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How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust

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Landsmanshaftn Societies

A potential source of information is the Holocaust survivors themselves. They are not necessarily a good source of information about people from the town where they lived before the war. First, many individuals are reluctant to talk about their experiences because it resurfaces memories they would rather forget. Secondly, many know little more than what happened to their immediate families and perhaps the families of aunts and uncles. This is because most survivors living today were in their late teens and early twenties during the Holocaust, and they had yet to develop social relationships that would allow them to know a large number of people in their community.

The idea of landsmanshaftn societies is probably as old as the Diaspora. They are social and welfare organizations of persons who emigrated from a specific location. Landsmanshaftn became prominent in the early part of this century when large numbers of emigrants left Europe for other countries. Those societies that continued to exist at the time of World War II and after the war assisted thousands of Holocaust refugees. Most groups have discontinued operation over the past 50 years, but a few still are active.The Council of Organizations of the UJA-Federation of New York maintains a list of active landsmanshaftn societies in the U.S. To determine if a town of interest has an active group, write to them at 130 E. 59th Street, New York, NY 10022. Telephone: (212) 836-1101.

Yad Vashem maintains a list of landsmanshaftn societies in Israel. The complete list of more than four hundred names and addresses is published in A Guide to Jewish Genealogical Research in Israel, Revised Edition (Teaneck, NJ: Avotaynu, 1995). Experience with the list demonstrates that it has not been maintained for years and, in a number of cases, the person listed is deceased or has moved. Where the person is deceased, quite often a family member can provide the name and address of another person who is a member of the society.

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