Editorial Standards and Technical Implementation

The edition chooses a broad approach to ‘Diplomatic Reports’, including brief telegrams, thorough examinations or multi-perspective accounts written by diplomats, consuls and other staff members of the diplomatic service. The recipients varied and included foreign ministries, ministries of the interior, other members of diplomatic delegations or even the head of state directly. Though often detailed, the events described in the reports were not necessarily witnessed or experienced by the authors firsthand. Oftentimes, they relay information received from a variety of sources: published laws and declarations, press reviews, descriptions of private individuals or people on business trips, confidential exchanges with public officials in the respective countries, as well as reports by members of diplomatic delegations from other countries. While synthesizing their knowledge, the reports provide deep insight into their knowledge and, at least to a degree, their assessment of the persecution and, eventually, murder of the European Jews during WWII. In this context, special attention was paid to the reports from German-occupied as well as -influenced countries of eastern and south-eastern Europe, in which the Holocaust largely unfolded.

At times, the focus on measures against the Jews is the sole content of a reports, in others, there are a number of topics addressed in the letters as well. Where it provided useful/necessary contextualization, these sections were included into the edition as well.

All documents are available in English translation (including the English transcription of the American reports). For the majority of documents, it was possible to include a scan of the original document. For the sake of clarity and good readability, formal elements of the documents have been omitted as far as possible and summarised in the metadata of the documents. The requirements for the EHRI edition software followed the real-world editorial process, including the selection of documents, their transcription, annotation and translation. The goal is to provide the reader with contextual information, by referring to authority sets (EHRI terms, Geonames, etc.) and further explanations as well as utilize the documents as research data which can be reused and aggregated with other documents in the future.

Like the online edition on Early Holocaust Testimony, documents published in the EHRI online edition of the Diplomatic Reports are encoded in the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) P5 standard, which is a widely adopted format for digital editions.

The annotation of documents consists primarily of tagging and linking words or expressions in the documents, using links to established controlled vocabularies (using EHRI for Holocaust-related entities; Geonames for geographic information, online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia for biographical data on diplomats, etc.). The annotation was done in common text editors where the entities were linked using URLs. Once the annotating and text editing was finalised, the documents were converted to the TEI XML format. The team used an open source tool Odette for this purpose. The TEI files produced in this way were checked by editors and cleansed of any unwanted formatting in the XML editor Oxygen. An EHRI-TEI-enrichment utility created normalised entries for linked entities in the TEI header (using the EHRI API, Geonames metadata and other resources).

The resulting TEI documents are then uploaded to the Omeka web publication platform and the EHRI Editions plugin automatically populated the database based on the content of the XML file. The TEI tagged entities control the faceted browsing and allow filtering by entities such as locations, terms, etc. The edition uses an Omeka theme developed for EHRI, which adapts the interface to display TEI-based texts and shows annotations and other contextual information. Interactive map presentations were created based on the TEI data. For this, the Omeka plugin Neatline was used, which, among other functionalities, allows to read the text next to a map and thus follow the narrative in space.

For each document in the edition, the following features – if available – are displayed: Meta data, translated document text – scan of the original document – map with the borders of April 1939 and 1942 displaying the geographic entities named in the text – references to the EHRI Portal.