Friends  |  Press Room  |  Contact Us

Remembrance

Children in the Holocaust

Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2009

"Unto Every Person There is a Name"

Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day
21 April 2009 – 27 Nissan 5769

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

Introduction
Six million Jews, among them one-and-a-half million children, were murdered in the Shoah while the world remained silent. The worldwide Holocaust memorial project “Unto Every Person There is a Name”, now in its twentieth 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 efforts by enemies of the State of Israel and the Jewish people to deny the reality of the Holocaust and cast it as history’s seminal hoax. “Unto Every Person” also defies attempts to universalize this genocide and cast off its principal characteristic as a unique calamity of the Jewish people, while also building appreciation of the Shoah's tragic impact on the Jewish reality until today.

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, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, in consultation with the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and enjoys the official auspices of President of the State of Israel, the Hon. Shimon Peres (see President’s letter, Annex I).
In Israel, “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” has become an integral part of the official Yom Hashoah commemoration ceremonies, with the central events held at the Knesset and at Yad Vashem with the participation of elected officials, as well as events throughout the country.

 

Personalizing the Holocaust
The International Committee of “Unto Every Person There is A Name” takes pride in the fact that its raison d’être – 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”.

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, over half of the six million victims have been recorded and memorialized in the online Names Database at www.yadvashem.org, 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. Participants in “Unto Every Person there is a Name” are urged to join Yad Vashem’s global network of volunteers collecting the names of all the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust by recording their names, biographical details and photographs on Pages of Testimony. New online resources are available to enhance outreach efforts. (See Annex II for further details.)

“Children in the Holocaust” – Central theme for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 2009
Approximately 1.5 million children were murdered in the Holocaust. From the day the Nazis came to power, Jewish children became acquainted with cruelty, first in Germany, and, as time passed, in every other country the Germans conquered or forged an alliance. The parents and families of these children were unable to grant them the security and protection they needed. Jewish children were separated from their non-Jewish playmates and expelled from state-sponsored schools. They saw their parents lose the right to support their families, and often witnessed the descent of the family unit into an abyss of despair.

As the war broke out and antisemitic policies worsened, the suffering of Jewish children increased: many were doomed to the horrific suffering of life in the ghetto – bitter cold, never-ending hunger and a multitude of dangerous diseases. There, cut off from the world, Jewish children lived in the shadow of endless terror and violence. As smuggling was central to survival in the ghettos, they were often forced to assume the new role of breadwinner for their disintegrating families.

When the deportations to the extermination camps began, a chasm opened up in the lives of Jewish children. Throughout Nazi Europe, they fled and hid, separated from their parents and loved ones. Some of them found refuge in the homes of decent people whose conscience would not allow them to remain passive; some were hidden in convents and monasteries and boarding schools; others were forced to roam through forests and villages, hunting for food like wild animals and relying entirely on their own ingenuity and resourcefulness. Many were forced to live under assumed identities, longingly anticipating the return of their father and mother. Still, children in the Holocaust remained children, desiring only to partake in activities beloved by all their contemporaries. Wherever they were – in the ghettos and in hiding – they did not surrender moments of childish playfulness.

Of course, not all Jewish children were lucky enough to find a place of refuge, and many tens of thousands of children were caught and sent to the death camps. Their young age made most the first prey of the Nazi killing machine.

At the end of the war, a new chapter began, one of both hope and pain for the life that was gone, never to return. Many children were lost to their families and their Jewish heritage forever. For others, the war's end marked a beginning of their return to their real selves, a process filled with difficulties and torment. Very slowly, they emerged from hiding, from the forests and the camps, and began the long and painful process of rehabilitation. Despite the scars, they sought to rebuild their lives anew.

To read a moving letter written by a child during the Holocaust, click here

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 and recommit ourselves to counter them.

This year, Yom Hashoah will undoubtedly be colored by the dangerous and unprecedented outburst of anti-Semitism ignited around the world during Israel’s counter-terrorism campaign against Hamas in Gaza. This exponential spike in antisemitic acts and expressions, in a year that had otherwise witnessed a notable decrease in antisemitic incidents, is considered by some observers as unprecedented since the Nazi era. The intensity of the anti-Jewish rage, frequently accompanied by acts of violence, has engendered fear in Diaspora Jews. (for further reading, please see Annex III)

These developments demand vigilance on the part of Jewish communities around the world and illustrate again that the dark anti-Jewish prejudice which motivated the Holocaust is still alive in Europe and elsewhere, reinvigorated by large Moslem populations that have imported the Israel-Palestinian conflict into these arenas. The notion that military actions undertaken by the State of Israel in any way justifies outbreaks of antisemitism must be roundly rejected.

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 Names 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 Yad Vashem’s Outreach Guide click here for new resources. 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. 

4. Ceremony requirements: The recitation ceremonies require coordination and planning but involve very little expenditure. Basic requirements for the ceremony are:
* Poem “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” by Israeli poet Zelda (Annex IV)
* Lists of names (available here)
* Pages of Testimony (available here)
* Yizkor and El Maleh Rahamim prayer texts (available in Hebrew here)
* Six Yizkor candles
* A sound system
* Professional-standard video equipment. (The organizing committee intends to produce a film of this year’s ceremonies. Please submit materials to area referents below)
* A table or podium covered in black
* Sufficient volunteers to recite names
* Master of Ceremonie

We are available to answer any questions that might arise and provide additional material as necessary to ensure the success of your event.
Sincerely,
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); Ritta Tarlow (Nativ).
Project Initiator: Haim Roet
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
osi.kupfer@yadvahsem.com.il

For more information about the Shoah Victims' Names Recovery Project contact:
Cynthia Wroclawski, Manager
The Shoah Victims' Names Recovery Project
Yad Vashem, POB 3477
Jerusalem, 9103401 ISRAEL
Tel: 972-2-644-3470
cynthia.wroclawski@yadvashem.org.il

For North America
Rhonda Love
B’nai B’rith International Center for Programming
801 Second Avenue, 14th Floor, New York,  NY  10017
Tel: (212)-490-3290; Fax: (212)-687-3429
Rlove@bnaibrith.org

For Eastern Europe
Dr. Laurence Weinbaum
World Jewish Congress
POB 4293, Jerusalem 91042, Israel
Tel: (972)–2-6333000 Fax. (972)-2-633 3011
Laurence@wjc.co.il

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
naftalil@wzo.jazo.org.il

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
avivar@mfa.gov.il

For the Former Soviet Union
Ritta Tarlow
Nativ
8 Hamelacha St., POB 21609
Tel Aviv 67251, Israel
Tel: (972) 3 5639730; Fax: (972) 3 5614223
rittat@nativ.gov.il


Annex I



Annex II

Expanded Global Activity To Recover Names of Shoah Victims

Yad Vashem’s Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project has stepped up its worldwide efforts to recover the names of Shoah victims before they are lost to us forever. The aim of the project is to memorialize each individual Jew murdered in the Holocaust by recording their names, biographical details and photographs on Pages of Testimony. To learn more about the project click here. Participants of “Unto Every Person there is a Name” are invited to distribute Pages of Testimony at names recitation ceremonies on Yom Hashoah and to join our global network of volunteers.

To date, 3.5 million victims have been identified and memorialized in the Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names (www.yadvashem.org). As the generation of Shoah survivors recedes into history each name or additional piece of new information becomes an invaluable tool to help piece together the puzzle of the fate of Holocaust era Jews. It is incumbent upon the Jewish world to take part in Yad Vashem’s colossal efforts to record the names of the Jewish Victims of Nazism and bear witness to the lives of our murdered brethren.

We invite you to view our Pages of Testimony Tutorial video, which we created to demonstrate how to help survivors and others from their generation to fill out Pages of Testimony and memorialize Jews they know of who were murdered in the Holocaust. The video presents a volunteer visiting with two women in their homes to assist them in recalling and recording the names of Shoah victims on Pages of Testimony. The video is ideal for screening at volunteer training sessions or to provide tips and insight for individuals wishing to embark on this project.

In addition we urge you to make use of a variety of ONLINE RESOURCES designed to enhance your outreach efforts and help you plan and implement your Names Recovery campaign. Packed with tips and materials, short movie clips and print-quality files of promotional materials, our community outreach guide will enable Jewish communities and educators to plan and implement meaningful memorial programs, names collection events and related activities around Yom Hashoah and throughout the year. 

Promotional posters and CDs are now available in English, Hebrew or Russian. Display the posters together with Pages of Testimony (available in a number of languages on the Yad Vashem website) to advertise the ongoing campaign to collect Holocaust victims’ names. To order please send your name, mailing address and phone number, stating how many you require to: names.proj@yadvashem.org.il with subject header: “Materials Order.”

Conditions permitting, you may screen the heartwarming story (available on the online Community Outreach Guide) 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.

In addition, you are invited to view a new trilogy of documentary films produced by Boris Maftsir, director of the Shoah Victims' Names Recovery Project in the Occupied Territories of the Former Soviet Union. These short movies depict the pain of Shoah remembrance through the stories of those who miraculously survived impending death. The films aim to convey the personal and collective importance of commemorating the names of Shoah victims. To order copies of the films on DVD please contact names.proj@yadvashem.org.il.

Educators may make use of the "The Stories Behind the Names", lesson plans that utilize pictures and information from Pages of Testimony, to teach about the people and communities the Nazis destroyed click here.  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.

Annex III

Reflections on contemporary forms of antisemitism
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 and recommit ourselves to counter them.

This year, Yom Hashoah will undoubtedly be colored by the dangerous and unprecedented outburst of anti-Semitism ignited around the world during Israel’s counter-terrorism campaign against Hamas in Gaza. This exponential spike in antisemitic acts and expressions, in a year that had otherwise witnessed a notable decrease in antisemitic incidents, is considered by some observers as unprecedented since the Nazi era. The intensity of the anti-Jewish rage, frequently accompanied by acts of violence, has engendered fear in Diaspora Jews.

On every continent and in virtually every city, the anti-Jewish offensives, usually initiated by Muslims from large local Muslim communities including Palestinians, have been supported by wide spectrums of indigenous citizens.

The Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism reported that the period of Operation Cast Lead – December 27 to January 17 – saw a four-fold increase of anti-Semitic incidents worldwide over the same period the year earlier. The sharp increase was not only in numbers – from 80-250 – but in intensity. Individual Jews were assaulted, synagogues and Jewish institutions were attacked, and Jewish property, homes and stores were damaged. Also, mass demonstrations were held worldwide featuring violent anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli slogans including equating Israel with Nazi Germany. Enraged demonstrators railed against Israel and indulged in anti-Semitic calls to “boycott Jews,” “gas” them and “dismantle the Nazi Israeli state.” The corollary to this spurious comparison, possible only within a climate of Holocaust trivialization and denial, is that Israel, an evil force like the Nazis, no longer has the right to exist. Incidents were mostly perpetrated in France, Britain, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany and the USA.

This form of political anti-Semitism – the delegitimization of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland of the Jewish People – is now widely accepted by scholars as a modern metamorphosis of traditional Jews-hatred into vilification of the Jewish state.

A spate of Jew-baiting in many European cities would indicate that inhibitions to expressing open animus towards Jewish that held for 60 years since Holocaust, have largely fallen away. As summarized by Jewish World commentator Isi Leibler, prominent Jews in the UK have encountered death threats; students at Oxford University have gleefully proclaimed that in five years, their campus “would be a Jew-free zone; a high-ranking British diplomat was arrested after publicly launching a foul-mouthed anti-Semitic tirade; the London-based Royal Court Theatre is staging a viciously anti-Israeli play reminiscent of anti-Semitic plays performed in the Middle Ages portraying Jews as demonic Christ-killers; in Italy, a labor union has called for a boycott of all Jewish businesses; in France, synagogues have been attacked and cars belonging to Jews firebombed; a Swedish school has refused to accept Jewish students; a leading Norwegian TV comedian expressed regret for the billions of innocent lice killed with Jews in gas chambers; the Barcelona municipality canceled a Holocaust memorial because “making a Jewish Holocaust ceremony whilst a Palestinian Holocaust was taking place was not right”; simultaneously, 30,000 Barcelonans marched in support of Hamas; the deputy South African foreign minister was obliged to apologize after making a statement railing against Jewish money that controlled America; violent anti-Jewish riots broke out at York University in Toronto, Canada causing Jewish students to barricade themselves in the Hillel office.

Venezuela and Turkey are two countries that demand special vigilance because antisemitism there has been fomented by these country’s heads of state. An  onslaught against the Venezuelan Jewish community by President Hugo Chavez, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ally, including demands for the Jews to condemn Israel and calls to boycott Jewish enterprises, resulted in the vandalizing of one synagogue and the bombing of another. There is now concern that other Latin American governments like Argentina, imbued with anti-Semitism bolstered by Iranian-sponsored Arab migrants, could also embark on anti-Jewish campaigns. In Turkey, in the wake of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s histrionic outbursts against Israel before, during and after the Davos Economic Forum, Jewish institutions were vandalized and calls were made to boycott Jewish businesses.

Even in the United States, where public opinion remains overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, the blatantly anti-Semitic demonstrations in major cities have shocked many American Jews hitherto confident that unlike in Europe, anti-Semitism would never reassert itself in their country. The increasing dominance of anti-Israeli elements on most campuses, where the next generation of the country’s political, business and intellectual leadership is being educated, provides additional grounds for concern.

Leiber has observed that the use of holocaust inversion to demonize Israel, and the bracketing of Israelis with Nazis, have extended from the Arab arena into the mainstream and are now sanctioned as legitimate political discourse. Today, much of what purports to be criticism of Israel even in the “respectable” media is reminiscent of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda. Anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda inciting to terrorism, disseminated by Muslim states and radical organizations, also increased extensively, influencing millions of Muslims and their sympathizers globally and laying the ground for the harassment of Jews and Israelis and the support for terrorism.

These developments demand vigilance on the part of Jewish communities around the world and illustrate again that the dark anti-Jewish prejudice which motivated the Holocaust is still alive in Europe and elsewhere, reinvigorated by large Moslem populations that have imported the Israel-Palestinian conflict into these arenas. The notion that military actions undertaken by the State of Israel in any way justifies outbreaks of antisemitism must be roundly rejected.


Annex IV

Unto every person there is a name
Bestowed on him by God
And given to him by his parents.
Unto every person there is a name
Accorded him by his stature and type of smile And style of dress.
Unto every person there is a name
Conferred by the mountains
And the walls which surround him.
Unto every person there is a name
Granted him by Fortune's Wheel,
Or that which neighbors call him.
Unto every person there is a name
Assigned him by his failings
Or contributed by his yearnings.
Unto every person there is a name
Given to him by his enemies
Or by his love.
Unto every person there is a name
Derived from his celebrations
And his occupation.
Unto every person there is a name
Presented him by the seasons
And his blindness.
Unto every person there is a name
Which he receives from the sea
And is given to him by his death

Zelda