International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

December 2nd is celebrated as the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.
Although it seems a distant reality, the Global Slavery Index of 2018 reports that, in 2016, around 40.3 million people were in conditions of modern slavery, the vast majority being women (71%). Of these, 24.9 million were in conditions of forced labor and 15.4 million in forced marriages.

The historical process that led to the outlawing of human trafficking and slavery in the light of Human Rights was long and tortuous:
By the law of 1761, D. José, king of Portugal, declared free all male and female slaves brought from Asia, Africa and America that disembarked in Portugal.
This law did not translate, however, into the end of slavery, since, in addition to the existing slaves, there were also all those who were born of a slave mother and who, for this reason, remained slaves. Twelve years later, in 1773, a new law was passed, known as the Law of the Free Womb. It determined that children born to a slave mother became free and that all slaves whose great-grandmother was already a slave could be freed.

Law of the Free Womb available here: https://digitarq.arquivos.pt/viewer?id=4662389. This document integrates the Exhibition “The Construction of Europe History, Memory and Myth of Europeanness Over 1000 Years”.

Portugal, a pioneering European country in globalization, stands out for having had, during the history of its long colonial period, an important position in the global trade in slaves from Africa. Between 1450 and 1900, it will have trafficked around 11 million people.
In 1444, the first shipment of private initiative of 235 slaves from Africa arrived in Lagos, Algarve, probably giving rise to the first European slave market of the modern era. In mid 16th century Lisbon, African slaves represented about 10% of its population.

Despite the 1761 law, the illegal entry of slaves from the colonies persisted. With the independence of Brazil, many Portuguese who brought their slaves returned to Portugal. Upon arrival in Portugal the slaves were to become free, but the king granted their owners a special privilege to keep them.
However, the 1761 law is a law of modernity that begins a slow chronology, made up of advances and setbacks, towards the definitive abolition of the slave trade and slavery.
Portugal was one of the first European countries to prohibit the entry of slaves, but also one of the last to abolish, in 1869, slavery in its colonies.

Maria Trindade Serralheiro (text) and Ana Fernandes (trad.)
Senior Technicians, General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libraries, Portugal
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Opening of the exhibition “Exiles, Migration Flows and Solidarity” at the Documentary Centre for the Historical Memory (Spain)

Yesterday, 25th of November, the second of the three transmedia exhibitions included in the European Digital Treasures project, “Exiles, Migration Flows and Solidarity”, was successfully opened at the Documentary Centre of the Historical Memory (Spain).


This exhibition analyzes how migrations and exchanges have contributed particularly to building cultural diversity in Europe through the documentary treasures kept in European archives. And it is the outcome of the European cooperation, a clear example of the combination of the capacities, heritage, diversity, value, and inspiration of all those who have made this project possible.

Games to play!

The narratives displayed here combine different technological tools that allow us to get to know our written past through multiple channels. Visitors can interact with: 9 original documents from 4 different archives, 21 facsimiles from 7 countries, 18 digital reproductions of documents from 6 countries, displayed in interactive booths, 1 quiz game for people who love challenges, 1 memory matching game to encourage observation, 1 infinite running game to reward speed by catching archival documents, 1 interactive RPG game to learn how to work on an archive, 4 augmented reality experiences to explore parallel worlds and videos presenting the project and its merchandising products!

Through the selection of 44 documents from the archives that participate in the project, European migrations are narrated from a historical perspective. In a Europe that is currently facing one of its most important migration crises, the relevance of this exhibition is key. The narrative has been structured through three thematic pillars: Work-related Migration; War- related Migration; Political Uprising, Turmoil and Persecution.

The stories combine different tools and technological solutions, with which the public will be able to access the written past through multiple channels that will allow them to experiment, play, learn and share, with that unique ability that documents have to tell personal stories (letters, images, boarding passes, visas, certificates, etc.) behind the European migration figures.

Opening ceremony.

The opening was chaired by Severiano Hernández Vicente, Head of the Spanish State Archives, by María Oliván, Head of the Transparency, Document Management & Access to Documents Unit of the European Commissio, by Manuel Melgar, Director of the Documentary Centre of the Historical Memory, and by María Encarnación Pérez Álvarez, Government Sub-delegate in Salamanca. It was also attended by representatives of the University of Salamanca, of different archives of the province of Salamanca, by the members of the ‘European Digital Treasures’ project and a representation of the Spanish State Archives.

The exhibition can be visited until March 13th, 2022 in Spain, with capacity restrictions and hygiene and safety measures established by health authorities to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Practical information: https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/cultura/areas/archivos/mc/archivos/cdmh/portada.html

Written by Spanish State Archives.

Opening of the exhibition “Exiles, migratory flows and solidarity” at the Archives House (Norway)

After more than two years of work in the preparation of the three transmedia exhibitions included in the European Digital Treasures project, on 12th of November, the exhibition Exiles, migratory flows, and solidarity was successfully opened at the Archives House (Norway).

This exhibition is the outcome of the European cooperation, a clear example of the combination of the capacities, heritage, diversity, value, and inspiration of all those who have made this project possible.

Augmented Reality.

The narratives displayed here combine different technological tools that allow us to get to know our written past through multiple channels. Visitors can interact with digital reproductions of documents from nine European countries, a quiz game for people who love challenges, a memory matching game to encourage observation, an infinite running game to reward speed by catching archival documents, an interactive RPG game to learn how to work on an archive, three augmented reality experiences to explore parallel worlds and two videos presenting the project! On display are also merchandising products created by professional designers, inspired by the documents presented in the Digital Treasures exhibitions.

Opening ceremony.
Opening ceremony with Inga Bolstad.

The opening ceremony was led by the National Archivist of Norway, Inga Bolstad. Afterwards, Ole Gausdal, who has been responsible for curating the exhibition, did a guided tour for the guests.

The opening was attended by the General director of the Book, Archives and Libraries of Portugal, Silvestre Lacerda and the Deputy Director of the Spanish State Archives, Severiano Hernández and members of the ‘European Digital Treasures’ project from the National Archives of Hungary, Malta, Spain, Portugal and from ICARUS. From Norway there were many invited guests from the National Archives of Norway and local and regional heritage institutions.

Guided tour with Ole Gausdal.

The exhibition can be visited until January 30th, 2022, in Norway. The same exhibition will open in Salamanca, Spain on 25th November 2021. Later, in 2022, it will open in Hungary, Portugal, Malta, and Austria.

Written by the National Archives of Norway

Some members of the team of the European Digital Treasures project.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Reminding is knowing who we are.
The Vrba-Wetlzer Report.

Auschwitz Protocols. 26/08/1944 Budapest (Hungary). General Archive of Administration- Spain

The Auschwitz Protocols are available on the Archives Portal Europe (APE).

The recent history of Europe is the history of the migrations that have taken place on our continent over the last 80 years. The Second World War and the immediate post-war reconstruction led to unprecedented forced population movements. Although deportation policies were not new in Europe, what was new was the systematic plan to relocate populations in masse for the purpose of extermination.

The memory of war, deportations and genocide is part of our lives and explains what we are as Europeans. For this reason, celebrating January 27th, the day on which the Nazi camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated in 1945, is to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and to remember that we can never again descend into hell.

This killing camp, located in southern Poland, was made up of almost thirty industrial facilities. Approximately 1,300,000 Europeans were sent there. Entire families, most of them Jewish, Roma and Sinti from all areas occupied by the Reich, were selected upon arrival. Only those individuals fit for work were initially spared. Those who were not selected were immediately taken to the gas chambers. However, those selected for forced labor suffered living conditions that inevitably also led to certain death. Auschwitz was the most efficient extermination camp the Nazis ever built.

Auschwitz Protocols. 26/08/1944 Budapest (Hungary). General Archive of Administration- Spain

Although the Allies knew about Auschwitz and what was happening there since 1942, two young Slovak Jews who escaped from the camp, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, gave detailed testimony of what was occurring in April 1944. For the first time it was described in detail the operation of the camp by a report that incorporated the sketches of both the chambers and crematoria, as well as the figures of deportations by country. A copy of the document, which had been translated into German, came to the hands of the Jewish Aid and Rescue Committee in Budapest, which distributed it among the diplomatic legations, and ended up reaching the Allies. Spanish Ambassador Ángel Sanz Briz received a copy in French and he sent it to Madrid in August 1944 after having verified with other colleagues the truth of the story.

Auschwitz Protocols. 26/08/1944 Budapest (Hungary). General Archive of Administration- Spain

The testimony of Vrba and Wetzler determined the image that the Allies got about the Nazi camps, and what it was more important, the public opinion of their respective countries because the report was opened to the mass media. Indifference and skepticism faded when it became known, even among Germans who listened secretly BBC broadcasts. After the war, the accused Nazi chiefs in the Trial of Major War Criminals in Nuremberg had to see how the American prosecutor Jackson used the data of the forced deportations to Auschwitz mentioned in the report as evidence.

However, the forced deportations without the purpose of extermination were extended to shape the new post-Hitler Europe thanks to Postdam Agreement. Millions of people were uprooted and forced to get linguistic and cultural homogeneity in different countries. Then it was the Germans turn. For example, Hungary expelled 623,000 Germans, Romania 786,000, the re-established Czechoslovakia 3,000,000 and Poland 1,300,000.

Showing this kind of documents from our archives, such as the one drawn up by Vrba and Wetzler, is a moral obligation that we all have with the victims of the Holocaust and the people who helped to fight the Third Reich. They help to know what happened and also, hopefully, to prevent genocides or terrible acts such as the mass deportation of those considered different.

Jesús Espinosa-Romero
Deputy Director
General Archive of Administration- Spain

The documents: Auschwitz Protocols. Reports about the situation of Hungarian prisoners and deportees in German concentration camps,  located in the General Archive of Administration – Spain, will be part  of the roaming exhibitions of the European Digital Treasures project: Exiles, Migratory Flows and Solidarity.