Motivated by the principle that “every victim has a name,” Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum has identified nearly 4 million Jews who lost their lives to Nazi Germany’s genocide and is trying to identify the rest while survivors are still alive.
“We are in a race against time,” said American-born Cynthia Wroclawski, outreach manager of the Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project. “Our mission is to reach people who have information.”
Ms. Wroclawski said 3.6 million names – just over half the estimated Jewish death toll – have been registered to date.
The monumental task began in 1955, two years after Yad Vashem was established by Israel’s parliament, and accelerated in the 1990s in part because of technical advancements such as the creation of a computerized database.
Once completed, the list could help put to rest arguments over whether the death toll has been inflated for political reasons, such as to justify the creation of the modern Jewish state.
Although the number of Jews who perished in Nazi death camps from gas, firing squads, medical experimentation, illness or malnutrition is commonly given as 6 million, analysts differ on the precise figure.
Jacob Lestchinsky, the demographer who calculated the death toll immediately after the end of World War II, concluded that there were 5.95 million Jewish victims. Raul Hilberg, a U.S.-based historian, put it at 5.1 million. Yisrael Gutman and Robert Rozett estimated that between 5.59 million and 5.86 million died, and Wolfgang Benz, a German scholar, says the range is between 5.29 million and 6 million.
Most of Yad Vashem’s data have been drawn from the “pages of testimony” given by Holocaust survivors and others who have evidence that their relatives or friends were killed by the Nazis from the inception of Adolf Hitler’s regime in January 1933 to the end of World War II in May 1945.