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SPIELBERG'S HOLOCAUST VISION\Interviews get high-tech take in project.

Byline: Ray Richmond Daily News Television Writer

Henry Rosmarin's revenge is outliving many of his Nazi persecutors - and telling the world about his Holocaust experience.

The 70-year-old West Valley man is one of more than 9,000 survivors who have - over the past 18 months - preserved their stories in videotaped interviews for the nonprofit Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, a project directed by Steven Spielberg.

More than 100 paid employees working out of a series of trailer offices at Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment complex at Universal Studios oversee hundreds of volunteers around the world seeking out and recording survivors' stories.

Spielberg hopes to videotape the stories of at least 50,000 of the estimated 300,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide by 1998 and is talking about extending the three-year, $60 million effort to reach that goal.

The effort is fueled by the enthusiasm of survivors such as Rosmarin, who are grateful Spielberg has given them the chance to preserve the history of the Holocaust for future generations.

"He is the only man who could do something like this," Rosmarin said. "The difficult Spielberg does right away. The impossible just takes him a little bit longer."

The Holocaust stories of Rosmarin and several other survivors can be seen Monday night in a one-hour documentary produced by Spielberg's foundation titled "Survivors of the Holocaust" (5:05 and 8:05 p.m. Monday on TBS).

"Survivors of the Holocaust" is the first of several documentaries planned from material compiled by the Shoah Foundation. (See accompanying review.)

Time is of the essence as survivors age. Most are in their 70s and 80s.

"The window for capturing their testimonies is closing fast," Spielberg said in a statement. "This archive will preserve history as told by the people who lived it, and lived through it. It is essential that we see their faces, hear their voices, and understand that the horrendous events of the Holocaust happened to people, and were committed by people."

The atmosphere in the Universal lot offices is hectic with people racing around, punching information into computers, answering phones, planning, discussing and editing.

"The toughest thing for us is ... getting people before they pass away," said Shoah senior producer June Beallor. "But we have also reached many survivors who gave us their testimony and have since passed away."

Interviews also are conducted out of regional offices in Chicago, New York, Miami, Buenos Aires, Toronto, London, Amsterdam, Sydney, Warsaw, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, Paris, Prague, Zagreb and St. Petersburg.

More than 2,000 interviews were taped in Los Angeles, a significant portion of those in the San Fernando Valley.

Interviews begin with a telephone call to the project's toll-free number: (800) 661-2092. The survivor is asked his or her name, address, date of birth, place of birth and whereabouts during World War II.

One of an estimated 1,500 volunteer interviewers - each of whom has undertaken a 25-hour training session - contacts the survivor and conducts a preinterview to assess the best questions to ask and the most effective way to put the person at ease.

Then comes the actual interview, always conducted in the home of the survivor for maximum comfort level, using free-lance video camera operators (all of whom donate their time). The interviews can be as short as 30 minutes and as long as five hours. They average about two hours and are not edited.

An effort is made to weight each interview so that 20 percent of it surrounds the survivor's prewar recollections, 60 percent his life during the war and 20 percent life after the war. The family of the survivor is encouraged to join in at the end. Relevant photographs and documents also can be incorporated.

A follow-up call is then made to the survivor to offer any necessary emotional support, and to provide listings for psychological counseling if necessary.

Interviewers receive a $50 stipend for each assignment. Most decline it. A copy of the tape is sent to the survivor.

Once the completed interview is in hand, three additional copies of the tape (besides the one sent to the survivor) are produced. One is dispatched to the foundation's cataloguing department, where an employee spends eight hours indexing every word and key phrase for future easy access.

For instance, if you were to key in the word "abduction" on the computer, it would go directly to that portion of a given tape in which the survivor discusses being abducted. "Abdomen" would bring up a sentence describing being beaten about the abdomen.

A second copy of the interview is digitally compressed and electronically transferred via fiber-optic network to a supercomputer. That computer is connected to a robot designed to archive, manage and navigate through the mass of material.

The third copy is referred to as a "digital submaster" for "future applications and upgrades," meaning it is awaiting technology not yet in existence.

Right now, groundbreaking technology allows the Los Angeles foundation office to share information with its worldwide regional offices via a single interconnected database.

"It allows us to work with someone in France and feel like we're working off of the same computer," senior producer James Moll said.

The result of all this cyber wizardry - which is so new the foundation asks visitors to sign a nondisclosure statement - will in 1998 allow all of the digitized interviews to be accessed on line throughout the world, the foundation hopes.

And by the end of '98, five repositories are scheduled to house complete sets of the Shoah Foundation archive in Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; New York; Jerusalem; and at Yale University.

Rosmarin, whose parents were killed in the Nazi death camps that claimed more than 6 million Jewish lives, said he survived several camps in part by playing the harmonica for his captors. He volunteers at the Shoah Foundation doing language translation and other jobs.

"What (Spielberg) is doing is rescuing history. This project will outlive everything else he does," Rosmarin said.

To date, more than 30,000 Beta videotapes have been used to record more than 12,000 hours of testimony in 19 languages. Moll said one would have to sit 24 hours a day for more than 550 days to watch it all.

"What's most exciting and rewarding is to know that we're involved in creating the way other people are going to preserve history and access information in the future," Moll said.

Spielberg's vision is that students at schools and libraries everywhere will one day be able to pop in a CD-ROM and have the entire foundation visual history archive at their fingertips - the Holocaust in all of its horror, on a single disc.

CAPTION(S):

PHOTO

Photo (1--2--Cover--Color) (1--Color Only) Above, San Fernando Valley resident Henry Rosmarin today, and at right at age 14 with older brother Max in Czeladz, Poland, in 1940. (3--4) West Valley resident Henry Rosmarin, whose parents were killed in the Nazi concentration camps, is one of thousands of Holocaust survivors interviewed at their homes for Steven Speilberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. Below, Rosmarin's interview is stored digitally on a supercomputer. Hans Gutknecht/Daily News (5) This photo of Jews being led off by Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto is one of many that accompany videotaped interviews in "Survivors of the Holocaust," at 5:05 and 8:05 p.m. Monday on TBS.
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 7, 1996
Words:1222
Previous Article:LETTERS TO L.A. LIFE\Walking the plank on 'Cutthroat Island'.
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