Avotaynu logo
Avotaynu logo

How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust

PAGE xiii  

A few years ago, I had the responsibility of maintaining the National Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors until it became part of the permanent exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. One day I received a telephone call from an excited staff member of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. The organization had received a call from a woman who had just discovered, after more than forty years, that her father had survived the Holocaust. "Did the National Registry have any information about him?" The answer was no; he had not registered with them. Out of curiosity, I continued the search for her father's name by referring to my collection of Holocaust research sources. There was his name, in the "List of Survivors--Volume II" published by the Jewish Agency in 1945. I realized that this woman could have found her father years ago. Instead, she was denied his love and companionship for forty years because she did not know that resources were available to determine the fate of Holocaust victims and to help locate Holocaust survivors. Since that incident, my knowledge of resources about individuals caught up in the Holocaust has grown considerably. I have been fortunate to be able to help a number of survivors or their descendants locate information concerning their families.

It was widely believed that the Germans and their collaborators had destroyed all the materials associated with the Holocaust in an effort to hide their crimes. In fact, a wealth of information has survived, and more is uncovered every year. Some records became available shortly after World War II. These have been followed by a steady trickle of additional information throughout the years. But the recent collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe has made available a huge number of records. These records had been seized by the Soviet Union and were inaccessible until the collapse of communism. Other formerly communist countries, long reluctant to open their archives, perhaps out of fear that complicity of their countrymen with the Nazi effort would be shown, are now relenting and making their material available.

For this reason, I have decided to write this book--to share my knowledge of what information is available to do Holocaust research. I hope it will allow survivors, their descendants and their collateral relatives to document individuals who were caught up in the maelstrom that is considered by many to be the greatest tragedy in the history of Western civilization.

New documentation of the Holocaust is being discovered on a regular basis. Consequently, there is every indication that this is merely the first edition of this book. Present plans are to update this book periodically as additional resources become available. When conducting your research, always check with the resource sites to determine if they have acquired new information. Holocaust resource sites also share records as they acquire them. If you find that records described in this book are not available locally, ask the facility if it is possible to get a copy of the information either on loan or as a permanent addition to their collection. I encourage readers to write to me in care of Avotaynu, P.O. Box 900, Teaneck, NJ 07666, with information to be added to future editions of this book.

Preparation of this book required the assistance of many people at the facilities mentioned. Their cooperation was generous and made without reservation. Thanks to the following:

Alexander Abraham, Robert Rozett and Yaakov Lozowik at Yad Vashem; at the U.S. Holocaust Research Institute: Valdin Altskan, Sarah Ogilvy and William Connelly; Zachary Baker and Fruma Mohrer of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research; Frank Mecklenberg and Julia Bock of Leo Baeck Institute; Peggy Pearlstein of the U.S. Library of Congress; Paul H. Hamburg, at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles; William Shulman of the Association of Jewish Holocaust Organizations; Barbara Hersche of HIAS; Janice Rosen of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

Special friends made special contributions. Yale Reisner provided the information about the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland. He is working at the Institute by virtue of a special grant from the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation. Sophie Caplan, president of the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society provided the information about resources for locating survivors in Australia.

The numerous friends I have made in the Jewish genealogical community who contributed information and/or advice include Carol Clapsaddle, Jeffrey Cymbler, Peter Lande, Barbara Lightbody, Eileen Polakoff, Sallyann Amdur Sack and Miriam Weiner. Irene Saunders Goldstein, who has edited most of the books published by Avotaynu, Inc., contributed the skills required to convert my ramblings into coherent English.

But most of all, gratitude goes to my wife Ruth, who insisted that I block out time from my busy schedule, one day of every work week, until this project was completed.

Gary Mokotoff

May 1995

Previous Page | Next Page | Table of Contents

Order book

Go to Avotaynu Home Page