At a Government Cabinet session today (Tuesday), Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev presented data and examples of items that have been donated by the public to Yad Vashem over the past year through the "Gathering the Fragments" Campaign - a national campaign to rescue personal items from the Holocaust period, run in cooperation with the National Heritage Project at the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry for Senior Citizens.
Since the campaign was launched on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2011, more than 51,000 items have been donated to Yad Vashem, including: about 21,600 photographs, 15,500 documents, 10,500 letters, 1,500 artifacts, 170 diaries and memoirs, 320 works of art and 60 films. 3,100 people donated the items during 55 collection days held at centralized points throughout Israel, as well as 240 collection days in private residences.
At the opening of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a particularly moving item that was donated to Yad Vashem during the campaign - the shirt of four-year-old Refael Denty from Athens, who was murdered during the Shoah. The shirt was donated by Refael's sister, Nina Abayov, one of the only survivors from her entire family. Nina survived the Shoah by hiding for part of the time with a local Greek couple, who were later recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, and then with her aunt. Her brother Refael, her sister Eftemiya and her parents were all murdered at Auschwitz. At the end of the war, her aunt returned to the family home and rescued any possessions that had not been looted: linens and clothes, including the shirt belonging to little Refael. Nina immigrated to Israel in 1946, and only recently, when she heard about the campaign, decided to bequeath the items to Yad Vashem. The shirt, together with information about Rafael, will be preserved at Yad Vashem for generations to come, and will ensure that Refael's story, as well as that of the Denty family and the Jewish community in Athens will continue to be told.
Holocaust survivors and their families hold a great deal of personal documentation that the wider public is unable to access. Many are unaware of the importance of these materials in their possession, or the need to preserve them professionally. These items may still be gathered together with their stories, but time is running out, and those that can bear witness are approaching their final years. This is what makes "Gathering the Fragments" a true rescue mission.
The "Gathering the Fragments" Campaign continues. Yad Vashem urges the public to come forward and donate their personal items from the Holocaust period. There will be a special collection day at Yad Vashem on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 19, 2012.