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The Holocaust

The Holocaust Resource Center

Excerpts from Diaries, Memoirs, and Letters

During the Holocaust, Jews documented their experiences in their own words and from their own perspective in letters and diaries. Some of these poignant testimonies were written before the onset of the systematic murder of European Jewry, but many of them were written shortly before their authors' deaths, while murders were taking place all around. Many of these important sources are the result of conscious acts of memorialization and documentation by Jews who feared that after the annihilation of European Jewry no witness would survive to tell of the crime and the extent of their suffering. During the Holocaust, Jews sent letters to their loved ones, even under the most desperate circumstances: censored letters from the camps, letters hidden in extermination camps and in the ruins of ghettos and even letters thrown from deportation trains. Over the years, Yad Vashem has amassed these letters and has published a collection of "last letters." Just like memoirs and diaries, these letters demonstrate the Jews' desire to document the crime and perpetuate the memory of the catastrophe. Some of them contain heartrending expressions of hope for survival, rehabilitation, and the reunification of families while referring to the most mundane details of everyday life. Most of these Jews perished in the Holocaust and never saw the end of the war.

We have decided to include in this category memoirs written by Holocaust survivors who witnessed the crime with their own eyes and experienced the horrors firsthand. By taking it upon themselves to recount–after the fact and with the perspective of time–what they underwent during the Holocaust years, these survivors have given us a source of unparalleled significance that fills in some of what is missing from the sources written by Jews during the Holocaust. In recognition of the importance of these sources, Yad Vashem has published memoirs as well as Holocaust-era diaries.

Total Sources (by media type):

Diaries and Letters 228
Total Sources 228
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