A monumental installation at United Nations headquarters in New York opened this year, detailing the names of 4.8 million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered by the German Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust.
The ”Book of Names of Holocaust Victims” is two meters high, eight meters long and one meter deep – a literal book, with tangible, searchable pages containing all the names, alphabetically arranged, of the 4.8 million victims who were murdered.
A strip of light runs the length of the Book, illuminating the memory of the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany and its collaborators.
At the end of the Book of Names there are blank pages symbolizing more than one million identities yet recovered from the nameless murdered.
The names in the Book have been meticulously gathered over the past 70 years by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, from a range of sources, including Pages of Testimony. Empty pages at the end of the Book leave room for over a million names of Holocaust victims still to be recovered.
The installation opened Thursday as part of the Holocaust and United Nations Outreach Program on the Holocaust activities for International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
A Living Memorial
Accompanying the installation is a video clip about the importance of remembering the names of Holocaust victims and rationale behind the Names Recovery Project, as well as an explanatory panel with information about the Holocaust – the anti-Jewish campaign initiated and implemented by Nazi Germany during the years 1933-1945 that culminated in the unprecedented and systematic genocide that aimed to totally eradicate Judaism and annihilate the Jewish people.
“The Book of Names serves as a living memorial to millions of Holocaust victims and provides the public with the ability to physically touch and connect with the identities of the individuals the Nazis tried so hard to erase,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan.
“Inaugurating The Book of Names at the United Nations Headquarters on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day is extremely significant and poignant, especially in light of the alarming growing global trends of Holocaust trivialization and distortion as well as antisemitism. We must remember these individuals not as faceless and nameless victims, as the Nazis viewed them, but as individuals with unique life stories just like us today.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres added that the exhibition is a “call to remembrance: to remember each child, woman and man who perished in the Holocaust as a human being with a name and a future that was stolen away. And it is a call to action,” he added, “to always be vigilant and never stay silent when human rights and human dignity are under threat.”
Whenever possible, the listings in The Book of Names also contain the birth dates, hometowns, and circumstances and places of death of the respective victims. The names in the exhibit are taken from many sources, including Pages of Testimony collected by Yad Vashem, as well as various lists compiled during and following the Shoah, meticulously gathered over the past seven decades and carefully reviewed by Yad Vashem experts. In June 2013, The Yad Vashem Pages of Testimony Memorial Repository were included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
Earrings That Became a Symbol of Survival
New York Judaica collector Thomas Gelb told JewishPress.com in an interview this week that both of his parents were survivors of the Holocaust, “so this is a very important event to me.”
Only four of Gelb’s mother’s brothers survived the slaughter. His father, who was a soldier in the Czech army when the Hungarians occupied the country and sent all the soldiers home – except those who were Jewish, who were sent instead to a forced labor camp.
“Later, the Germans sent my father to Buchenwald concentration camp,” he said. “He was married with a child; his wife and child did not survive. My brother and I were only told about it in our teenage years.
“Before the Germans came to get my family, they buried a large soup pot with prayer books, a silver Hanukkah menorah, some jewelry and my mother’s Shabbat candlesticks carefully wrapped in my Zaidy’s tallis,” Gelb said.
“After the war, they were able to retrieve it. My wife now wears my grandmother’s gold earrings, and soon they will go to our daughter Malka, named after my grandmother.