Holocaust testimonies to be preserved on the blockchain

Holocaust testimonies to be preserved on the blockchain

By Alice Leetham - min read
Image of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin

The Starling Foundation is building an immutable archive of genocide survivor testimonials on Filecoin

Silicon Valley producer and Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Blockchain Research, Jonathan Dotan, is using blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) to preserve the testimonies of Holocaust survivors, according to a report published in The Jerusalem Post yesterday.

The shocking results of a survey released in September showed that a tenth of Americans under 40 did not recall even hearing the word ‘Holocaust’ before, and with the number of survivors ever diminishing, a permanent record of their testimonies is more important than ever.

Dotan’s answer is the Starling Framework, a distributed storage solution built on Filecoin, leveraging Hedera Hashgraph and spearheaded by the USC Shoah Foundation, a non-profit organisation founded by Steven Spielberg that is dedicated to making audio-visual interviews with genocide survivors.

Blockchain technology is apt for the storage, distribution and verification of testimonials thanks to its security, transparency and immutability. The decentralised nature of blockchain also means the task won’t be subject to the control of any governmental or centralised authority that may have a political agenda.

The Starling Framework is building a tamper-proof ledger of survivor testimonies to catalogue the atrocities of genocide. As well as the Holocaust, this includes the Armenian genocide and the Rohingya crisis. It is a valuable tool in peacetime as well, as Reuters journalists used the technology to monitor voter suppression by capturing, storing and verifying photos of polling places on Super Tuesday.

Starling hardware is combined with the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) software to create a chain of custody from cameras to digital platforms. The footage is given a unique digital fingerprint when it is cryptographically hashed using IPFS. The time, date and location the footage was taken can then be proved by pairing the image with metadata from sensors on the device.

Dotan explained, “Our purpose here is to prevent atrocities in the future and to ensure that we don’t forget atrocities from the past. These are important stories that have very real, human value for us as a civilization and they have to be protected and preserved, and here’s a technology that does that.”

The Foundation has started deploying Starling to learn by example, and used it in three case studies last year to document the testimonials of a Holocaust survivor in Los Angeles, Achuar indigenous leaders in the Amazon Rainforest and Kurdish refugees in Iraq. So far, the Foundation has collected 55,000 testimonies, which take up more than 9 petabytes of data.