Yad Vashem collecting personal items from Holocaust

Public asked to donate letters, photos, diaries, art, anything else related to the period before, during, directly after the Holocaust.

April 28, 2011 04:57
2 minute read.
An expert preserves documents from the Holocaust.

Yad Vashem restoration 311. (photo credit: Yad Vashem)


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In anticipation of Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday, Yad Vashem has launched its first campaign to collect personal artifacts related to the Holocaust.

The campaign, called “Gathering the Fragments,” aims to encourage survivors, children of survivors, and anyone with letters, photographs, diaries, art, or anything else related to the period before, during, and directly after the Holocaust to donate the material.

Yad Vashem is racing to collect personal artifacts and the stories behind them before they are accidentally thrown out or their owners pass away. Dr. Haim Gertner, the director of the Archives Division at Yad Vashem, encouraged people to bring their personal items to the museum, where they can be cataloged, scanned, and preserved for future generations.

Often a personal artifact becomes much more meaningful when it is presented in the context of history, rather than kept at home in a box, he said.

Gertner told The Jerusalem Post that he thinks of the challenge of telling the story of the Holocaust as a puzzle, and that this campaign represents an effort to collect all of the pieces of the puzzle before the story is lost to the passage of time.

Even family photos from a few years before the Holocaust are important, because they might be the last photographs taken before the war, he said.

“We have a problem that people don’t think what they have at home is connected to the Holocaust,” he said. “People have letters at home from a son to his father in France from the 40s and they say, ‘This is connected to the Holocaust?’ The answer is yes, it’s very important, because these are the details that tell the story in depth.”

Anyone wishing to donate material will be asked to record the history and the story behind their item, or anything they know about it.

“It’s not just the stuff, it’s the story also – Yad Vashem is built on these details,” Gertner said.

“Personal stories, told through items such as letters and postcards, artwork, diaries, toys and more add a critical dimension to Holocaust commemoration and education,” Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said in a statement.

“A great deal of our activities today at Yad Vashem, including education and research, rests on this documentation.”

Yad Vashem has no specific goal for the campaign, but the interest has been high. In the past two weeks since the campaign was officially announced, it has collected around 100 items and more than 1,000 people have called the museum.

Members of public are encouraged to call 1-800-25-7777 to speak with someone from Yad Vashem about their artifacts and set a time to drop them off. There are 15 drop-off centers around the country at schools, community centers and senior centers that will be operating through June. In addition, there is a special drop-off point at Yad Vashem that will be open on Monday, May 2, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Gathering the Fragments campaign is a joint project with the Prime Minister’s Office National Heritage Project, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Pensioners Affairs. Currently, the campaign is only in Israel, though anyone abroad with personal artifacts to donate is encouraged to contact the museum.

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