Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum archivists found some 26,000 previously unknown identification cards belonging to Jewish citizens in the national archives in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania.
The cards represent about two-thirds of the Jewish population in the city before the Holocaust. They were found as part of a wide-ranging effort to locate any and all documentation of Jewish heritage in the former Soviet Union and Baltic region. Found among the ID cards in Kaunas was that of poet and author Leah Goldberg, who moved to Israel in 1935.
The cards were kept with a collection of all ID cards issued by the local population authority in Kauna, to Jews and non-Jews, from 1920-1940. Each resident received a copy of their card, while the original was kept by the local authorities for internal use.
The identification cards contain personal information, including first and last name, father’s name, date of birth, profession, nationality (Lithuanian or Jewish), and a photograph and signature of the resident. The cards were moved during the war and returned to the city’s archives following liberation.
The director of Yad Vashem’s Archives Division, Dr. Chaim Gertner, explained that most Eastern European communities “did not keep orderly lists of residents before the war, and the Nazis did not often list the names of the people murdered in these areas.”
“For this reason, the fate of many Lithuanian Jews, including those from Kaunus, is unknown to us,” Gertner said. “This collection that we are now photographing, thanks to the assistance Yad Vashem receives from the Genesis Philanthropy Group, allows us to recreate the list of the city’s Jewish residents before the war and to give these victims of the Holocaust a face and a story.”