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Bearing Witness

Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2007

"Unto Every Person There is a Name"

Letter from the International Committee, Unto Every Person There Is A Name

Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day
16 April 2007 – 28 Nissan 5767


Six million Jews, of whom one-and-a-half million were children, perished in the Shoah while the world remained silent. The worldwide Holocaust memorial project “Unto Every Person There is a Name”, now in its eighteenth consecutive year, is a unique project designed to perpetuate their memory as individuals and restore their identity and dignity, through the public recitation of their names on Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. By personalizing the individual tragedies of the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany and its collaborators, this project counters persistent attempts to universalize the repercussions of the Holocaust and cast off its principal characteristic as a unique calamity of the Jewish people. “Unto Every Person There is a Name” also builds appreciation of the Shoah's continuing deleterious impact on the Jewish reality today, and helps to frustrate continued efforts by Holocaust deniers to present the Holocaust as a hoax.

A World-Wide Effort

“Unto Every Person There Is A Name” is conducted around the world in hundreds of Jewish communities through the efforts of four major Jewish organizations: B’nai B’rith International, Nativ, the World Jewish Congress and the World Zionist Organization.

The project is coordinated by Yad Vashem, in consultation with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project enjoys the official auspices of the office of the Speaker of the Knesset and Acting President Hon. Dalia Itzik.

In Israel, the name recitation ceremonies of “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” have become an integral part of the official Yom Hashoah commemoration ceremonies, at the Knesset and at Yad Vashem, as well as throughout the country.

An opportunity for reflection

While Yom Hashoah focuses our attention each year on the victims of the Holocaust, it also inherently provides an opportunity for us to reflect on contemporary forms of antisemitism over the past year and recommit ourselves to counter them.

Antisemitic incidents targeting Jewish communities and individuals around the world, particularly in Europe, continued throughout 2006.‏ These incidents included hundreds of violent attacks - murder, physical injury, shootings, damage to property and desecration of Jewish sites – as well as threats, propaganda and graffiti. As identified by the Coordinating Forum for Countering Antisemitism, prominent characteristics of antisemitism in 2006 were:
- Effects of the Lebanon war
- ‏ Increased Holocaust denial
- ‏ Increased severity in nature of attacks
- ‏ State Antisemitism
Also, murder attempts against Jews were made in Russia and in the Ukraine while in France, Britain, Australia, Ukraine and Russia dozens of attacks - some requiring hospitalization – were recorded.

State-sponsored antisemitism hit a new ugly and dangerous turning point this year with the convening in Teheran in December of the Holocaust-denial conference "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision." Conceived by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – a notorious Holocaust denier whose presidency, since his election in August 2005, has been marked with repeated calls for Israel's annihilation – the conference was organized by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A poster depicting a red X, indicating the erasure of the word "Israel" and a boot over the globe served as a backdrop to the deliberations. Teheran's annihilationist intentions became even more terrifying as it reportedly further narrowed the gap towards acquiring nuclear weapons with little real action by the international community to stop it. The conference, and the earlier Holocaust cartoon contest, helped to enshrine genocide and Holocaust denial as the official policy of the Iranian Islamic Republic. With weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, along with attendant terrorist organizations at its command, the prospect of an impending genocide became even more tangible in 2006.

The international community reacted vigorously to ridicule the conference and rebuff all Holocaust deniers by passing a resolution on January 27 - the annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust - condemning without reservation any denial of the Holocaust. Only Iran publicly disassociated itself from the consensus resolution.

As identified by Holocaust historian Robert Wistrich, the legacy of annihilationist jihad and Jew-hatred bequeathed to Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution of 1979 is also what inspires Hezbollah and Hamas today. Indeed, in Hezbollah propaganda, Jews are invariably depicted as corrupt, treacherous, aggressive and fundamentally racist while the Hamas Covenant demonizes Israeli Jews as "Mongols" and "Nazis" in their allegedly brutal behaviour towards women and children. Both organizations, which have openly declared war on Israel, are driven by an apocalyptic and exterminationist Jew-hatred that underlies their geo-political strategy. This so-called "war against Zionism" unmistakably embraces the total demonization of the Jew and constitutes a highly toxic, even murderous outlook that today is linked both to religious fanaticism and a worldwide revolutionary agenda. This is an ideological anti-Zionism that seeks both the annihilation of Israel and a world "liberated" from the Jews. The danger of such irrational hatred has become especially grave because annihilationist anti-Zionism is gradually spreading under the guise of anti-Israelism to Western Europe, American, Russia, Asia and other parts of the Third World. It has also found grassroots support in the Muslim diaspora among radicalized youth, anti-globalists and others. This has led some observers to comment that the prospect of a "world without Israel" is more popular today than "a world without Jews" was in the 1930's.

Another growing source of state-sponsored antisemitism is Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez spoke severely against Israel as part of his struggle with the USA and his identification with Iran, creating an antisemitic atmosphere in the country.‏ "We feel that Israel's aggression against Lebanon and the Palestinians is directed also against us.... Israel reminds us of the fascistic nature of Hitler. Israel is a part of American imperialism." Chavez recalled his ambassador from Israel and compared Israel's bombing of Beirut to Hitler's actions during WWII. Politicians and journalists associated with Chavez' party used the Holocaust to attack both Israel and the local Jewish community by comparing the plight of the Palestinians to the Holocaust or denying it altogether.

Collecting the Names – The Yad Vashem Database

As part of its efforts to counter these developments, Yad Vashem- Israel's Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority - continues this year to expand the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names that has been painstakingly built with the cooperation of Jewish communities and organizations since the 1950s. To date, half of the six million victims have been recorded and memorialized in the online Names Database at, where one may access their brief histories and, when available, their photographs, and submit additional names. With nearly half the victims’ names still missing, it is incumbent upon us today, to recover them before the generation that remembers is no longer with us.

Unto Every Person There is a Name” events provide a unique opportunity to continue the quest to collect the names of all the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust and should be utilized to call upon members of your community to complete a “Page of Testimony” for each unregistered victim, or to volunteer to assist others with this urgent task. This year Yad Vashem has designated the Hebrew calendar month of Nissan (April 2007), as Names Recovery Month, marked by the simultaneous names recovery drives in Jewish communities around the world.

As the vast majority of Holocaust victims missing from the Names Database are presumed to be from the territories of the Former Soviet Union, Yad Vashem launched a Russian language interface of the Names Database, and working in cooperation with local organizations, has embarked on a special campaign calling upon Jewish populations where former citizens of the Soviet Union now reside - the FSU, Israel, Germany, the USA and Canada - to register the unrecorded names.

"Bearing Witness" - Central theme for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 2007

Long before liberation, the Jews who experienced the Holocaust yearned to describe their experiences in writing. Throughout the war, many of those trapped in ghettos and camps, in hiding and in the forests, recorded their feelings on scraps of paper often acquired at great personal risk. As their world crumbled around them and they were hunted and murdered in their millions, their personal writing and creative endeavors never ceased.

The act of writing also served as a form of escape, a temporary release from the killings and the torture, from the walls surrounding them and the crematoria whose smoke billowed relentlessly into the skies above. Often, their statements also served as a last will and testament, directed at those living outside the danger. With the war’s end, many survivors felt an immediate need to give testimony, to tell about the pain and suffering they went through, so it would never be forgotten or denied. They began by giving detailed accounts to spontaneously organized local committees, in refugee camps and before commissions of inquiry working to investigate the war crimes of the Nazis and their collaborators. In bulletins, newsletters and newspapers published soon after liberation, they told about life in the ghettos and the camps, about the invaders, about the aid bestowed upon them by their Jewish comrades and non-Jewish rescuers, about the nightmare death marches and the dreamlike moments of freedom. Testimony after testimony, the foundation was slowly laid for the archives that would document one of the greatest tragedies in recorded history.

As early as 1945, more than 30 survivors’ diaries were printed, with over 5,000 published since. To date, tens of thousands of written, audio and video testimonies have been recorded, thanks to the initiative of several individuals and organizations devoted to perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust, including Yad Vashem, which has the largest collection of survivors’ testimonies. Personal testimonies have now become an influential and relevant genre in Holocaust, Jewish and Israeli literature, motivating generation after generation to partake in the act of remembering Holocaust victims.

Additional materials prepared by Yad Vashem relating to this year's central theme are attached. Lists of names for recitation are easily available from the Yad Vashem website:

Personalizing the Holocaust

The International Committee of “Unto Every Person There is A Name” takes pride in the fact that its raison d’etre – advocating the personalization of the Jewish tragedy – has gained wide recognition in Israel and around the Jewish world as hundreds of Jewish communities now participate in this project. As time passes and fewer witnesses remain, it is of great importance to create a personal link between the Jewish people today and those who were murdered under the Nazi genocidal regime. Ceremonies in which names of Holocaust victims are recited together with such information as age, place of birth and place of death, personalize the tragedy of the Holocaust. Emphasis is thus put on the millions of individuals – men, women and children who were lost to the Jewish people and not solely on the cold intangibility embodied in the term “The Six Million”.

Recitation ceremony planning recommendations

1. Outreach: The International Committee urges organizers of “Unto Every Person” ceremonies to invite all Jewish organizations and institutions in their community, including schools, synagogues of the various streams and community centers, and Israeli diplomatic representatives, to take an active part in the name recitation ceremonies and in the Name Recovery Campaign. The Committee specifically requests that members of the four sponsoring organizations actively cooperate in order to make the ceremony as inclusive and meaningful as possible. The Committee also recommends that non-Jewish groups and leaders in your larger community be invited to participate in the recitation ceremonies, which can be held in an appropriate public setting. Local and national media, especially television, should be encouraged to cover the ceremonies. Any visual products from the ceremony should be sent to Yad Vashem in order to be archived and exhibited in the future.

2. Family names retrieval: We urge you to encourage young members of your community to search for names of relatives and friends who were victims of the Holocaust, to compile your own personal and local lists of names and family members for commemoration, and to submit names to Yad Vashem's Database (see above).

3. Names recovery campaign: Should you choose to utilize the ceremony to kick-off a names recovery campaign, please refer to the online community outreach. Packed with tips and materials, including short movie clips and print -quality files of promotional materials, this resource will enable Jewish communities and educators to plan and implement meaningful programs, names collection events and related activities around Yom Hashoah and throughout the year. Promotional posters are also now available in English, Hebrew and Russian. (To order please send your name, mailing address and phone number, stating how many you require to: with subject header: “Poster Order.”) Display the posters together with Pages of Testimony (available in various languages on the Yad Vashem website) to advertise the ongoing campaign to collect Holocaust victims’ names.

Conditions permitting, you may screen the heartwarming story of Hilda Glasberg, who after a lifetime of believing that most of her immediate family had perished in the Holocaust, was reunited with her brother Simon Glasberg after 65 years. The reunion took place after Hilda’s grandchildren searched The Central Database of Shoah Victims Names’ in an effort to piece together the puzzle of their family’s fate.

Educators may make use of the "The Stories Behind the Names", lesson plans (Link from the Names Database) that utilize pictures and information from Pages of Testimony, to teach about the people and communities the Nazis destroyed. The material is geared to varying age groups and focuses on the meaning and importance of commemoration through Pages of Testimony, as well as the practical aspects of collecting and completing them.

4. Ceremony requirements: The recitation ceremonies require coordination and planning but involve very little expenditure. Basic requirements for the ceremony are:
• Lists of names
• Pages of Testimony
• Yizkor and El Maleh Rahamim prayer texts
• Poem “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” by Israeli poet Zelda
• Yizkor candles
• A sound system
• Professional-standard video equipment (optional)
• A table or podium covered in black
• Sufficient volunteers to recite names
• Master of Ceremonies

We are available to answer any questions that might arise and provide additional material as necessary.

Members of the “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” International Committee:
Rachel Barkai, Alexander Avraham (Yad Vashem); Alan Schneider (B’nai B’rith International); Laurence Weinbaum (World Jewish Congress); Naftaly Levy (World Zionist Organization); Aviva Raz Schechter (Israel Foreign Ministry); Zvi Cantor (Nativ).

Project Initiator: Haim Roet

Committee Members

Referents: Yad Vashem
Rachel Barkai, Commemoration and Public Relations; Ossi Kupfer, Project Coordinator; Alexander Avraham, Hall of Names
POB 3477, Jerusalem 9103401, Israel
Tel. (972)-2-6443574; Fax (972)-2-6433569

For more information about the Shoah Victims' Names Recovery Project contact:
Cynthia Wroclawski, Outreach Manager
The Shoah Victims' Names Recovery Project
Yad Vashem, POB 3477
Jerusalem, 9103401 ISRAEL
Tel: 972-2-644-3470

For North America
Rhonda Love
B’nai B’rith International Center for Programming
823 United Nations Plaza, Suite 715, New York, NY 10017, USA
Tel: (212)-490-3290; Fax: (212)-687-3429

For Eastern Europe
Dr. Laurence Weinbaum
World Jewish Congress
POB 4293, Jerusalem 91042, Israel
Tel: (972) –2-5635261; Fax. (972)-2-5635544

For Western Europe, Latin America, Australia
Naftaly Levy
WZO Department for Zionist Activities
POB 92, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: (972)-2-6202262; Fax (972)-2-5445141

For the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Aviva Raz Schechter
Department for Antisemitism and Holocaust Issues
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: (972)-2-5303696; Fax: (972)-2-5303159

For the Former Soviet Union
Zvi Cantor
8 Hamelacha St., POB 21609
Tel Aviv 67251, Israel
Tel: (972) 3 5639718/06; Fax: (972) 3 5639713

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