An article in the Ha’aretz newspaper in Israel reports that Yad Vashem has collected the names of four million Jewish Holocaust victims, two thirds of the estimated total. While no one expects them to complete the list (due to lack of records or lack of witnesses), they have made some impressive progress in the past decade. Yad Vashem says that fully one and a half million names were added in just the past ten years. Many of those names were added by Russian Jews, perhaps due either to the many Russian immigrants to Israel in the past two decades, or due to the opening of communications with Russia during the same time period.
Vad Vashem has always had a kind of quest to complete the list of victims. It’s not just a technical issue, but an issue of remembrance. Some people perished along with their entire families. Who will remember that they existed once?
I wrote previously about Yad Vashem’s Pages of Testimony and how important it is to fill out Pages of relatives you know perished in the Holocaust and also know are not in the Shoah Names Database. If we don’t tell the stories of those family members of ours that died in the Holocaust, who will tell their stories? I’ve never surveyed my family tree about this, but certainly among the information I’ve collected from other family members it is not uncommon to find relatives that died during the Holocaust. It’s always interesting to see how this is recorded in genealogy records, as some people just list the death as taking place during the war, while others write ‘Murdered by the Nazis,’ or simply ‘Holocaust’. In other peoples’ records, there is no reference at all to the person having been killed in the Holocaust, and if it was an elderly person who died in the early 1940s, who would necessarily think that they were murdered? Sometimes you jump to conclusions based on where they lived, how old they were, etc. but it may or may not be true.
I’m the last person to tell someone to write something without sources. Sources are another topic I hope to cover in this blog in the future, but for now let me just say that it’s important to provide evidence for everything you do in genealogy. I do think that if you know your relatives perished in the Holocaust, you should make an effort to go through your records, fill out a Page of Testimony for each relative, and then submit them all to Yad Vashem. No one should be forgotten.