Yad Vashem: Wikis


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The Hall of Names containing Pages of Testimony commemorating the millions of Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
Hall of Remembrance
The entrance to the Holocaust History Museum

Yad Vashem (Hebrew: יד ושם‎ sometimes written as Yad VaShem; "Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority") is Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by the Knesset, Israel's parliament. The origin of the name is from a Biblical verse: "And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad Vashem) that shall not be cut off." (Isaiah, chapter 56, verse 5). (A note on orthography: the two nouns in Hebrew, yad [memorial/hand] and "shem" [name] are often capitalized in English transliterations; similarly, the Hebrew sign for "and" ["v"] is sometimes lowercased.)

Located at the foot of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem is a 45-acre (180,000 m2) complex containing the Holocaust History Museum, memorial sites, such as the Children's Memorial and the Hall of Remembrance, The Museum of Holocaust Art, sculptures, outdoor commemorative sites such as the Valley of the Communities, a synagogue, archives, a research institute, library, publishing house and an educational center, The International School for Holocaust Studies. Non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust, at personal risk, are honored by Yad Vashem as "Righteous Among the Nations".



Yad Vashem Campus designed by Safdie
Interior of the Holocaust History Museum; the main triangular walkway connects the museum's galleries.

The new Holocaust History Museum, opened in March 2005, is a prism-like triangular structure. It is 180 meters long, in the form of a spike, which cuts directly through the mountainside. Its stark walls are made of reinforced concrete, and it covers an area of over 4,200 square meters, most of which is underground. At the uppermost edge of the shaft is a skylight, protruding through the mountain edge.

The design of the facility reinforces the story and imagery of the museum and is impressive in its own right. Visitors enter the museum near ground level. The sky and sunlight are readily visible via a skylight above. The entrance also features a movie and images depicting scenes of Jewish celebration and happiness in Europe prior to the Holocaust. Walking away from the entrance, visitors proceed through the galleries featuring different chapters, items and stories from the Holocaust. As the museum is carved in a hillside, the walls become higher and the skylight becomes less visible. Visitors looking back will also notice that they are proceeding further and further away from that happy scene of Jewish life at the entrance. By the time a visitor reaches the last few galleries, that scene is barely visible anymore and the skylight has become very small, symbolizing how much has changed and how dark things have become. However, just as the visitor reaches the end of the galleries, and the symbolic conclusion of the Holocaust, a new image emerges. The hall emerges from the hillside, allowing visitors to approach a large window and balcony. Light is visible once again and so is something else, a stunning view of Jerusalem (weather and time of day permitting). From pre-war Europe through the Holocaust to modern day Israel, the story is told.

There are 9 galleries in the museum, each devoted to a different chapter in the history of the Holocaust. They are designed to tell the story of the Holocaust from the point of view of the Jews. The chronological and thematic narrative is punctuated by a look into the worlds of Jews who lived—and died—under the Nazis and their collaborators. The exhibits incorporate a wide variety of original artifacts, testimonies, photographs, documentation, art, multimedia, and video art.Unlike the exhibition hall in the old museum, which was primarily composed of photographs, the new exhibition is a multi-media presentation that incorporates survivor testimonies as well as personal artifacts donated to Yad Vashem by Holocaust survivors, the families of those who perished, Holocaust museums and memorial sites around the world. The exhibits are set up chronologically, with the testimonies and artifacts accentuating the individual stories used to highlight the historical narrative throughout the museum.

Goals and objectives

  • Education:
    • operating the International School for Holocaust Studies[1]
    • providing professional development courses for educators both in Israel and throughout the world
    • developing age appropriate study programs, curricula and educational materials for both Israeli and foreign schools in order to teach students of all ages about the Holocaust
    • holding exhibitions about the Holocaust
    • teaching about the Holocaust to the general public
  • Documentation:
    • collecting names of Holocaust victims. The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names currently holds close to 3 million names of Holocaust victims, all accessible online. Yad Vashem continues its project of collecting names of Jewish victims from historical documents and individual memories.[2]
    • collecting photos, documents and resources regarding the Holocaust. The Yad Vashem Archives house some 74 million pages of Holocaust-related documentation and over 350,000 photographs.
    • collecting Pages of Testimony memorializing Jewish victims of the Holocaust,[3] Yad Vashem has so far collected 2.1 million Pages of Testimony.
    • recording testimonies of survivors. The Oral History Section of the Yad Vashem Archives currently houses some 46,000 audio, video, and written testimonies
  • Commemoration
    • preserving the memory and names of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust and the numerous Jewish communities destroyed during that time
    • holding ceremonies of remembrance and commemoration
  • Research and Publications:
    • conducting, encouraging and supporting research regarding the Holocaust
    • encouraging students and young scholars to research the Holocaust
    • developing and coordinating symposia, workshops and international conferences and undertaking scholarly projects
    • publishing research and making it available to the general public
    • publishing memoirs, documents, albums and diaries related to the Holocaust
  • Righteous Among the Nations
    • Honoring non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Since the 1960s the title of Righteous Among the Nations has been awarded to more than 22,000 individuals.


View of Jerusalem at the exit of Yad Vashem's Holocaust History Museum.

In 1993, Yad Vashem decided to build a larger museum to replace the one built during the 1960s, to respond to technological advances and appeal to younger generations who would carry on the legacy of Holocaust remembrance. The new Holocaust History museum is the largest Holocaust museum in the world. It is carved into the Mount of Remembrance and tells the story of the European Jewish community during the Holocaust. Consisting of a long corridor connected to 9 galleries, each dedicated to a different chapter of the Holocaust, the museum tells the story of the Holocaust from a Jewish perspective. The museum combines the personal stories of 90 Holocaust victims and survivors and presents approximately 2,500 personal items including artwork and letters donated by survivors and others. At the end is the Hall of Names, a memorial to the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The main hall is composed of two cones: one ten meters high, with a reciprocal well-like cone excavated into the underground rock, its base filled with water. On the upper cone is a display featuring 600 photographs of Holocaust victims and fragments of Pages of Testimony. These are reflected in the water at the bottom of the lower cone, commemorating those victims whose names remain unknown. Surrounding the platform is the circular repository, housing the approximately 2.1 million Pages of Testimony collected to date, with empty spaces for those yet to be submitted—room for six million Pages in all. Attached is a study area with a computerized data bank and where online searches of Holocaust victims' names may be performed on the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names. Access to the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names is also available on the Internet at the Yad Vashem website.

Since the 1950s, Yad Vashem has collected approximately 46,000 audio, video and written testimonies by Holocaust survivors; as the survivors age and are beginning to become less mobile, the program has expanded to visiting survivors in their homes to tape interviews.

On 15 March 2005, the dedication of the new Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, Israel took place. The impressive building was designed by the world acclaimed Canadian-Israeli architect, Moshe Safdie. Leaders from 40 states and former Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan attended the inauguration of the Holocaust History museum. President of Israel Moshe Katzav said that the new museum serves as "an important signpost to all of humankind, a signpost that warns how short the distance is between hatred and murder, between racism and genocide."[4]

The grounds of Yad Vashem display sculpture by Naftali Bezem, Ilana Gur, Lea Michelson, Nathan Rapoport, Moshe Safdie, Boris Saktsier, Zahara Schatz, Buky Schwartz, Shlomo Selinger, and Marcelle Swergold.

Righteous Among the Nations

'Torah', Memorial to the Victims of the Concentration and Extermination Camps Nandor Glid (1924–1997), cast bronze sculpture by Marcelle Swergold

One of Yad Vashem's tasks is to honor non-Jews who risked their lives, liberty or positions to save Jews during the Holocaust. To this end a special independent Commission, headed by a retired Supreme Court Justice, was established. The commission members, including historians, public figures, lawyers and Holocaust survivors, examine and evaluate each case according to a well-defined set of criteria and regulations. The Righteous receive a certificate of honor and a medal and their names are commemorated in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations , on the Mount of Remembrance, Yad Vashem. This is an ongoing project that will continue for as long as there are valid requests, substantiated by testimonies or documentation. As of 2008, more than 22,000 individuals have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.


The idea of establishing a memorial in the historical Jewish homeland for Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust was conceived during World War II, as a response to reports of the mass murder of Jews in Nazi-occupied countries.

Yad Vashem was first proposed in September 1942, at a board meeting of the Jewish National Fund, by Mordecai Shenhavi, a member of Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'emek.

In August 1945, the plan was discussed in greater detail at a Zionist meeting in London where it was decided to set up a provisional board of Zionist leaders with David Remez as chairman, Shlomo Zalman Shragai, Baruch Zuckerman, and Shenhavi.

In February 1946, Yad Vashem opened an office in Jerusalem and a branch office in Tel Aviv and in June that year, convened its first plenary session. In July 1947, the First Conference on Holocaust Research was held at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where further plans were made for Yad Vashem. However, the outbreak in May 1948 of the War of Independence, brought almost all Yad Vashem operations to a standstill for two years. In 1953, the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, unanimously passed the Yad Vashem Law, establishing the Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.

Recent history

The Eternal Flame

In 2000, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder visited Yad Vashem as a guest of Israeli Premier Ehud Barak and was invited to turn a handle to boost the Eternal Flame. In a much reported diplomatic gaffe he turned the handle the wrong way and extinguished it.[5]

In 2005, in response to a letter by Sa'ar Netanel, a member of the Jerusalem City Council, Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem, promised a presentation of information on "other victims" in a "relevant place". Some information on other victims of the Nazis can be found on Yad Vashem's web site as of January 2008.[6]

Yad Vashem is the second most visited tourist site in Israel, after the Western Wall, with over one million visitors during 2007.

During 2008, Yad Vashem hosted a wide range of VIPs and dignitaries, beginning with US President George W. Bush, who visited in January 2008. Also in January, Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies held the first ever International Youth Congress on the Holocaust. Over 100 young people, from 62 countries and five continents gathered at Yad Vashem for a three-day Youth Congress. The Congress, under the patronage of UNESCO, was devoted to the study of the Holocaust and discussions of its universal significance. Participants, ranging in age from 17 to 19, and including among them Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, and speaking some 30 different languages, studied various Holocaust-related topics, toured Yad Vashem and Jerusalem, participated in workshops, and met with Holocaust survivors. Special sessions were held with Israeli dignitaries including president Shimon Peres.

During March 2008, German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel, accompanied by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and eight ministers from each government, visited Yad Vashem. A memorial ceremony, with the participation of the Chancellor, the Prime Minister, and the Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev, took place in the Hall of Remembrance.

Pope Benedict XVI visited Yad Vashem on 11 May 2009, with the participation of President Shimon Peres and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin. Similar to the visit of his predecessor Pope John Paul II in 2000, Pope Benedict XVI's visit took place in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, where he participated in a memorial ceremony, delivering an address and greeting six Holocaust survivors and a Righteous Among the Nations.

On 9 November 2008, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was appointed by the Israeli government as Chairman of Yad Vashem to replace the late Tommy Lapid.[7]


  • In 1973, the Pinkas HaKehillot (Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities) project of Yad Vashem was awarded the Israel Prize, for its special contribution to society and the State.[8]
  • In 2003, Yad Vashem was awarded the Israel Prize, for lifetime achievement and its special contribution to society and the State.[9][10]
  • In September 2007, Yad Vashem received the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord.[11] The Prince of Asturias Awards is presented in 8 categories. The Award for Concord is bestowed upon the person, persons or institution whose work has made an exemplary and outstanding contribution to mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence amongst men, to the struggle against injustice or ignorance, to the defense of freedom, or whose work has widened the horizons of knowledge or has been outstanding in protecting and preserving mankind's heritage.
  • On 25 October 2007, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev was honored with the Légion d’Honneur for his "extraordinary work on behalf of Holocaust remembrance worldwide." French President Nicolas Sarkozy personally presented Shalev with the award in a special ceremony at the Elysee Palace.

See also


  1. ^ The International School for Holocaust Studies
  2. ^ About: The Central Database of Shoah Victims Names, Yad Vashem web site.
  3. ^ The Hall of Names
  4. ^ Kofi Annan, at the time UN Secretary-General, commented at the opening, "The number of Holocaust survivors who are still with us is dwindling fast. our children are growing up just as rapidly. They are beginning to ask their first questions about injustice. What will we tell them? Will we say, 'That's just the way the world is'? Or will we say instead, 'We are trying to change things—to find a better way'? Let this museum stand as a testimony that we are striving for a better way. Let Yad Vashem inspire us to keep striving, as long as the darkest dark stalks the face of the earth." Facing the Consequences of Dividing Israel
  5. ^ Hapless Schröder puts out Holocaust flame
  6. ^ New Israel Holocaust Memorial Honors Gay Victims
  7. ^ Rabbi Israel Meir Lau Appointed Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council
  8. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1973 (in Hebrew)". http://cms.education.gov.il/educationcms/units/prasisrael/tashlag/tashmab_tashlag_rikuz.htm?dictionarykey=tashlag. 
  9. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site (in Hebrew) - Recipient's C.V. (2003)". http://cms.education.gov.il/EducationCMS/Units/PrasIsrael/Tashsag/YadVashem/. 
  10. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site (in Hebrew)- Judges' Considerations for Grant of Prize to Recipient in 2003". http://cms.education.gov.il/EducationCMS/Units/PrasIsrael/Tashsag/YadVashem/NimokyHsoftim.htm. 
  11. ^ Yad Vashem Receives Prince of Asturias Award for Concord

External links

Coordinates: 31°46′27″N 35°10′32″E / 31.77417°N 35.17556°E / 31.77417; 35.17556

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