Images of a lost childhood
Yad Vashem urges public to help identify children that appear in the 25,000 photos gathered by the Holocaust museum
They were found in family albums, unknown archives and even in the Nazis' photo database. Yellowing pictures, some almost completely faded. The faces that look out of then are pure. The faces of innocent children caught in the midst of hell on earth.
Despite numerous efforts, no one knows who they are and whether they managed to survive the horror.
Some 25,000 photographs of children that were taken during the Holocaust are stored in the archives of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum. They make up only about 10% of the overall number of photos kept there.
"The visual testimony is very important to us," explained Dr. Haim Gertner, Director of the Yad Vashem Archives. "We record the lives of Jews starting with the period before the Holocaust, through their lives at the ghettos and camps, to the lives of the survivors at the camps built for the displaced.
"We document the victims and the survivors, the saviors, the murderers and the actual acts of killing," he said. "The photos of the children, some of whom may still be alive today, have a special significance."
'Public one of our best partners'Exactly one year ago, some 130,000 photos have been uploaded to the Yad Vashem website, and since then the flow of photographs sent to the museum has only increased. "In the last year alone we received 12,000 new photos for our archive," said Gertner, "most of which, about 11,000, from a photo collection of Czechoslovakia's Jews."
Only a few of the photos' donors or of surfers to the website recognize the people in the pictures, and Yad Vashem is investing great efforts in identifying them.
Gertner said that in some cases the museum itself initiates efforts to identify those photographed. "For instance, we received a large photo collection from the Terezin concentration camp. We organized a conference with the camp's survivors and showed them the photographed. They identified many of the people in them."
Yad Vashem also employs a small team of researchers on the project, "but one of our best partners is undoubtedly the public, both in Israel and abroad," Gertner concluded.