Theme: Genocide and/or Mass Crimes
Har Hazikarón, Jerusalén, 9103401
Theme: Genocide and/or Mass Crimes
Purpose of Memory
Remember and honor the 6,000,000 Jewish victims of the Shoah, and safeguard the documents and files on the Holocaust.
Date of creation / identification / declaration
2013: Yad Vashem Pages of Testimony collection registered in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
The Yad Vashem memorial – World Holocaust Remembrance Center – is located on Mount Har Hazikaron (Mount of Remembrance) located in the west of the city of Jerusalem. The main sector is the Holocaust History Museum, which operates in a large concrete building shaped like a triangular prism, mostly buried on the Mount of Remembrance. Visitors enter the museum over a bridge and cross a zigzagging path where the various exhibits that chronologically narrate the history of the Holocaust are located. The events are related from the perspective of the victims, through images, personal objects, videos and audiovisual resources with testimonies from the survivors. At the end of the historical tour is the Hall of Names, in the center of which is an enormous dome that contains thousands of photographs and names extracted from the Pages of Testimony collection. The museum tour ends on a balcony from where you can see the city of Jerusalem.
Outside the museum is the Hall of Remembrance, which was built with rocks brought from the Sea of Galilee. Inside, the Eternal Flame burns in a bronze chalice illuminating the space and in front of it is a stone crypt that contains the ashes of victims of the Holocaust. The names of the Nazi death camps have been engraved on the room’s floor. The monument is surrounded by trees that were planted in honor of the “Righteous Among the Nations”, those who helped save the lives of thousands of Jewish people during World War II.
Between 1933 and 1945, the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) and its leader Adolf Hitler were in power in Germany and established a totalitarian system. Since 1933 a policy was implemented aimed at the economic dispossession, social isolation and annulment of the legal and civil equality of the Jewish population. Nazism followed ideas of racial anti-Semitism and social Darwinism, and proclaimed the superiority of the “Germanic race” that they referred to as the “Aryan race”, asserting that it should prevail throughout the world. During the first months of government, hundreds of laws were passed against the Jewish population of Germany. Among them were the Nuremberg Laws, enacted in 1935, that deprived Jews of their political rights.
Between 1935 and 1938, the situation of the Jewish community worsened, as did international tension between the Nazi government and other European powers. Through propaganda the contemptuous image of the Jewish people was intensified. During the “Night of Broken Glass”, from November 9 to 10, 1938, there were thousands of attacks on Jewish people that generated a considerable increase in their emigration, but many of the destination countries refused to receive them. Starting in 1939 the SS (Schutzstaffel) organization, which controlled the German police forces, was in charge of “solving” the so-called “Jewish problem”, a euphemism used by Nazism.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. In the following months, the German army conquered much of continental Europe, where the presence of a Jewish population was very strong. The Nazi administration deported millions of Jews from the occupied territories to ghettos and concentration camps, where they were obligated to perform forced labor. In January 1942, Nazi policies decreed the “final solution”, a euphemism that was used to name the indiscriminate and systematic killing of millions of Jews. From that year on, eight death camps were established to systematically murder people in gas chambers. On September 2, 1945, the Allied powers defeated the Axis, ending World War II. It is estimated that approximately 6,000,000 Jewish people were killed during the conflict.
After the war, hundreds of thousands of survivors settled as refugees in camps run by Western Allied countries along Germany, Austria, and Italy. From the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, and until 1951, approximately 700,000 Holocaust survivors emigrated to that country.
The idea of building a museum in Jerusalem for Jewish victims of the Holocaust was first proposed in 1942 at a meeting of the Jewish National Fund by Mordechai Shenhavi, who later became the first director of Yad Vashem. In June 1947, the First Holocaust Research Conference was held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and planning for the museum began. In 1953 the Israeli parliament passed the Yad Vashem law which established the Authority for the Remembrance of Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust, whose function was to commemorate the Jewish victims murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. The organism’s tasks included the recognition of the Righteous Among the Nations, to honor those who risked their lives to save the Jewish people during World War II. That same year, the Yad Vashem Institute and Memorial was inaugurated on Mount Har Hazikaron (“Mount of Remembrance”) located west of Jerusalem. During the first years, Yad Vashem focused on the investigation and collection of documents and testimonies. On May 1, 1962, the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations was inaugurated, where trees were planted in their honor.
The most important element of the center is the Holocaust History Museum, reopened in 2005. It operates in the building designed by the architect Moshé Safdie, which consists of a prismatic structure that occupies an area of 4,200 m2 and crosses the Commemoration Mount underground. The museum runs along a zigzagging path where the history of the Holocaust is chronologically shown through photographs, objects, documents and audiovisual resources. The narrative is presented from a victims’ perspective, through survivor testimonies and personal possessions.
Yad Vashem, as the World Shoah Commemoration Center, has the mission of honoring the victims, the survivors and the Righteous among the Nations, and safeguarding documents and archives of the Holocaust. In addition, the site develops a pedagogical function through the International School for the Study of the Holocaust – inaugurated in 1993 – and the library, which contains approximately 160,000 books and thousands of newspapers of the time.
The Yad Vashem archives became the world’s most comprehensive collection of Holocaust documents. They currently comprise 200,000,000 pages, as well as documentaries and videos with testimonies from survivors. The material focuses on the period of persecution, from the early 1930s to the end of World War II. The Pages of Testimony collection was created by Yad Vashem along with partner institutions to restore the identity and life stories of the 6,000,000 Jews killed in that war. Through the Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project, the biographical data of 4,500,000 Jewish victims of the Holocaust were collected and documented in a collaborative database, which is compiled in the Central Database of Names.
Ceremonies are held at Yad Vashem in which the highest political authorities of Israel participate to commemorate the Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and Heroism, which begins with the sunset of the 27th Nisan (the first month of the Hebrew calendar) and ends at next sunset. Events are also held every January 27 on the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, established by the UN in 2005.