Numbers to Names App Helps Holocaust Survivors Find Photographs

Who might have imagined that something as far removed as the Holocaust would be tied to the latest AI? The story began in Poland during WWll when a little girl was hidden from the Nazis by her Aunt Rose. The girl named Blanche survived the war. But like millions of others, her face and her name were lost over the years. We found a story at that shines a light on Holocaust survivors and the families that have searched for them for decades.

What began with faded photographs has been turned over to an algorithm with amazing results so far.

Now a tool using artificial intelligence (AI)—built by Daniel Patt, a software engineer for Google—could hold the key to putting names to some of the many faces, both victims and survivors, in hundreds of thousands of historical photographs.

Daniel’s website, Numbers to Names, uses facial recognition technology to analyze a person’s face. It then searches through archive photos to find potential matches. The software has been cross-referencing millions of faces to find matches for people who have already been identified in one photo—but not in others.

Blanche, who is now 86 and lives in New York, knew about the family snapshot below on the right – but she had never previously seen the group photo on the left, which was taken in France during the war.
It was Daniel’s AI software that made the connection.

The photograph triggered memories in Blanche who was then able to identify her Aunt and another child from the photo. And that adds to the information being gathered on those families.

“It’s so important to identify these photos,” says Scott Miller, director of curatorial affairs at the museum.
“You’re restoring some semblance of dignity to them, some comfort to their family, and it’s a form of memorial for the entire Jewish community.”

The number of people lost or possibly not lost after all has brought this story to the forefront with the help of AI. Perhaps in the future, a similar AI will help avert these types of conflicts with just as much success.