In 1999, in conjunction with The Hope Foundation, Ancestry.com, Risk International, Avotaynu, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Incline Software programmers developed a Jewish edition of Ancestral Quest as part of a coordinated effort in the Living Heirs project. Over the last few months, Incline Software has been working with Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to include in this Jewish edition of Ancestral Quest the ability to collect information for, and produce, Pages of Testimony for Holocaust martyrs. This new release was made available today.
Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953 by an act of the Israeli Parliament. In section 2 of the Yad Vashem Law it is stated:
"The task of Yad Vashem is to gather into the homeland material regarding all those members of the Jewish people who laid down their lives, who fought and rebelled against the Nazi enemy and his collaborators, and to perpetuate their names and those of the communities, organizations and institutions which were destroyed because they were Jewish."
Yad Vashem established the Hall of Names in 1968 to gather into one place information on all Holocaust victims and to commemorate their names and identities on Pages of Testimony. In the 1980's, these pages were put onto microfilm, and starting in 1992 onto computer databases. But access was available only at Yad Vashem. Soon, these databases will become more available.
This collection of names is far from complete. There is an urgent need to enlist the help of any who have details on Holocaust victims before these memories are irretrievably lost. The memory must be kept alive.
Alexander Avraham, Director of the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem stated, "We are pleased to work with Incline Software in providing the ability to submit Pages of Testimony through their Ancestral Quest software. We hope this will make more people aware of the decades long work of commemoration at the Hall of Names, and give them the incentive to carry out a personal duty, and to submit a Page of Testimony for each Holocaust victim of whom they are aware: a name we remember is yet another step in the struggle against oblivion."
For genealogists, this is one of the most important resources available. The Holocaust not only martyred 6 million Jews, but destroyed communities and tore apart families. Family members who escaped to all parts of the world, and often changed their names by desire or by marriage or by spelling are still searching for their lost relatives. Not only will genealogists find information on the martyr himself, but this can be a way to find the submitter of the information, often a family member.
Madeleine Okladek of the Jewish Genealogical Society of New York said, "Because of the ease of using this software, I hope it will encourage everyone to submit the information they have about their own family members (and friends) killed in the Holocaust. Not only can the Pages of Testimony serve to memorialize the dead, but can help reunite the living. This invaluable genealogical resource can only become more complete by submitting our own Pages of Testimony. And now with this software, there is no excuse for not submitting them."
This Ancestral Quest feature is important to all Jews who want to memorialize their relatives, friends, and neighbors who perished in the Holocaust. In collaboration with Yad Vashem, this is now the best way to submit the data to them. It alleviates the tedium of filling out the forms by hand, and it makes the information more legible, insuring that others will be able to read the information. It also aids the efforts of the workers at the Hall of Names in digitizing this information.
For more information about Yad Vashem, the Hall of Names, and Pages of Testimony, visit http://www.yadvashem.org.