December 10, 2007

Nazi archive will help save lost names

To rescue a name is to rescue a life from oblivion. Via Yahoo News:

When Bill Connelly heard that the heirs of a collector of Jewish memorial books were cleaning out his library, he rushed to New York and fished dozens of the Yiddish-language volumes out of a municipal trash bin. With their lists of residents from long vanished European communities — sometimes recorded street by street — the books often are all that's left of entire villages or neighborhoods consumed in the Nazi genocide of World War II.

To rescue a name is to rescue a life from oblivion, Holocaust survivors believe.

The yizkor books, from the Hebrew word for "remember," are now on the shelves, alongside hundreds of other volumes, at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum where Connelly works.

"It's a gesture to the centuries: It says, this is who we are, and we will not disappear," said Connelly, referring to the books he salvaged 10 years ago that formed the foundation of the museum's library.

Now, the museum is gaining access to millions more names, the largest registry of Holocaust victims existing anywhere. For more than 60 years, they were locked in a secretive archive in Germany that houses records scooped up by Allied troops from concentration camps, Nazi SS offices and postwar displaced-persons compounds.

In August, the International Tracing Service of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which administers the archive, began transferring digital copies of its documents to the museum in Washington, to Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, and to the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw, Poland.