19 January 2016

Telling the Shocking Stories: Yad Vashem's "Untold Stories"

If you already know about Yad Vashem's "The Untold Stories: The Murder Sites of the Jews in the Occupied Territories of the Former USSR" project, you're way ahead of me. I just recently discovered it. 

And I'm shocked - shocked!

I am shocked not only because the stories of what happened during the Shoah in my family's communities is horrifying and heart-breaking; 

I am shocked not only because I pride myself on knowing about the resources of my craft: Jewish genealogy - and somehow missed this one; but also, 

I am shocked because locating this important information on the Yad Vashem website is difficult - very difficult.

Two clicks to the "Shoah Names Database"
Now I use the Yad Vashem webpage with some frequency, but my usual go-to location is the "Shoah Names Database," easily found via the Digital Collections tab.[1] Two clicks and I'm there. Easy.

On another website, I'd found a URL link to the "Untold Stories" part of the the Yad Vashem website and was enthralled. This is the kind of information that Father Patrick DuBois has been collecting in his Yahad in Unum (Holocaust By Bullets) project. [Unfortunately, he has a huge workload ahead of him and the towns of interest to me have not yet been visited.] I tried to locate the "Untold Stories" page on Yad Vashem by navigating via the tabs on the website. This was quite the challenge. Ultimately I located it by clicking on:
  • the Research tab
  • Projects 
  • Killing Sites
At that point, one has the choice of:
If one clicks on "The Untold Stories..." link, one heads to a welcome page for the "Untold Stories" project. Click enter and then use the Communities or Countries drop down menus to navigate to one's community of interest. In my case, I was interested in the community once called Labun, today located within Ukraine. One may find it either by scrolling down to the letter L in the Communities drop down list or by using the Countries list, navigating to Ukraine, and then scrolling down to Labun in the alphabetical list of communities.

The main Labun main page provides a good summary of information about Labun during the Nazi occupation and  photos taken in the community.

I already have acquired permission to use the image of the Labun bath house from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's Archives website on my Labun/Yurovshchina community website. But I had not before seen the fuzzy image, attributed to the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Archives, of other town buildings.[2] The photograph shows a church that is not extant in Labun today. I will have to do some additional study of the photos I took when in Labun/Yurovshchina in June 2013, but I think this church must have stood in the grassy expanse of the former market area.

There are links to more information about the mass murder sites [red arrows, above] and monuments erected in memory of the victims [blue arrow, above]. 

When one clicks on one of the murder sites, one also gains access to links to video and written testimony about the atrocities.

In the case of Labun, Yad Vashem only has a photo of one of the memorial monuments - and a poor one, at that. I took photographs here and here of both memorials and will see if Yad Vashem would like copies of those images.

By selecting a region in the Online Guide of Murder Sites of Jews in the Former USSR portion of the project, one will find a table of murder sites in that area, the sites' geographical coordinates and description. For Labun, I selected Kamenets Podolsk (Labun's region at the time). 

For some reason Labun is not listed in this table. However, I was able to locate sites in other nearby communities: Polonnoye, Gritsev, and Baranovka. In other regions, such as Wolyn, I found information about Annopol, near Slavuta. 

Check this out for your ancestral community. This is a wonderful resource. I just wish it were not so hidden on the Yad Vashem website!

1. For those, who are not as familiar with the Yad Vashem website as they should be, the "Shoah Names Database" holds an ever-expanding index of records (and, in some case, digitized original documents) of those who were victims of the Holocaust. It includes "Pages of Testimony" submitted since about 1956 by people reporting information about family and friends who died in the Shoah, as well as documentation Yad Vashem has collected from other sources.
2. I have requested permission to use this photo on my Labun/Yurovshchina community website, but have yet to hear back from the Shoah Foundation

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