'Last letters from the Holocaust' displayed in Yad Vashem project

In a new exhibition launched online for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yad Vashem exposes the moving last words people in the Holocaust sent to their loved ones.

January 23, 2017 15:57
2 minute read.
The last words: one of the letters displayed in the exhibition

The last words: one of the letters displayed in the exhibition. (photo credit: YAD VASHEM)


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“You, too, must be strong and patient. One day this too will come to an end... I am writing this just in case I don’t survive, but I have a feeling that we will see each other again.” According to Yad Vashem, these were among the last words written by Regina Kandt to her husband, Maximilian, and her son Rudy in 1941, just before she was deported from Belgrade together with her grandson Sasha and her daughter-in-law Eva. They were incarcerated and murdered in the Sajmiste concentration camp.

This letter, which was left with a Christian neighbor and delivered to her family after the war, is one of nine letters showcased in an online exhibition launched by Yad Vashem ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which will be marked on Friday.

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This is the first in a series of online exhibitions about last letters whose writers were murdered in the Holocaust.

The letters were penned in the ghettos and camps, as their authors fled or were in hiding; for many of the recipients, they were the last messages they received from their loved ones.

Writing from the Warsaw ghetto in January 1941, Perla Tytelman told her daughter Rachel: “You should be consoled by the thought that this has to end sometime, and that then we will once again be happy together. Our yearning for each other knows no bounds – Mamush [Mommy].”

Auschwitz survivors revisit former camp to remember Holocaust

Perla and two of her children, Samuel and Rega, were murdered by the Nazis. Her husband, Yosef, and daughter Rachel, who were exiled to Serbia in 1941, eventually made it to Israel in October 1947 on the Exodus 1947 ship.

“Handwriting is one the most individual, most intimate and personal forms of self-expression,” said Yona Kobo, researcher of online exhibitions in Yad Vashem’s Internet department. “These last letters give us a small window into the lives of these individuals and provide a firsthand testimony of the hardships they faced as well as their longing to be reunited with their families.”

The letters presented in the exhibition were donations sent to Yad Vashem from the authors’ relatives in Poland, Latvia, France, Austria, Ukraine, Yugoslavia and Romania.

“Parting with these precious letters was not easy,” a statement from Yad Vashem acknowledged, but they will be documented and preserved for future generations in the museum’s archives, along with some 190 million pages of Holocaust-era documentation .

“Yad Vashem aims to provide the general public with relevant, meaningful and timely content,” said Internet department director Dana Porath. “People around the world can now easily access information on any computer or hand-held device and relate to the Holocaust and its meanings for today’s global society.”

On Sunday, Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev participated in a special cabinet meeting dedicated to discussing Holocaust commemoration and the status of global antisemitism. Shalev briefed the cabinet on Yad Vashem’s ongoing activities in the field of Holocaust education and research, both in Israel and throughout the world.

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