Yad Vashem

views updated Jun 27 2018


YAD VASHEM (The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority ), Israel's and the Jewish people's national Holocaust memorial institution. The name is taken from Isaiah 56:5, "And I will give them in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (a Yad Vashem)… that shall not be cut off." Yad Vashem is dedicated to perpetuating the memory of the victims of the *Holocaust, and to research, documentation, publication, and education. Plans for a project for a lasting remembrance began during World War ii, initiated by Mordechai Shenhavi, and were approved at the first post-war meeting of the General Zionist Council (London, 1945) whereby an institution was set up, headed by the *Va'ad Le'ummi. After the creation of the State of Israel, the minister of education and culture, Ben-Zion *Dinur, proposed the setting up of a Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, on Har Hazikaron (the Mount of Remembrance), for the "six million members of the Jewish people who died a martyrs' death at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators." The task of Yad Vashem is "to gather in material regarding all those Jewish people who laid down their lives, who fought and rebelled against the Nazi enemy and their collaborators, and to perpetuate their memory and that of the communities, organizations, and institutions which were destroyed because they were Jewish…"

The complex that makes up Yad Vashem extends over 50 acres. It includes the Holocaust History Museum and Hall of Names, Holocaust Art Museum, Exhibitions Pavilion, Visual Center, Learning Center, synagogue, unique outdoor monuments, and the most important repository of information on the Holocaust in the world. At its height, the annual number of visitors to Yad Vashem has surpassed two million people.

A decade in the making, the new Holocaust History Museum combines the best of Yad Vashem's expertise, resources, and state-of-the-art exhibits to take Holocaust remembrance well into the 21st century. The new Holocaust History Museum occupies over 4,200 square meters, mainly underground. Both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, it presents the story of the Shoah from a unique Jewish perspective, emphasizing the experiences of the individual victims through original artifacts, survivor testimonies, and personal possessions. Its 180-meter–long linear structure in the form of a spike cuts through the mountain with its uppermost edge – a skylight – protruding through the mountain ridge. Galleries portraying the complexity of the Jewish situation during those terrible years branch off this spike-like shaft, and the exit emerges dramatically out of the mountainside, affording a view of the valley below. Unique settings, spaces with varying heights, and different degrees of light accentuate focal points of the unfolding narrative. The museum building was designed by renowned Israeli architect Moshe Safdie. The display was designed by Dorit Harel.

At the end of the Museum's historical narrative is the Hall of Names – a repository for the "Pages of Testimony" commemorating the names and biographic details of Jews who perished during the Holocaust. Pages of Testimony are filled out by family members, friends, or neighbors, many of them survivors of the Holocaust, and serve as symbolic "maẓevot" or "tombstones" for their loved ones. On these special acid-free pages the following are inscribed in full: the name of the victim, his or her date and place of birth, the place of residence before the war, the profession, the parents' and spouses' names, and where and when they perished during the Holocaust. A photograph is attached when available. The Pages of Testimony are preserved in special "Yizkor files," classified according to the Hebrew alphabet by the family name and the first name of the victim. The Pages of Testimony have now been digitized and are available online in the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names, which also includes names from historical documentation and other sources. The number of Jews commemorated in the database to date is close to 3.1 million.

The Hall of Remembrance is a solemn tent-like structure that allows visitors to pay their respects to the memories of the martyred dead. On the floor are the names of some of the Nazi murder sites throughout Europe, and in front of the memorial flame lies a crypt containing ashes of victims. The Hall of Remembrance was designed by architect Aryeh Elhanani.

The Valley of the Communities is a massive outdoor monument to the Jewish communities that were destroyed or damaged in World War ii. Seen from the floor of this unique site, the rock walls rise up to a height of some 30 feet or more, and are engraved with the names of more than 5,000 communities, symbolically embedded forever in the very bedrock of Israel. The Valley itself extends over two and a half acres, and is a labyrinth of courtyards and walls, of openings and dead ends arranged to roughly correspond to the geographic arrangement of the map of Europe and North Africa. The Valley of the Communities was designed by Israeli architects Dan Zur and Lippa Yahalom.

The Children's Memorial, hollowed out from an underground cavern, is a tribute to the approximately 1.5 million Jewish children who perished during the Holocaust. Memorial candles, a customary Jewish tradition to remember the dead, are reflected infinitely in a dark and somber space, creating the impression of millions of stars shining in the firmament. The names of murdered children, their ages, and countries of origin can be heard in the background. The Children's Memorial was designed by Moshe Safdie.

The Memorial to the Deportees is an original cattle-car, appropriated by the German Railway authorities and given to Yad Vashem by the Polish authorities. It stands on an iron track which juts out from the slopes of Yad Vashem into the Judean hillside.

Other features are the Avenue and Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, which honor those non-Jews who risked their lives to help the persecuted Jews in the Holocaust, the Monument to the Jewish Soldiers, the Partisans' Panorama, and the sculpture garden.

The Yad Vashem Archives is the largest and most comprehensive repository of documentary material on the Holocaust in the world. In its ongoing work collecting documentary materials, it has accumulated approximately 68,000,000 documentary pages on the Holocaust to date, close to 300,000 still photographs, as well as thousands of audio and videotaped testimonies of survivors. Yad Vashem's library has the world's most comprehensive collection of books on the Holocaust. It holds more than 112,000 titles in 52 languages, and thousands of periodicals.

The International School for Holocaust Studies is the only school of its kind in the world. With 17 classrooms, a modern multimedia center, resource and pedagogical center, an auditorium, and more than 100 educators on its staff, the school caters annually to more than 100,000 students and youth, 50,000 soldiers, and thousands of educators from Israel and around the world. Courses for teachers are offered in eight languages other than Hebrew, and the school also sends its professional staff around the world for the purpose of Holocaust education. In addition, the school arranges symposia and offers online teaching courses, as well as developing a variety of educational programs and study aids on the Holocaust. The educational rationale of the School places a strong emphasis on Jewish life before the war, daily life of Jews during the Holocaust, and the return to life of Holocaust survivors. Yad Vashem age-appropriate educational materials are multidisciplinary, multidirectional, and multifaceted and are available in many languages both in print and online.

In 1963, Yad Vashem embarked upon a worldwide project to grant the title of Righteous Among the Nations to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, and did not precondition such aid by any reward or compensation. To this end, Yad Vashem set up a public commission headed by a retired Supreme Court justice, which is responsible for granting the title. The commission is guided by certain criteria, and meticulously studies all pertinent documentation, including primary evidence by survivors and other eyewitnesses before reaching its decision. As of January 2006, 21,310 people had been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. A person thus recognized is awarded a specially minted medal bearing his/her name, a certificate of honor, and the privilege of his/her name being added on the Righteous Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations. An amendment to the Yad Vashem Law stipulates that any Righteous is entitled, on request, to receive honorary citizenship.

The International Institute for Holocaust Research plans and carries out often groundbreaking research projects, organizes international seminars and conferences, coordinates joint projects with far-flung research institutes, and hosts research fellows from Israel and around the world. Research publications include the annual journal Yad Vashem Studies, since 1957, and a series on Jewish communities in Europe under the title Pinkasei ha-Kehillot ("Encyclopedia of the Communities"). Through its Publications Department, Yad Vashem publishes approximately 40 books in Hebrew and English annually, including research publications, documents, diaries, and memoirs. Yad Vashem's landmark publications include Documents on the Holocaust (1981), The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (a joint publication, 1990), and Yad Vashem's international conference proceedings, the first of which discussed rescue attempts during the Holocaust (1968). Recent important publications include The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations (six volumes through 2006), The Auschwitz Album, A Comprehensive History of the Holocaust (11 volumes to date in Hebrew; the whole series is being published in English in cooperation with the University of Nebraska), the Search and Research series, Last Letters from the Holocaust, and The Wolfsberg Machzor 5705. Yad Vashem also issues a quarterly magazine in Hebrew and English.

Yad Vashem's website, www.yadvashem.org, contains extensive online resources about the Holocaust, including thousands of photos, documents, testimonies, and artifacts as well as online exhibitions, classroom activities, commemorative ceremonies, and lesson plans. In addition, the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names provides online access to the names and biographical details of millions of Holocaust victims.

The official State ceremony opening Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, on 27 Nisan, is held at Yad Vashem, attended by the president and prime minister of Israel, government ministers, Holocaust survivors, and thousands of members of the public.

Yad Vashem is the most visited site in Israel after the Western Wall. Many hundreds of official visitors of the State come to Yad Vashem each year, and it is protocol for all visiting foreign ministers, prime ministers, and heads of state to include Yad Vashem in their itinerary. On March 23, 2000, Pope John Paul ii paid a historic visit to Yad Vashem and spoke of the imperative to remember the Holocaust.

Ben-Zion Dinur and Aryeh L. Kubovy were respectively first chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate and first chairman of the Yad Vashem Council. Subsequently, Katriel Katz, Gideon *Hausner, Yosef *Burg, and Prof. Szewach Weiss have been chairmen of the Council and Yitzhak *Arad (1972–93) and Avner *Shalev (1993– ), chairmen of the Directorate.


Y. Weitz, "Shaping the Memory of the Holocaust in Israeli Society of the 1950s," in: Major Changes within the Jewish People in the Wake of the Holocaust: Proceedings of the Ninth Yad Vashem International Historical Conference (1996), 497–516; J.E. Young, "Yad Vashem: Israel's Memorial Authority," in: The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Their Meaning (1993), 243–61; M. Brog, "'The Memory of a Dream is a Blessing': Mordechai Shenhavi and Initial Holocaust Commemoration Ideas in Palestine, 1942–1945," in: Yad Vashem Studies, 30 (2002), 297–336; B. Gutterman and A. Shalev (eds.), "To Bear Witness: Holocaust Remembrance at Yad Vashem" (2005); R. Stauber, Lesson for This Generation; Holocaust and Heroism in Israeli Public Discourse in the 1950s (Heb., 2000).

Yad Vashem

views updated May 29 2018


The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, as well as a site in Israel dedicated to commemorating the Jewish victims of Nazi persecution and extermination.

Established on the authority of the 1945 London Zionist Congress, Yad Vashem (from Isaiah 56:5) includes a museum of the Holocaust, facilities for conferences and memorial gatherings (Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies are held there on 27 Nisan), and a research institute. Yad Vashem is a feature of foreign dignitaries' official visits to Israel.

Yad Vashem's task is to perpetuate the legacy of the Holocaust to future generations so that the world never forgets the horrors and cruelty of the Holocaust. Its principal missions are commemoration and documentation of the events of the Holocaust; collection, examination, and publication of testimonies to the Holocaust; the collection and memorialization of the names of Holocaust victims; and research and education.

see also holocaust.


Young, James Edward. The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993.

jon jucovy

Yad Vashem

views updated May 21 2018

Yad Vashem (memorial to victims of the Holocaust): see ḤASIDEI UMMOT HA-ʿOLAM.

Yad Vashem

views updated May 23 2018


Hebrew for an everlasting name [Isaiah 56:5]. Name of an Israeli institution founded in 1953 to honor the memory of the martyrs and heroes who died during the Shoah.