Jewish Concentration Camps
|Jewish Genealogy Research|
- The JewishGen Yizkor Book Necrology Database
- JewishGen: Yizkor Book Project
- JewishGen (includes many Yizkor Book databases and more information)
- New York Public Library: Yizkor Books
Concentration camps are internment centers established to confine minority and national groups and political prisoners. During World War II the Nazi government of Germany administered several concentration camps and relocation facilities. The camps were of two general types:
- Death or extermination camps where virtually everyone who arrived was immediately killed.
- Camps where people who arrived were either immediately killed or assigned to labor camps.
Over 1,200 Yizkor Books exist today. Most were written in the decades following World War II and were written by survivors of the Holocaust and those who left the old country in the decade preceding the rise of Nazism. Each book is a memorial to the ancestral town and Jews who lived there. Most books relate the history of the town, prominent people in the town, anecdotes about daily life, political and economic controversies, and the diverse ways Judaism was practiced.
Most books include a listing (necrology) of those who were murdered during the Holocaust. JewishGen's Yizkor Book Project has compiled these books and indexed all of the names that appear in the necrologies. To search this database, see The JewishGen Yizkor Book Necrology Database. In Yizkor Books, if the shetl was small, there is a good chance of finding ancestors listed.
Names are only a small part of the value of these books. Yizkor Books are mainly written in Hebrew and Yiddish but are currently being translated to English. They contain chapters on history, stories of people, cultural and economical climate, customs, memories, photos, maps, and stories of the Holocaust.
How to find out if there is a Yizkor Book for the town an ancestor was from: Yizkor Book Database. This database provides a description of Yizkor Books by town or region, contact people who have or are interested in those books, libraries where those books are found and call numbers, and links to translations that may exist on JewishGen. Exact spelling of the town is not needed. Keep in mind that even if a town does not have a Yizkor Book, information about them may be included in another book for a larger, nearby town. These books may be borrowed through interlibrary loan from one of the libraries that has a Yizkor Book collection; however, most of these books are non-circulating. For a list of libraries and archives that house Yizkor Books: Libraries, Archives with Yizkor Book Holdings. One of the largest collections is the Yad Vashem Library in Jerusalem (www.yadvashem.org). Also see Retail Establishments with Yizkor Book Holdings. The Yiddish Book Center has digitized many of the Yizkor Books in the New York Public Library.
Some of the Yizkor Books found may not be translated. See Yizkor Book Translations for more information. It is also possible to become a translator coordinator. See How to Set Up a Fundraising Project for more information.
JewishGen also has these Yizkor Books databases:
How to Find the Records
Camp officials kept records of Jews who were used for slave labor. Some of the concentration camp records that survived the war were seized by British, Soviet, and U.S. military forces. In the United States these records can be found at:
- United States Holocaust Research Institute
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
Washington, D.C. 20024-2150
- National Archives and Records Administration
and 8th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20408
Documents of camps in Poland are found in the Polish State Archives, the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, and in archives of the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Owicim and the Majdanek Museum Archives in Lublin. There are also university libraries, regional museums, local archives, collection of private individuals, and other sources from concentration camps.
At Auschwitz: 400,000 survived selection, 905,000 did not. The names of 230,000 survivors are known. Almost all of the Auschwitz records were destroyed by the retreating Germans. The names of the survivors that are known are primarily from records of other camps which included information that the prisoner originally came from Auschwitz.
There are a few databases on the Internet with information about people in concentration camps, and more information is being added. See the following web sites for information:
- Jewish Gen
- Search for Victims of Oppression.
- The ITS Archive preserves one of the largest collections worldwide on the history of the Holocaust and the National Socialist concentration camps, on Nazi forced labor and on so-called displaced persons.
This site has information from yizkor books, including a list of Austrian Jews in concentration camps.
This site is for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Under the topic "Collections and Archives" is a searchable database of prisoner registration forms from Auschwitz.
The Family History Library has some concentration camp records. For example, death registration records from the Mauthausen, Austria, camps are available on microfilm:
- Totenbuch, Konzentrationslager Mauthausen, Jan. 7, 1939–Apr. 29, 1945 (Death Register, Concentration Camp Mathausen, Jan. 7, 1939–Apr. 29, 1945). Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 19–. (FHL film 0812876–0812877.)
Records associated with concentration camps and Nazi persecution of Jews are discussed in "Holocaust, Jewish (1939–1945)" in this outline. An example of these, which is listed in the catalog under Concentration Camps is:
- War Crimes Case Files, 1945–1959. Suitland, Maryland: National Archives and Record Administration, 1992–1994. (On 45 FHL films beginning with number 1788042.)
Check for similar types of records in the FamilySearch Catalog.
- Doctor, Ronald D. "How Yizkor Books Can Help Your Research". The Galitzianer (May 2004): 11-13.