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How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust

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How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust
by Gary Mokotoff
Copyright ©1995 by Gary Mokotoff
ISBN Number 0–9626373-8-6

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Illustration from book: Page of Testimony, English Language Version
Pages of Testimony
The major archives and documentation center for the Holocaust is Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel. Since 1955, Yad Vashem has been attempting to document every one of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust in a manuscript collection called Pages of Testimony. To date, more than three million victims have been documented. Persons have been requested to come forward and submit, on a preprinted form, information about the victim, including name; place and year of birth; place, date and circumstances of death; occupation; names of mother, father and spouse; and, in some cases, names and ages of children. Each submitter is required to sign this Page of Testimony and to show his or her name, address and relationship to deceased. By submitting this form, the person testifies that he or she knew of the victim and the circumstances surrounding his or her death. The majority of the submitters are relatives of the deceased. Most Pages of Testimony were submitted in the 1950s when the project started. Most have been submitted by Israelis and, therefore, are written in Hebrew. In recent years, there has been an effort to increase the size of the collection significantly. Holocaust survivors are encouraged to contribute Pages now; otherwise, information that only they can provide will be lost to future generations. The emigration of a large number of Jews from the former Soviet Union has also provided an opportunity to add significantly to the collection.

To make it as simple as possible for people to complete the form, it is available in many languages. The form has been redesigned a number of times through the years, but it still asks for essentially the same information:
  • Family name of victim, in native language and Roman letters
  • Given name of victim, in native language and Roman letters
  • Name of father
  • Name of mother
  • Country and place of birth
  • Place of permanent residency
  • Occupation
  • Nationality before German occupation
  • Places of residency during the war
  • Marital status
  • Number of children
  • Spouse's name and age and, if wife, maiden name
  • Names of children under 18, ages, places and dates of death
  • Name and address of person giving testimony
  • Relationship to the deceased
  • Signature and date

    How to Use Pages of Testimony
    Pages of Testimony serve two valuable functions: They provide detailed information about the Holocaust victim, and they may offer a link to the present--to a person who either knew the victim or was familiar with the victim's fate. This link is becoming weaker as the years pass because many of the Pages of Testimony were filled out in the late 1950s, and many of the submitters are no longer alive. In this case, it becomes necessary to locate descendants of the submitters, who may be more difficult to track down and whose knowledge of the victims may be secondary.

    How to Get Pages of Testimony
    [As of November 2004, Pages of Testimony are online at http://www.yadvashem.org/wps/portal/IY_HON_Entrance. It is part of the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names.] The Pages of Testimony are currently available only at the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem. They can be accessed in person or by mail inquiry. There is a nominal charge for each document. In response to a mail inquiry, you will be sent the documents and an invoice; there is no need to prepay. In a departure from the norm, it is usually better to get copies by mail rather than in person. If you go in person, a number of others usually are waiting to use the one microfilm reader/printer allocated to accommodate the public. Most requests are not for specific persons; therefore, it can take a fair amount of time for the operator of the machine to search through the films for each patron. Instead, write to:
          Hall of Names
    Yad Vashem
    P.O. Box 3477
    91034 Jerusalem, Israel
    The handling of mail inquiries does not involve the pressure of impatient patrons waiting to be serviced, and you will probably get better service using this method. The Hall of Names will accept generic searches such as "all persons named Mokotow" or "all persons named Mokotow from Garwolin"; however, they will do generic searches only for surnames for which they have fewer than three hundred documents. The cost averages less than $2.00 per document, but rates may change based on economic conditions, and rules for quality of service may change as demand rises.

    If you elect to do research in person, the current hours are 10am to 2pm Sunday through Thursday and 10am to 12:30pm on Friday. Check before you go.

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