Monday, November 9, 2009

A Holocaust Geographic “How to” for Genealogists (Part 1 of 2)


Special Guest Post by Peter Landé
(full bio at the bottom of this article).


Genealogists searching for Holocaust information are accustomed to searching databases for family names of interest. They consult data provided by the many genealogical Special Interest Groups such as JRI Poland, and of course, they may also search libraries for locality specific sources such as Yizkor books or general histories of a community. They can utilize useful online sources such as Footnote.com, Ancestry.com, etc. However, with the exception of JewishGen’s Holocaust Database, which can be searched by town, none focus solely on Holocaust data.


What I find, however, is that few researchers are aware of three major geographic online Holocaust focused sources, which, in themselves, do not yield family names, but rather lead the researcher to extremely valuable sources of information.


I refer to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s (USHMM) Name List Catalog, Yad Vashem’s Shoah-Related Lists Database and the International Tracing Service’s (ITS) Inventory Search or “Inventar”. Each is described below.



USHMM: Name List Catalog

This is the Holocaust Museum’s ongoing attempt to identify and describe all sources of information containing Holocaust related name lists, whether in book, memoir, archival file, internet resource or any other format, even if the resource is not held at the Museum. '

To visit the catalog, please click here.

You can search by country, or even by name of author of relevant books, though I would not recommend either since such searches would be too broad. If you enter the name of a town and click the box just below the search field you will get information regardless of how the locality was filed (e.g. Kovno, Kaunas, Kovne or Kauen).


To take another example, if you type in Warsaw you will get 322 entries, Warschau 30 entries, and Warszawa 585 entries, but if you check the box you will be able to identify all the sources of information, regardless of spelling.


What you will NOT find are names themselves. What you will find is a notation by each entry such as NL = Name List, which indicates that the names in that source are included in the Museum’s Name Search Catalog, CC = (Claims Conference) which means that the source was identified by Claims Conference restitution claims researchers or YV which means that the list is held at Yad Vashem.

The extent of the information on each source varies considerably, but, while all identify sources of information on names, none includes the name lists themselves. The Survivors Registry at the USHMM welcomes additions/corrections/comments to the information contained in this source.


While not directly relevant, it may be useful to clarify Name Search at the USHMM. This is similar but also very different from the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem. It includes both victims and survivors and Jews and non-Jews. While there are currently 5,967,092 name entries taken from 378 different sources in this database, this figure is misleading, since an individual’s name may appear in several documents and there is no attempt to link the listings. Therefore, there is no way of knowing how many persons are identified in this database.

Finally, and unfortunately, unlike the Hall of Names, the USHMM public version of Name Search, (which can be accessed by clicking here, contains only a tenth of the number of names contained in the version used at the museum to answer inquiries. This is true since, in many cases, the providers/institutions from which the bulk of the information came insist that it not be made available on the web.

About Peter Landé
Peter Landé was born in Germany of German parents but came to the United States as a young child. He studied at Haverford College and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He also spent a year at Hamburg University under a Fulbright grant.

Mr. Landé joined the Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer in 1956. He served in diplomatic and consular positions in New Zealand, India, Japan, Egypt, Germany and Canada as well as in senior positions in the Department of State. He retired as United States Economic Minister in Cairo in 1988.

Since his retirement, Mr. Landé has been active in genealogy research, writing and lecturing, with special emphasis on Holocaust records. He has traveled widely in Europe collecting lists of victims and survivors and speaking to various groups. He has also written numerous articles identifying sources of information for Holocaust name lists in North America, Europe and Israel, which are available to researchers.

As a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) he has been involved in a major project to identify and collect in a single computerized database the names of all Holocaust victims and survivors, whether Jewish or non-Jewish (currently about 3 million names), as well as to develop a "list of lists", i.e. an inventory of thousands of sources of information which include the names of Holocaust victims and survivors. This list serves both as a guide to later efforts to digitize names and as a reference tool to assist USHMM personnel to reply to inquiries.

Mr. Landé has also been active in the work of Jewishgen, which has its own on-line Holocaust database, currently with over 2 million records.

In July 2001 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies for his work in identifying sources of information on Holocaust victims and survivors.


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