The Archivists and the Forgotten Boxes is a short graphic novel which serves as an introduction to other stories from the “Ester” series.

Contributing to this short and simple story a Dutch illustrator Gabriel Kousbroek presented his vision of the pre-war Belgrade and life of the Jews in Serbia during that time through illustrations drawn in his own characteristic style. Gabriel’s illustrations represent a proof that the Holocaust is a universal, shared European historical experience. Gabriel learned about the Holocaust through the stories about the suffering of the Dutch Jews, as well as the personal experiences of his family. But obviously, a story about the Holocaust in Serbia is so close, familiar and understandable to a Dutch illustrator that, despite the fact that Gabriel has been to Belgrade just once, he didn’t hesitate to embark on illustrating the story. Accordingly, by learning about the Holocaust in Serbia we can achieve a better understanding of the suffering of the Jews and other victims of the Nazi terror in other countries around Europe, too.

Just like the other stories in the “Ester” series, this one is based on the true events, too. The archivists of the Historical Archives of Belgrade did find the “forgotten boxes”, and inspired by the documentary material they found – as if they did hear the voices of the Belgrade Jews echoing in the Archive depot telling their stories for the first time after 75 years now – the Historical Archives of Belgrade started a comprehensive work of linking data and documents from various archival fonds into a unified database about the Jewish victims killed in the concentration camp at Sajmište. One of the outcomes of the enthusiasm and inspiration of the archivists is the “Ester” series, too, as the idea was born during our joint work on the project “Escalating into Holocaust”.

Are the archivist’s names really Jeca, Vlada and Tijana (may be these are their names!?) it does not really matter. That what really does matter is the work of archivists and historian experts which is not only interesting and exciting, but also noble and essential – for, after all, these are the people at the last line of defence, fighting never to allow the Nazis’ plan of destroying all traces of the existence of the Jews to be materialised, by doing what they can to rescue a memory of a little girl, whose name might really be Ester, from eternal oblivion.

Misko Stanisic

Gabriel Kousbroek


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