CompuSchmooze – January 2005: Yad Vashem Database of Holocaust Victims Now Online

CompuSchmooze – January 2005: Yad Vashem Database of Holocaust Victims Now Online
By Steven L. Lubetkin
Copyright © 2005 Steven L. Lubetkin. All rights reserved.

Yad Vashem, also known as The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, has created a Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names that you can search from the Yad Vashem website.

And it’s clearly long overdue.

On December 22, Yad Vashem announced that it had received more than 3 million website visitors in the month since the database was made available. Before the database was made available, Yad Vashem’s website generally averaged between 140,000-150,000 visitors per month, according to a press release.

“These numbers illustrate the place of the Shoah in the public consciousness, and the desire of people to remember it and know more about its victims,” said Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate. “I hope and believe that people will use this unique tool to submit Pages of Testimony for victims whose names are not yet recorded,” he added.

Before November 2004, anyone interested in researching Pages of Testimony submitted to Yad Vashem had to visit the museum and memorial to victims of the Holocaust to review them. Now, you can search the information directly.

According to Yad Vashem, visitors to the Names’ Database can search for nearly three million names of Shoah victims recorded to date. Users can also submit (electronic Pages of Testimony – special forms containing biographical details of individual victims – for those victims as yet unrecorded.

The database also provides educational context around victims of the Holocaust through a “Stories Behind the Names” feature, which uses Pages of Testimony as the starting point for a personalized educational session, according to Yad Vashem.

“Through links on the Pages themselves, the victim’s life is put into context, through additional historical, geographical, and linguistic information. So, for example, if a victim was a doctor from Lodz wwas murdered in Chelmno, the user may learn more about professions common among Jews in the 1930s, the town of Lodz, or the death camp at Chelmno by simply clicking on the relevant part of the Page,” the site says.

The bulk of the database’s information comes from some two million Pages of Testimony submitted to Yad Vashem over the past 50 years, nearly all of which have now been digitized, the site reports.

Earlier this summer, during the 2004 International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) conference in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem allowed the genealogists attending the conference to test the database. The memorial’s Yad Vashem Magazine reported on the genealogy conference.

Users can view and print Pages of Testimony, or a screen containing a victim’s personal story, based on information from archival sources available in the Database.

A search in the Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names for “Lubetkin” received 29 resulting records. I recognized several Pages of Testimony submitted by my British cousins, whose father, Berthold Lubetkin, had been a noted architect. But there are also several for victims from branches of my family that are unfamiliar. These will bear further investigation.

Each record includes transcriptions of the data fields from the original paper Pages of Testimony document, and a digital image of the original, but on the evening when I was visiting the site, I had trouble getting the digital images to display in a full page size that could be easily examined, although I could print them at full size.

Also accessible on the Yad Vashem website are the International School for Holocaust Studies; online exhibitions including Holocaust era artwork, and photographs from the Warsaw Ghetto; the Righteous Among the Nations and a download page offering Acrobat PDF versions of the Pages of Testimony form, a Survivors’ Registration Form; and files that contain lists of Shoah victims’ names formatted for use in Name Remembrance Ceremonies.

There is also a Yad Vashem online store, where the only merchandise available for purchase is books and research studies on the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and pre-Holocaust Europe. You can also make donations online to support Yad Vashem or the Central Database.

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