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The International Institute for Holocaust Research

Research Projects

Encyclopedia of the Ghettos Project

Rabbi Josef Weber (center) with his sons and other Brzozow Jews, in a photograph taken by the Germans. According to testimonies, shortly before the liquidation of the ghetto, the people pictured were led to the Lazenki forests and murdered, Brzozow Ghetto Rabbi Josef Weber (center) with his sons and other Brzozow Jews, in a photograph taken by the Germans. According to testimonies, shortly before the liquidation of the ghetto, the people pictured were led to the Lazenki forests and murdered, Brzozow Ghetto
Jews waiting near the home of Judenrat Chairman Isidor Krumholtz before leaving to perform forced labor outside the ghetto, Andrychów Ghetto, 1942 Jews waiting near the home of Judenrat Chairman Isidor Krumholtz before leaving to perform forced labor outside the ghetto, Andrychów Ghetto, 1942
Ghetto entrance gate.  “Entry by non-Jews absolutely forbidden” is inscribed on the sign, Gostynin Ghetto Ghetto entrance gate. “Entry by non-Jews absolutely forbidden” is inscribed on the sign, Gostynin Ghetto

Since the historiography on the ghettos in Europe during World War II had mainly been limited to the largest ones and that in fact most ghettos had never been systematically researched, the International Institute for Holocaust Research decided to conduct a comprehensive research project on the ghettos with the intention to publish an encyclopedia on the ghettos in Nazi occupied Europe. 

This pioneering research project involved a systematic gathering of data from research studies, historical information, testimonies and documents dealing with more than 1,100 ghettos throughout mainly Eastern Europe where Jews were concentrated and whence they were deported. Information on conditions, the type of administration, the leadership, and individual coping methodologies were collected. 

As the Nazis never clearly defined “ghettos” themselves, the Institute decided to define “ghetto” for this project in very broad terms, basing it on the phenomenological definition that was obtained through analysis of the historical material.

The data compiled records the stories of the Jews who were herded into and concentrated in various locations through the essential characteristics of the phenomenon.  It reflects the differences between each ghetto and reveals the differences between each ghetto and reveals the radical changes in Jewish communal and individual life.  Those changes are examined from various perspectives of daily life, coping strategies and the different forms of resistance.  Thus, one is able to see the similarities and differences among the various ghettos. Some ghettos lasted only a few weeks, others a month or two, while in Poland and Lithuania some ghettos operated for years.  There were different time divisions for the major events that impacted on the confined Jews throughout each ghetto’s existence, such as forced resettlement and adjustment; the sealing and isolation of the ghettos from the rest of the world; signs of imminent doom; and eventual deportation and murder. 

In October 2009, the English edition of the encyclopedia was published by Yad Vashem. All entries include the location, the wartime names and geographical coordinates; and, for the larger ghettos, informational sections of the following:

  • Pre-World War II
  • Soviet occupation
  • German (Nazi) occupation
  • Ghetto setup
  • Ghetto institutions, and internal life
  • Murder, terror and killing operations of ghetto inhabitants
  • Underground and resistance
  • Number of survivors at liberation

The encyclopedia includes pictures and maps of the different ghettos.  It also includes a composite of film documentation on DVD. 

The Online Hebrew Edition

In the latter half of 2009, Yad Vashem began adapting the Encyclopedia of Ghettos to a new, online Hebrew format, which will be uploaded to the Yad Vashem website.  The entries are being translated into Hebrew.  Photographs and maps will also be included on the website.   The inauguration of the online encyclopedia is forthcoming.

Staff

Dr. Lea Prais
Director

Dr. Ruth Shachak
Editorial Coordinator

Dr. Nahama Gal
Assistant