Yad Vashem will publish on Thursday thousands of new documents gleaned from
national and KGB archives from the former Soviet Union on this year’s Holocaust
The new archival material – totaling approximately one
million new documents – is available following several international agreements
made in the past four years with national archives and those with the KGB from
the former USSR.
According to Dr. Haim Gertner, head of the archives
department at Yad Vashem, researchers could not access much of the material due
to political, financial and bureaucratic obstacles.
“The majority of
European Jews lived in Eastern Europe before the war and the genocide was mostly
committed there, so these documents are important to fill in the large gaps in
our knowledge of what happened in these countries during the Holocaust,” Gertner
told The Jerusalem Post
Gertner pointed to several examples
where large numbers of Jews from specific communities were murdered during World
War II but for whom there was little documentary evidence until
Before the war, tens of thousands of Jews lived in Kovno, Lithuania
– with the overwhelming majority killed during the Holocaust. Most victims’
names remain unknown as there was no holistic census conducted before the
The new archival material encompasses the passport records of the
city’s Jews, including pictures, names of children and parents and their
addresses. “This helps us draw a picture of Jewish life in the city and helps us
document what was lost during those times,” Gertner said.
In Latvia, the
Jewish community numbered 90,000, of which approximately 70,000 perished. Less
than half of the former residents have been identified.
The new archival
information has located tens of thousands of records from residential committees
in Latvia’s capital, Riga, which helps researchers identify where Jews lived,
specifically in the city’s ghetto.
The treasure trove of information,
which was gleaned by several teams who scanned and copied records from archives
across the former USSR, also includes new information on Nazi collaborators in
Eastern Europe who helped round up and murder Jews during the war.
the war, communist authorities investigated many cases and the official records
drew a more complete picture as to the degree of local collaboration.
all of the documents have been examined, and the new material will be studied
and published in several stages.
According to Yad Vashem, the examined
documents clarify many details, some hitherto unknown, about the extent of the
murder and genocide of Jews in the region, as well as daily Jewish life before
the Holocaust in the former Soviet Union countries.
Masha Yonin, the
director of the archival acquisition department at Yad Vashem, said that the
information will help fill in the gaps in the institute’s database of victims,
as well as track the fate of evacuees and survivors. Currently, 4.1 million
Holocaust victims have been identified by name. The records gathered by Yad
Vashem will help increase this number.
In Ukraine and Belarus,
researchers have uncovered only one third of the victims’ identities.
new agreements with the various archives was supported by the Genesis Foundation
and the European Jewish Fund.