The Names Database was last updated on 6 February 2012What was the Holocaust?
The Holocaust was the murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators. Between the German invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 and the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, Nazi Germany and its accomplices strove to murder every Jew under their domination. Because Nazi persecution of the Jews began with Hitler's accession to power in January 1933, many historians consider this the start of the Holocaust era. The Jews were not the only victims of Hitler's regime, but they were the one single group that the Nazis sought to destroy entirely.
Is it "Holocaust" or "Shoah"?
"Holocaust" is the term used since the 1960s in the English-speaking world; it has been adopted also by the Germans. The word comes from the ancient Greek translation of the Bible and originally meant a sacrificial offering that was burnt completely, until nothing was left. Some people object to using this term, as it suggests some sort of sacrificial or religious significance to the event. The word "Shoah" is Hebrew and means a very large catastrophe. There are no theological underpinnings.
How many Jews were murdered in the Shoah? How do we know?
There is no precise figure for the number of Jews killed in the Shoah. The figure commonly used is the six million quoted by Adolf Eichmann, a senior SS official. Most research confirms that the number of victims was between five and six million. Early calculations range from 5.1 million (Raul Hilberg) to 5.95 million (the demographer Jacob Leschinsky). More recent research, by Yisrael Gutman and Robert Rozett in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, estimates the Jewish losses at 5.59-5.86 million, and a study headed by Wolfgang Benz presents a range from 5.29 million to 6 million. The main sources for these statistics are comparisons of pre-war censuses with post-war censuses and population estimates, as well as contemporary documentation, such as the daily reports of the killing units, collections of deportation lists and so others.
How do you define a Shoah victim?
At Yad Vashem, we define Shoah victims as Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis or their accomplices during the years of Nazi power, i.e. 1933-1945. Many non-Jews were also murdered at the same time, but they are counted as victims of Nazism, not as Shoah victims. This is because of the Nazis’ unique drive to annihilate all of the Jews. Jews who lived under Nazi rule and engaged in armed resistance are counted as Shoah victims if they fell. Jews who survived until the liberation but could no longer heal are considered victims if they died within six months of liberation (the end of October 1945). Jews who fell as soldiers in the Allied armies are generally not regarded as Shoah victims but rather as soldiers killed in war. However, tens of thousands of Jewish soldiers serving in the Soviet army, who were taken prisoners and selected for death in Nazi POW camps, are considered as Shoah victims. Large numbers of Jewish soldiers were reported missing without any possibility to establish their fate. Many survivors suffered from the consequences of their torment for decades. While they are not counted among the six million, their plight underlines the fact that there are two meanings to the term Shoah victims: those who perished and those who were tormented but survived.
How do you define a Shoah survivor?
Philosophically one might say that all Jews alive by the end of 1945 survived the Nazi genocidal intention, yet this is too broad to be useful, as it lacks the distinction between those who suffered the tyrannical Nazi boot on their neck, and those who would have, had the war against Nazism been lost. At Yad Vashem we define Shoah survivors as Jews who lived for any amount of time under Nazi domination, direct or indirect, and survived it. This includes French, Bulgarian and Romanian Jews who spent the entire war under anti-Jewish terror regimes but were not all deported, as well as Jews who forcefully left Germany in the 1930s. From a larger perspective, some think of other destitute Jewish refugees who escaped their countries in front of the invading German army, including those who spent years and sometimes died deep in the Soviet Union, also as Holocaust survivors. No historical definition can be completely satisfactory.
Why the lack of clarity? Didn't the Nazis keep meticulous lists?
Actually, in most cases they didn't. Most German Jews were registered, but not all; to a limited degree this was also true in other Western Europe countries. Almost none of the Jews shot in the territories conquered from the Soviet Union were registered; Jews who perished from starvation or epidemics in all but the largest ghettoes were not listed; individual Jews hunted down in fields and forests were not recorded; and most significantly, the millions of Jews who were simply pushed off trains and into gas chambers, in most cases, were not listed. Not by the Nazis, that is. Then again, many Jews were listed in pre-war documents, or were recorded at one point or another during the war, perhaps by ghetto authorities, or in a concentration camp; after the liberation various projects counted survivors. Many of these lists can be found on this website, at the Shoah Related List Database. For additional FAQs dealing with the history of Nazism and the Holocaust, see the Holocaust Resource Center
Questions about the Database
How many names are there in the database?
There are close to five million personal records in the database. However, some people appear in more than one record: This occurs when more than one Page of Testimony is submitted for the same person, or the same person appears on both a Page and a deportation list and so on. In addition, some records contain information on more than one person – for example, some of the Pages of Testimony submitted in the 1950's list entire families on a single Page. At the moment (January 2012) we estimate the number of separate individuals recorded in the database to be over four million. This number will grow as we enrich the database with additional sources.
Where did the names come from?
Currently the database is built on three types of sources:
- 1. Pages of Testimony. These are one-page forms, submitted to Yad Vashem by survivors, remaining family members or friends in commemoration of people who perished in the Holocaust. The first 800,000 of them were collected in the 1950s, and the rest since. There are currently some 2,600,000 names on Pages of Testimony, written in about thirty languages and four alphabets.
- 2. Historical documentation from the archives, such as the correspondence of the Nazi bureaucrats and their counterparts throughout Europe; personal documents of the Jews such as letters, passports, diaries and memoirs, as well as the documentation of the Jewish organs and institutions; lists detailing confiscation of assets, deportation lists or lists of victims; legal documentation from proceedings against Nazi criminals and collaborators, and much more. The documentation is in all European languages.
- Local commemoration projects: There are dozens of local initiatives to record the names of the Jews from a specific region, country, or camp. Yad Vashem has joined efforts with these projects, and their results are integrated into the central database. The list of our partners is here.
Standard searches on the database will automatically cull information from all of the sources, so that there may be multiple results for a single individual. Conversely, since the database is incomplete, many victims of the Shoah do not yet appear in it.
As we move forward, they will.
For more information see About the Database
When will there be 6,000,000 names in the database?
Never. Some Jews left no trace. They were murdered with their entire families, so there was no one left to submit Pages of Testimony for them; or they left no documentary traces; or the traces they left were destroyed, either during the war, or afterwards. In the 1960s and 1970s, archivists sometimes burned entire collections of what were perceived, unfortunately, as documents with no lasting value.
However, we at Yad Vashem do estimate that the extant documentation can probably offer at least some information on five million of the victims of the Shoah, perhaps even more. This can be achieved by investing the necessary funds and labor in uploading all the relevant documentation into the database.
Does anyone appear twice in the database?
Yes, there are some cases of this. Generally, overlapping documentation results in a richer picture of the individual, as each source adds information that the other source did not. One problem, however, can be that names are spelled in different ways or different languages, and that different sources may contain different bits of information so that the researcher cannot always be certain if two similar records really are about the same person.
Are there soldiers in the database?
Because the fate of most Jewish soldiers is generally not known (that is “missing in action”) and those murdered as POW’s cannot be singled out, it was decided to include all Jewish soldiers who fell with the mark “killed in military service”.
Are there survivors in the databse?
Some, inadvertently. Part of the information comes from archival documentation such as deportation lists, lists of camp inmates and so on. These documents tell of Jews being persecuted by the Nazis, during the Shoah. Most perished. A tiny minority managed to survive. They were victims of the Nazis, in that they suffered horribly and were persecuted nearly till death, but fortunately they then survived. Names of known survivors are not in this database. If you recognize someone who survived, please send us a post-war document, and we’ll remove his or her record from the database.
Are there any non-Jews in the database?
Occasionally, but not as a matter of policy. The database is an attempt to record the names of all the Jews murdered in the Shoah. When non-Jews are listed, it is because their names appear in the same archival documents that contained the names of Jews and could not be distinguished.
Why is it called "The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names"?
Yad Vashem is the only institution that is making a concerted effort to create a database of all Jews murdered in the Shoah. However, we are not working alone, and are honored to have highly committed and professional partners. The Names Database is the place where the efforts of all these partners are integrated, so that a person can find names culled from various projects with a single search.
How to use the Database
In what language to search?
The database is almost fully multilingual, meaning that it can be researched now in Hebrew, English, Spanish and Russian or more accurately in Hebrew, Latin or Cyrillic characters. Documents written in one language are transliterated into the alphabet(s) of the other(s). Please note, however, that the transliteration is not always exact: nicknames, for example, are rendered as the official name, not as a nickname. A document in Hebrew about Avraimaleh will appear in Latin characters as Avraham, for example.
What about geographic locations?
Names of places are generally spelled the way they were recorded in the documents. Whenever specified, or obvious, these are followed by their exact location as defined by administrative units (e.g. district, region and country). The administrative division used is the one valid throughout the 1930’ (before nationalist map redraws beginning in 1937). As a result, in the database a specific place will always appear with the same administrative location even if at later stages during the war it became part of another region or country (e.g. Lwow, Poland later Lvov, Ukraine (USSR) will appear as Lvov, Poland). Accordingly, names of larger or cross-border historical units such as Galizia or Grodno Gubernia are not retrievable at this stage having been dismantled after WWI. Others will refer to smaller units with similar names as in the case of Volhynia (Wolyn, Poland), Transylvania (inner Transylvania, Romania) or Silesia (Upper Silesia, Germany).
Search tip: Graphic and linguistic variants are linked within the system: a search for Lwow will retrieve also Lvov and Lemberg. If the exact spelling of a place is not known, it should be written as is sounds (phonetically) in English.
What If I can't find someone?
The database contains information only on about two thirds of the six million, so statistically your chance of finding information on any particular victim is only double the chance of not finding the information. However, before giving up you should try using the search options on the Advanced Search page. Should this be of no avail, you can always contact us.
Is there any other information at Yad Vashem?
Definitely. The Yad Vashem archives contain more documentation than that which is already in the database, albeit not always in an easily accessible form. Finding this information requires archival research of the pre-Web sort, which is possible to conduct only at Yad Vashem and not online.
Is Yad Vashem interested in corrections of the information?
Yes, we are!
Submit corrections to the individual Page of Testimony through the "Corrections/additions" form on the "record details" page. It saves time and confusion in identifying the Page in question.
If the Page of Testimony is correct, and we agree that the information was keyed in improperly, we will correct it. If we disagree, we will tell you that we disagree.
Note that it will be several months before these corrections appear in the online database, which is only updated periodically.
If the mistake is on the Page of Testimony and not in our transcription, we cannot alter the Page of Testimony which is in and of itself a piece of archival documentation. We suggest submitting a new Page of Testimony.
In the case of a minor mistake on a Page of Testimony, which you yourself submitted, we will alter it as per your specific instructions.
We welcome photographs of the victims as well as personal documents, letters or a brief biography. Submit additions through the “attach image or documentation” from.
Can Yad Vashem help me find submitters of information?
Yad Vashem's goal and mandate in collecting Pages of Testimony and developing the Central Database was to commemorate the victims of the Shoah. Reconnecting family members is a secondary function. Unfortunately, we rarely have information on whether the submitter of a Page of Testimony is still alive, nor on how to contact them today.
To locate a person's current address in Israel:
- Look for them in the online Israel phone book http://www.144.bezek.com The site is in Hebrew. Stephen Morse at http://stevemorse.org/hebrew/bezeq.html has created a utility, which allows non-Hebrew speakers to use the Bezeq site.
- Use the various services on the JewishGen website www.jewishgen.org . Note that there are many different services on this website, some of which require registration.
For survivors outside of Israel there are local and online phone books, as well as various Internet services such as Yahoo's People Search http://people.yahoo.com.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum maintains a registry of Holocaust survivors. http://www.ushmm.org/remembrance/registry , which includes survivors primarily, but not exclusively, from North America.
The Yad Vashem Archives and Library include extensive offline, information about survivors, but few of the records go beyond the year 1954. As such, the submitter's information on the Pages of Testimony is usually more recent than what we are likely to find for you at Yad Vashem. However, you are welcome to contact us. There is a fee for the research and it may take us up to two months to respond. You are also welcome to come to the reading room, where our staff can help you to research the matter yourself.
We hope that you will find this information helpful, and that you will succeed in contacting your family members.
Hints for genealogical research
Guide to Genealogical Resources at Yad Vashem