of antisemitism, had on one person, and one family.

Their biggest fear is that when the Holocaust is no longer in living memory, it will be forgotten.

That is why our project Testimony 360: People and Places of the Holocaust is so powerful and important.

For generations to come, students will be able to use interactive testimony to ask questions of Manfred and other survivors who have taken part, using groundbreaking technology. Voice recognition AI pairs their question with the real, unedited answer that Manfred gave in a studio in 2021. Students can ask any question they like, and the chances are, virtual Manfred will have an answer. “What happened to your brother?”, “What is your happiest memory?”, “Do you believe in God?”, “What football team do you support?”.

Students can have an intimate discussion with Manfred and then they can put on a VR headset and virtually explore the places connected to his testimony including his hometown, the ghetto and camp he was incarcerated in, and even his living room today – all without leaving the classroom.

The impact it has on young people is incredible. They feel a connection to Manfred and to his story. The experience lifts the Holocaust from the pages of the history books. The response from students has been fantastic – they have engaged in this unique project and say it has left an indelible mark.

As we launch Testimony 360 for schools nationwide, we approach a critical juncture. Manfred and others like him have been recorded for a single and simple reason – sadly, they will not be here forever. The last witnesses are becoming older, fewer and frailer, and the Holocaust will soon fade completely from living history. Today, even with eyewitnesses among us, sadly the truth of the past is questioned and denied. When they are no longer here to physically stand in front of a class and say “I was there”, this programme goes some way to uphold that truth. Testimony 360 will stand as a weapon against antisemitism and denial, a beacon of truth, and a warning from history.

80 years ago, as Manfred stumbled towards the British tanks, he wondered if he would survive. Now, he will be able to tell his story beyond his own lifetime. And his brother Hermann’s name will be remembered for generations.

We want to reach as many young people as possible, so please help us by contacting your local schools and telling them about Testimony 360. 

Schools can sign up here: https://www.het.org.uk/testimony360-signup or donate to the Holocaust Educational Trust via our website. Thank you.

Karen Pollock is Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust