Service-Gathering the Fragments


The Holocaust took place during World War II, and millions of Jews were put to death over the years of the War, in Nazi concentration camps like Auschwitz, and in forests of Eastern Europe, and in their own towns and ghettos. Today, 75 years later, there are still Survivors alive to tell their inspiring stories. But soon, there will be no Survivors left. For many years, Yad Vashem in Israel, the great Holocaust Memorial, has been seeking and collecting memories; videos, audio records, photos, and other ephemera of Survivors. In the latest issue of Martyrdom and Resistance, the newsletter for American supporters of Yad Vashem, there was an article about the program they call Gathering the Fragments, describing their efforts to collect as many memories as they can from living Survivors and families of victims, to better document the lives of all who were affected by the Holocaust.

There is the story of the 1943 postcard that Samuel Akerman threw from the deportation train taking him to his demise in the Majdanek Death Camp. The postcard was donated by his 91-year-old daughter. The archivists from Yad Vashem snap photos and scan documents into their mobile database, to preserve for posterity the records of those who were murdered, and their relatives who remember them.

On May 2, the cornerstone was laid for the new Shoah Heritage Collections Center on the Yad Vashem Campus in Jerusalem. It will be the permanent home for “210 million documents, 500,000 photographs, 131,000 Survivor testimonies, 32,400 artifacts, and 11,500 works of art related to the Holocaust”.

“The German Nazis were determined not only to annihilate the Jewish people, but to obliterate their identity, memory, culture, and heritage”, said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. But the new Heritage Collections Center will be living proof of their failure.

Through this Gathering the Fragments program, Yad Vashem has already collected some 250,000 items from Survivors and their families, to be preserved for posterity and available for online viewing and study. They will continue to collect as many items as they can, so that the Holocaust will never be forgotten, or its influence diminished. Yad Vashem has an excellent Web site for those who are interested in the history of the German “Final Solution”. Ray and I visited in 2007, when we were in Israel with Michael Medved, and it was a truly emotional experience for us. This initiative is a significant service to the world, so that we Never Forget.

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  1. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    Gathering aids to memory, ordinary, real things that link to the past and so help keep the past “real,” is a great service to all of us. This post is part of the November theme, “Service.” The month is filled up, so I will post December’s theme shortly.

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  2. Bill Nelson Inactive
    Bill Nelson

    I have read a large number of books written about the holocaust. And I prefer these first person accounts.


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  3. GrannyDude Member

    I got lost in those stories. 

    I remember reading, somewhere? about how the stories that emerge from the Holocaust are, by definition, the stories of the lucky ones, the ones who received support and help from non-Jews even if it was no more than the posting of a last letter thrown from a train headed into the abyss.  I think of these as a sort of hail mary pass, flung into the future in the wild faith that there would be hands waiting to catch and hold their memories. The remarkable thing—indeed, the excruciatingly hopeful thing—is that they weren’t wrong. 

    But that breaks my heart too. 

    • #3
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