UNESCO Recognizes Yad Vashem's Holocaust Testimonies

Pages of Testimony at Yad Vashem Holocaust museum added to the Memory of the World Register, which recognizes archives with 'outstanding universal value.'

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Research Organization (UNESCO) on Wednesday added the Pages of Testimony collected at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum to its register of documentary heritage, which features items deemed to have "world significance and outstanding universal value."

UNESCO established its Memory of the World Register in 1995, and it currently includes 299 collections and unique items from around the world, featuring important archives, manuscripts, map collections and more. The Pages of Testimony are among 54 new additions to the collection.

Israel last year proposed to UNESCO that the Pages of Testimony, commemorating some of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, be recognized. The forms were filled out between 1954 and 2004 by the victims’ relatives and friends, many with accompanying photographs, and the collection currently encompasses some 2.6 million pages.

Yad Vashem launched the project of collecting and documenting testimonies in 1954, and has this far managed to collect the names of about 4.2 million Holocaust victims. Many of the names were independently verified through other documents, such as community registries and Nazi documents. In recent years, Yad Vashem has also employed volunteers to go to people’s homes and collect testimonies.

“The Pages of Testimony project is a huge collective commemoration project for Holocaust victims," Dr. Alexander Avraham, director of the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, said. “This is an unprecedented initiative, both in its scope and in its attempt to recover names as a symbol of the humanity of man."

“For many, these testimonies are the only remaining link to their loved ones who were murdered in the Holocaust," added Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate. “The German Nazis and their accomplices tried to murder every Jewish man, woman and child and to erase any trace of their existence. Through this project of collecting names and testimonies, we can restore their names and identities. I call upon the public to commemorate their loved ones who were murdered in the Holocaust."

Other items added to the UNESCO register include a collection of Buddhist scriptures written on stones from Myanmar, two rare manuscripts from Nepal and diaries belonging to Ernesto Che Guevara.

The items were selected from among 84 petitions submitted by 54 countries.

The Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.Credit: AP