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Tonight, I spent about three hours editing Wikipedia.

It actually started totally unintentionally. I was procrastinating and started to watch a video on youtube taped by the Shoah Foundation of my Grandfather, who was a Holocaust Survivor and was one of the Jews saved by Kastner’s Train. Kastner’s train was an attempt by a Jewish leader in the Budapest community named Rudolf Kastner to make a deal with the Nazis, and exchange a large number of trucks for the safe passage of a thousand Jewish-Hungarian lives. It was one of the largest and most ethically controversial decisions made by Jews in the Holocaust. And yet, it also saved my entire family.

After the Holocaust, Kastner immigrated to Israel and was assassinated by angry Jews for his actions about 50 years ago.

I always knew that it was a significant event. But I never had a chance to have a mature conversation about it with my Grandfather, who passed away a few years ago. And rewatching the video I engaged with the event in an entirely different way. I felt like I was transported back 5 years ago to a time when I would just sit with him in his house and listen to him tell stories.

However this time, I began to Wikipedia some of the things he was talking about. Just out of curiosity. My Grandfather was an incredibly brilliant man. His mind functioned like a huge archive of information ranging from circuits to the Prussian Empire, and growing up I remember being incredibly impressed by his encyclopedic memory. When he would tell stories about growing up in Budapest, he would name the exact dates of every single turning point of the Nazi occupation of Hungary, and I was pretty sure had probably memorized most of the recorded history of Western Europe. So I decided to Wikipedia what he was talking about just to see if he was right.

And then I had a thought–my Grandfather was a Holocaust Survivor. He was one of the few people who had testified and remembered a very unique and important event in the Holocaust, and in Jewish History. Who is to say that his testimony is or isn’t more accurate than the books cited listed on Wikipedia?

To my surprise, I discovered a lot of discrepancies. Namely, that there were 20-40 unaccounted Jews who did not arrive to Switzerland after the transport, because they were detained (according to my Grandfather’s testimony on youtube) on the grounds that they were ethnically Romanian, not Hungarian (check out the Wikipedia article now!). And I think I’m going to use the second assignment to try and correctly account for these lacks in Wikipedia’s record.

But this experience also raised some larger questions for me in Digital Media. In a world governed by open source knowledge, how to we rank the quality of information? Recording the Holocaust using open source citations, is a book’s account of an event more objective and accurate than my Grandfather’s memory? Or is my Grandfather capable of remembering incredible details left out of the historical record? And how does the both digital media and the internet give power to each of these sources of knowledge? I look forward to discussing this in section.