Yad Vashem has curated and uploaded “Last Letters From the Holocaust: 1941,” a touching online exhibition featuring missives, some viewable by the public for the first time, written by children and adults in the midst of the Shoah and sent to their loved ones. They were composed in 1941 by Jews in the ghettos, camps, while fleeing, in hiding and while wandering from place to place. They reveal the inner world and terrible fate of individual Jews in the Holocaust; for many recipients, they were also the last greetings and messages from their loved ones.
As soon as the Nazis rose to power in Germany, Jews were cruelly persecuted. What started out as stripping of rights, dispossession, abuse, humiliation and starvation turned, in June 1941, into calculated, systematic and total extermination, in the course of which approximately six million Jews had been murdered by the end of the war.
There are thousands of personal letters in the Yad Vashem Archives, which were sent by Jews – adults and children – to their relatives and friends from their homes, the ghettos and the camps; while fleeing, in hiding and while wandering from place to place.
In this exhibition are nine letters including one that reached its destination only years after they had been penned. This is the first in a series of online exhibitions about last letters whose writers were all murdered in the Holocaust.
The letters presented in this exhibition were sent from Poland, Latvia, France, Austria, Ukraine, Yugoslavia and Romania. Some letters were sent to destinations outside Europe, and thus survived. Each letter, missive and postcard reveals to us the inner world and fate of Jews in the Holocaust. For many recipients, these were the last greetings from the home and family that they had left behind. Parting with these letters was wrenching; these were the last messages from their loved ones, which they ultimately chose to give to Yad Vashem for posterity.
Yad Vashem has also created a mini-site marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, featuring a variety of resources the public can view, share and engage, including online exhibitions, educational resources and the unique Facebook campaign, the “I Remember Wall.” Additionally, the site dedicates a complete section of informative resources about the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, which took place 27 January 1945, and is the reason this specific date was chosen to commemorate the Holocaust and its victims.