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November 17 at the GA: Exclusive Pilot Launch of Yad Vashems Online Central Database of Holocaust Victims Names

Special Guests Include US Ambassador to Israel, UJC National Major Gifts Chairman, and Venture Capitalist

16 November 2003

Yad Vashem will offer United Jewish Communities General Assembly participants an exclusive pilot opportunity to search its central database of Shoah victims’ names online. To mark the occasion, there will be a media event at the GA on Monday, November 17 at 10:10 AM (in Booth 15 in the Agam Foyer, on the second floor). Among the special guests present will be US Ambassador to Israel, Daniel C. Kurtzer; UJC National Major Gifts Chairman and American Society for Yad Vashem Board Member, Mark Wilf; hi-tech venture capitalist and major supporter of the online database project, Yossie Hollander; and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, Avner Shalev.

Following the media event, GA participants will have the opportunity to search the database themselves.

For the past 50 years, Yad Vashem has been gathering names and biographical details of Holocaust victims via firsthand testimony of relatives, witnesses, and documented lists. These names are being digitized in the central database of Holocaust victims’ names. With approximately four million records of names digitized to date, Yad Vashem’s database is the largest resource of its kind in existence. The importance of making the database available to every individual worldwide, via the Internet, cannot be underestimated - this is the last chance to collect names of Holocaust victims, as the generation of Holocaust survivors and witnesses is drawing to an end. In order to maximize the number of names collected, Yad Vashem will enable global Internet access to its database, starting in June 2004. Through Yad Vashem’s website, any person in the world will be able to search for names of Holocaust victims and submit unrecorded names and biographical information. At present, it is only possible to search Yad Vashem’s database at Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem’s search system is the most powerful of its type in the world, as it integrates and embodies the knowledge of Yad Vashem’s experts. Its sophisticated search indices feature performance which surpasses that of other existing retrieval tools. The system, which was developed at Yad Vashem, enables highly accurate retrieval of information, beyond standard phonetical searches. It takes into account alternative names of people and places, which can result from use of multiple languages, historical changes, and cultural traditions in the source testimonies and documents.

The online central database of Holocaust victims’ names is a major element in Yad Vashem’s initiative to maintain the tangible meaning of Holocaust remembrance for generations to come. Another example is a set of online educational tools that will utilize the database. This is currently under development by Yad Vashem’s International School of Holocaust Studies.

The pilot opportunity at the GA is the first step in a public awareness campaign on which the success of the project rests.

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953 by an act of the Israeli Knesset. Yad Vashem is entrusted with documenting the history of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, preserving the memory and story of each of the six million victims, and imparting the legacy of the Holocaust for generations to come through its archives, library, school, museums and recognition of the Righteous Among the Nations.