America's Holocaust Memorial Museum is to fund the digitisation of a Czech archive assembled by Kingston Synagogue's Ostrava group.The support was announced on Sunday at the group's annual reception for survivors and descendants of Ostrava Jewry.
The group was set up five years ago to find out more about the history of Ostrava and its Jewish community after a Sefer Torah once used there was offered to the Kingston shul on permanent loan by the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust.
To date, it has made contact with over 100 former Ostrava residents, amassing a resource of documents, photos and video interviews with Holocaust survivors and their children.
Group leader David Lawson said that "when the Jewish Museum in Prague recently expressed an interest in acquiring the collection, we welcomed the proposal, as we felt they would be better equipped to conserve it and put it on display. So over the last three or four months, our members have paid for a professional archivist to come in and help us sort and catalogue the material.
"Then about a month ago, I contacted the Washington Holocaust Museum to tell them what we were doing. It turned out that they would be happy to foot the bill for us to have the entire collection digitised, so that its contents could be made available online."
It is hoped the task will be completed within the next 12 months, at which point the original material will be sent to Prague.
Representatives of the Washington and Prague museums were among the 60 friends of the Ostrava community at Sunday's reception. Guest of honour was US-based concert pianist Evelyn McGilloway, whose performance included a work by her late father Otto Rix, who fled to London from Ostrava in 1939.