Artificial Intelligence: How does technology help reunite Holocaust survivors through photos of children?

Artificial Intelligence: How does technology help reunite Holocaust survivors through photos of children?
Artificial Intelligence: How does technology help reunite Holocaust survivors through photos of children?

Artificial Intelligence: How does technology help reunite Holocaust survivors through photos of children?

  • Tom Jerkins
  • BBC

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Blanche Wechsler between present and past, specifically 1945

Blanche Wechsler remembers hiding under a bed while the Nazis searched for her.

“I felt them rummaging through the bed,” says Blanche, “I told myself I mustn’t breathe, sneeze or make any noise, otherwise I’ll lose my life.”

Blanche was fortunate to have escaped death at the hands of the Nazis, who killed nearly six million Jews in the Holocaust during World War II.

To date, over a million of these victims have not been identified. But it seems that identifying these individuals has become possible through the use of an artificial intelligence program invented by a software engineer named Daniel Bate.

Using facial recognition technology in hundreds of thousands of archival photos of Holocaust victims and survivors, Danielle’s program was able to identify a photo of Blanche Wechsler taken during the war.

The artificial intelligence program is first introduced to one of the images before – based on this prior knowledge – it embarks on a journey to search through the millions of faces containing stock images until it finds the owner or owner of the image it knows finds in advance.

With this work, collecting points separated by war conditions and time, it is possible to identify unknown people.

Blanche is now 86 years old and lives in New York. She recognized the family members pictured below right, while Blanche had never seen the group photo on the left, taken in France during the war.

The two images were linked to the Daniel artificial intelligence program.

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Blanche’s face in the archival photo on the left was previously on the list of anonymous photos – she recognized Blanche in the family photo on the right

As a child, Blanche was known as Bronya. She was living in Poland when the Nazis were looking for her and her family.

Her mother and siblings were killed – but she survived thanks to her Aunt Rose, who managed to hide her.

Engineer Daniel, the owner of the artificial intelligence program, traveled to Blanche to reunite her with the remaining members of her family, pictured at right.

Blanche says the photos brought back old memories, including an old French song she learned at school as a child.

Blanche immediately recognized herself in the front row of the group photo, but that’s not all; Blanche recognized her Aunt Rose and one of the boys in the photo — and she provided new information for Danielle and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to research.

Scott Miller, an official at the Holocaust Museum, said that “it’s very important to identify the people in these photos because they’re wearing something worthy of their memory.”

“We all know the number – six million Jews were murdered – each of these victims has a name, each of them has a face,” Miller adds.

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Blanche appears in the center of the first row of the photograph, in which only three of those appearing have been identified

Before Blanche saw the photo, only three of the people in it had been identified.

Thanks to Blanche and Daniel’s AI program, the number of people identified in the image above has doubled.


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