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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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Personal Holocaust, Central Data Base

Henri Mozelsio, Joseph Amzel, Manfred Krolick, Gabriel Lehrer, and Maurice Beizunski in an orphanage in Brussels, 1944.

Henri Mozelsio, Joseph Amzel, Manfred Krolick, Gabriel Lehrer, and Maurice Beizunski in an orphanage in Brussels, 1944.
Photo Credit: Yad vashem

As the population of Holocaust survivors ages, Yad Vashem is turning more of its energies into identifying and memorializing individual victims and archiving stories which show the human side of the Holocaust era. As author Judith Miller has said, we must remind ourselves that the Holocaust was not six million. It was one plus one plus one. Today Yad Vashem is reinventing itself to perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust victims without the first-person presence of the survivors.

In 2000 Yad Vashem opened the Central Database of Shoah Victims Names. There were two goals of this database. Yad Vashem wanted to take the opportunity, while survivors and their children are still alive, to collect as many names of Holocaust victims as possible. In addition to memorializing these people by name the Shoah Victims Names project would enable survivors and their families to view other testimonies and, perhaps, identify family members who had either died at the hands of the Nazis or survived. To date a number of family reunifications have take place due to the database and the attention of the staff members who carefully review all inquiries.

Individuals are invited to submit a page of testimony, based either on their own first-person knowledge or information that was passed on to them by a family member. Pages of Testimony aim to identify people, by name, who were killed during the Holocaust. To review the pages of testimony (for free) a user logs into the database and enters whatever information he knows about the people for whom he’s searching. The database is searchable in different languages and with varying spellings and pronunciations to help zero in on names of people and places.

Yad Vashem has been putting more focus on developing relationships with the Haredi community. The new Yad Vashem museum, opened in 2005, differs from the old museum by including personal testimonies that focus on the experiences of a diverse group of people, many of whom express the fact that they were able to survive the Holocaust — physically, spiritually or both — because of their adherence to religious observance. Whereas in the old museum, the focus was on the scale of the Holocaust, the new museum includes 90 personal stories including stories that detail the challenge of religious observance during the Holocaust. In the words of Mooli Brog, chief knowledge officer at Birthright Israel, “The collectiveness and concentration on symbols in the old exhibition has been exchanged for more individual and personal narratives.”

In addition to the exhibit Yad Vashem now offers special courses for Haredi educators on teaching the Holocaust in their classrooms and gender-separate classes.

At one time Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations section was mainly concerned with identifying and honoring individuals who had helped Jews survive during the years of WWII. The Righteous Among the Nations distinction was established by Yad Vashem in 1963 as a mechanism by which the State of Israel would recognize individuals who had risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. These included people such as Irena Sendler who sheltered Jews who were hiding from the nazis , provided false papers and false identities, helped Jews to escape and helped Jewish children.

Yad Vashem believes that most of the Righteous Gentiles have been identified and honored, but many of the stories have yet to be properly documented. As part of their personal testimonies project Yad VaShem is putting more effort into recording the stories of the Righteous Among the Nations and publicizing them.

Yad Vashem continues to publish its peer-reviewed semi-annual journal, Yad Vashem Studies, which features thought-provoking articles about the Shoah by leading thinkers and researchers from around the world. The journal aims to engage scholars and encourage multi-disciplinary discussion about a wide range of topics on all aspects of the Shoah with articles, documentary compendia, research reviews and new encyclopedias.

About the Author: Batya Medad blogs at Shiloh Musings.


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9 Responses to “Personal Holocaust, Central Data Base”

  1. Bob Riley says:

    Thanks for what you are doing… What are other links to finding names of holocaust victims???

  2. Approximately 6 million Jews were killed in the Shoah. But in the wider Holocaust about as many Gentiles were also killed. We should not forget them.

  3. Doreen White says:

    No one counted all the Jews that were killed. Research suggests that more than 6 million were murdered and for sure we do know that more than 1.5 million children were murdered too. It is also known that the next group of people with the largest loss of people were the Russians.

  4. The Russians also killed some of their own,

  5. I studied with a professor at the university that I am not mistaken it suffered Nazi fascism. Because he came to Brazil with his father being a Teacher of Chemistry in Italy. He told me how his childhood was after he came to Brazil.

  6. "As author Judith Miller has said, we must remind ourselves that the Holocaust was not six million. It was one plus one plus one." The value of one is always devalued in statistics. The faces are lost among the numbers, and it's good that there are people who do not want those faces to be forgotten. It's good that you can put faces to the numbers, because while many of us can look at the facts and see the numbers, it's harder to ignore their humanity when we can see their faces.

  7. Man is not born good. He must become good – by learning that there is another beside him and a Creator above him.

    Evil and unwarranted hatred are a reality that exists in our world. The human being has an infinite capacity for evil that, left unchecked, can destroy the world.

    The Torah itself tells us that the “impulse of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21). Man is not born good. He has to become good – by forging his character, by bending his baser instincts, by learning that there is another beside him and an Other above him.

    The Holocaust shows what can become of human beings when they permit the beast within them to control them.

    It teaches us that we must be alert to the existence of evil, both in others and in our own selves. Once we are aware of its reality, we can work to uproot it. The mitzvot of the Torah are designed to help the spiritual qualities within us dominate the beast within.

    Further, we learn from this tragedy that to be silent in the face of evil is to acquiesce in it, encourage it, and help it grow strong. History teaches us that evil triumphs when good people remain silent. But when good people rise up against evil, evil will ultimately perish and the good will prevail. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

    RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

    ממעמקים

    International Holocaust Memorial Day 2014

    January 27, 2014, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland

    This year, at the appointed day for this annual commemoration,

    the largest ever delegation of 60 Knesset (Israeli Parliament)

    members, led by Speaker Yuli Edelstein, will convene overseas

    — on the grounds of the iconic murder factory of World War II,

    each accompanying a Holocaust survivor, for a historic gathering

    on combating anti-Semitism. The symbolism could not be more

    striking — a mere meters away from the gas chambers where

    millions of Jews were once exterminated, will meet the

    representatives of the Parliament of the Jewish State of Israel.

    This year will also mark the 69th anniversary of the liberation

    of this death camp by Soviet and Allied troops in 1945. The

    Israeli delegation will include senior representatives of the IDF,

    the Chief Rabbis, and delegates from student groups signifying

    the living linking between past and future. Underscoring the

    message that anti-Semitism is a global issue, elected officials

    and Parliamentarians from around the world, including Europe,

    and a bipartisan group of leaders from the U.S. Congress will attend.

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