Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority announced Tuesday it has collected the names of 4 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust – some two-thirds of the total number of Jewish victims estimated to have been murdered by the Nazis.
Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said that during the last decade the museum's staff had tracked some 1.5 million names and added them to the databases.
Shalev said. "One of Yad Vashem's central aims is to give a face and a name to each Holocaust victim, and give them back their identities. We have managed to use technology in the service of memory, and thus accelerated the collection of names and the accessibility of the information for people around the world."
"The Germans not only wanted to annihilate the Jews, but also to wipe them from memory,"Six years ago Yad Vashem launched a central database on the internet. At the time, the database included the names of some 3 million Holocaust victims. The center's staff then began a concerted operation to collect the missing names.
In addition, the digitalization process was accelerated for names from archived documents. Yad Vashem says some 55% of the 4 million names known at present are from testimonies of family members, while the rest are from archive documents and various remembrance initiatives of communities and survivors.
The names hardest to track are of those murdered in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In these regions, in contrast to Western Europe, Jews were murdered near their places of residence, and the Nazis made no deportation lists.
During the last five years, there has been significant improvement in this field. According to Alexander Avraham, director of Yad Vashem's Hall of Names, there has been a huge increase in the known and documented names of victims in the Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Hungary and Greece.
Torah scrolls and synagogues
"After the Holocaust there was less awareness among survivors and relatives," Avraham explains. "During the last three years, there has been a special project for Russian-speakers in Israel, the former USSR, the US and Germany. We approach them with the help of volunteers and Jewish organizations to encourage them to submit documents, photos and anything connected with the identity of victims, but there is still a lot of work to be done."
Last year, he says, Yad Vashem staff managed to obtain a list of 38 people who were deported from Salonika (Thessaloniki) to Auschwitz, and a new project is now being launched to collect names from Poland. "Many names from there are still missing," Avaraham says.
Another project concentrates on collecting names among haredi communities. "The haredi population has developed various ways of remembering the victims," he says. "Haredim haven't really filled out testimony forms. They dedicated Torah scrolls to the memory of victims, and put up remembrance plaques at synagogues, and the names are detailed there."
Yad Vashem staff does not rest, and continues in its work identifying the 2 million victims who remain without a name and without a face.
"Every name we succeed in rescuing from oblivion is another victory over the Nazis who tried to destroy and annihilate the memory of these people,"Avraham says.