Avotaynu logo
Avotaynu logo

How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust

Page 1 of 2  

Illustration from book: Yizkor Book Article. Yizkor books include remembrances by survivors of those who died in the Holocaust. This article, taken from the yizkor book of Przedecz, Poland, was written by Moshe Mokotow of Israel. It is titled "A Monument to My Family Which Was and Is No More." Most yizkor books are written in Hebrew and Yiddish.
Yizkor Books

After World War II, many survivors of the Holocaust published books that memorialized the destroyed Jewish communities of Europe. Called yizkor books (yizkor means "memorial" or "remembrance" in Hebrew), they commemorate the victims as well as the Jewish communities. Actually, yizkor books had been published for many years before World War II, but the term has now come to mean specifically Holocaust memorial books. To date, more than one thousand towns have been commemorated in this manner. More than half are associated with the towns of Poland as it existed before World War II, but the percentage represented by today's national boundaries are: Poland, 30%; Germany, 22%; Ukraine, 18%; Belarus, 13%; Hungary, 4%; Lithuania, 3%; Netherlands 3%; Romania, 2%; Slovakia, 2%; Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Moldova and Serbia, each 1% or less. A list of towns for which Holocaust yizkor books have been published is found in Appendix A.

Although each yizkor book was written independently, they share a basic common structure. The first section describes the history of the Jewish community of the town from its inception--sometimes hundreds of years ago--to the events of the Holocaust. This history invariably describes the destruction of all Jewish religious property (synagogues, cemeteries, etc.) and the immediate murder or deportation to labor or extermination camps of the Jewish population. A map shows the Jewish section of the town, identifying where the synagogue(s), religious school(s) and other Jewish landmarks once stood. For the historian, this overview provides valuable material about the Jewish communal life of the town. For researchers who want to identify relatives who once lived in the town, pictures of religious, social and welfare organizations may offer clues. The articles and captions associated with the pictures often identify the members.

The next section consists of personal remembrances of survivors about their individual families. They contain a wealth of information about family members, including names, relationships, ages and sometimes birth dates. Where survivors knew the fate of family members, this may also be included.

The next section of a yizkor book is devoted to describing families with no survivors. These accounts were contributed by neighbors or friends who had known the family. The article is brief--one- or two-paragraph descriptions headed by the names of the father and mother, as well as the names of the children. In cases where the name of a parent could not be remembered, it is left blank. If the children's names were not remembered, the notation might be "three children" or "two sons and a daughter."

The next section may be a necrology--a list of all the victims from the town. The final section includes the names and addresses of survivors of the town, usually organized by country of relocation.

(continued on next page}

Previous Page | Next Page | Table of Contents

Order book

Go to Avotaynu Home Page