19 July 2015

IAJGS 2015, Jerusalem: Pre-Conference Day at Yad Vashem

On the Sunday before the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference started, I took advantage of a conference-sponsored full-day at Yad Vashem.

Prior to our Yad Vashem visit, we were instructed to select activities from a menu and develop a schedule for our day. As my intent was to look at the International Tracing Service (ITS) files, I made sure to sign up for the first presentation of Zvi Bernhardt's overview of onsite databases. After that I reserved a two-hour session for onsite research and two "behind the scenes" tours. I left the afternoon a bit free so I could sneak in a bit more research, as needed.

In 1943 the Allied Forces Headquarters along with the British Red Cross began tracing and registering missing persons in Europe. As the magnitude of the situation became clear, work continued and a more permanent repository for this information was established as the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany. The ITS documents information on Nazi persecutions, forced labor and the Holocaust in Europe. Eleven nations governed the collection of information and for years, the information was not available for researchers. 

That changed in 2007 and now each of the 11 countries governing ITS has one repository that is receiving and making available digitized copies of original records. The records are not, however, available on the Internet. In Israel the repository is Yad Vashem. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum houses the records in the USA.

I'm glad I took in Zvi Bernhardt's onsite database overview first. ITS information is digitized and available at Yad Vashem, but accessing the database is not intuitive - in fact, it's down right confusing.

The ITS collection contains information about people in displaced persons' camps in Western Europe after the War. There is a Central Names Index that allows one to search and quickly see if a survivor's records are in the collection. The digitized card for each survivor is a tracing document that contains a six digit number used to access additional digitized records for that individual.  

Yad Vashem will not allow researchers to use thumb drives on their computers. Fortunately, I had my camera and was allowed to take photos of the computer screen to capture images of the records I located within the database.

   I was able to locate records for my cousin Sally Eisner and her late brother, Abe Barath, from Zaleszczyki, Ukraine, as well as Sally's late husband Leon from Tluste. I have obscured Sally's birth date on the card shown above. The word "befreit" means free.

In addition, I found information on Bas-Szewa Szkaluk Liderman, who had been married to Feiga Greenfield's and Morris Lederman's brother Zanvel Liderman. Zanvel died before Nazi occupation and Bas-Szewa (who later became Sarah Lederman in the United States) and her daughter Lucia were on the run through much of the war. They made it to the United States in 1949 and settled near family in Cincinnati.

Since getting home and using some of the ITS information, I have been able to locate the passenger manifest from the S.S. General Blatchford for Sarah and Lucia Lederman's arrival in Boston on 7 July 1949.

Of course there is so much more to Yad Vashem than just a genealogist's wish list of documents. I had only a few minutes so I fairly ran to the other end of the complex to view the Valley of Communities. The 2.5 acre monument contains over 5,000 names of Jewish communities that were destroyed or nearly so during the Holocaust. It is a very powerful statement. 

I located the town of Sally's birth, Zaleszczyki, but did not find my father's family's community, Labun, or any of the surrounding small ones in their area of what had been the Khmelnitsky Oblast, Soviet Union (now Ukraine). I wonder how/if I can get these communities recognized in the monument?

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