TEL AVIV - Yad Vahsem, considered by some the world’s largest Holocaust museum, has been operating an online survivors' and victims’ database of names for a little over a year.
Since November 2004, more than 4 million surfers from 178 countries have checked out the 3-million- name database; most visitors are English and Hebrew speakers, a museum source said.
According to the source, the website proved to be successful in locating long-lost relatives and bringing families back together after dozens of years apart.
7,000 new web pages were added on a monthly basis this past year - six times the number of search requests that were filled with Yad Vashem before the website's launch, the source added.
A Yad Vashem source said world media’s interest in the site has kept the Holocaust on the front page.
“The enormous interest in the database has exceeded all expectations,” the source said.
Over 20,000 entries
Cynthia Wroclawski, marketing director of Yad Vashem’s on-line database, added that so far the museum's e-mail has been flooded with just over 20,000 appeals, most of which expressed gratitude for the on-line database.
"I managed to locate my murdered family members, and more than that I found a witness-page that was filled by my father in 1957! Of course the revelation greatly excited me, to see my father’s handwriting, who passed away 30 years ago, on my computer screen…I feel someone reached his hand out to this family, a virtual hand, but a hand all the same,” a Ramat Hasharon resident wrote on the site.
Another user, an Ashkelon resident, wrote: “I entered the website and I found my mother’s old testimonies from 1955. I was excited at the sight of her handwriting. These testimonies gave me the chills and caused me to tear.”
Russian language database
Yad Vashem executives decided to translate the database to Russian to make it accessible to residents of Eastern Europe, where many Holocaust survivors and their descendents live, and to the Russian-speaking community in Israel; the project is set to be completed by year’s end.
Worldwide Yad Vashem
The current database is composed of about 3 million names taken out of witness pages, which are forms that were created back in the 50’s in order to collect names and biographical details of Holocaust casualties.
Millions of additional names were taken from archive lists that Yad Vashem’s people collected in Europe.
Jewish accessibility to the world’s largest database of Holocaust victims has brought many people, including amateur geologists and descendents of Holocaust survivors, to the website.
In some way “Yad Vashem is not only in Jerusalem, but all over the world,” Wroclawski said.
Database – social search engine for Holocaust survivors
But in addition to engaging in personal stories, the website also functions as an on-line learning center; enabling surfers to send comments and add to the posted information. Thus, the site enables direct interaction with historic facts.
Every personal witness page, Wroclawski explained, enables one to contact general pages with which one can investigate the Holocaust, and discover what happened in every country and state in Europe.
"Survivors understand that now is the time, they need to open up and give the names, or else they would not be remembered,” Wroclawski said.