Raffi Berg reports for BBC: Six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices during World War Two. In many cases entire towns’ Jewish populations were wiped out, with no survivors to bear witness. Since 1954, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, has been working to recover the names of all the victims, and to date has managed to identify some 4.7 million.
Yad Vashem has collected 2.7 million Pages of Testimony, a form documenting biographical information about the deceased. With the last survivors dying out, Yad Vashem is facing a race against time to prevent more than a million unidentified victims disappearing without a trace. The number of Pages of Testimony it receives is down from 2,000 per month five years ago to 1,600 per month currently, and Yad Vashem is trying to raise awareness among Holocaust survivors who have not yet come forward.
While the memorial has identified 95% of the victims from Western and Central Europe, far fewer names have been uncovered from Eastern Europe. This is because while there was an organized, official process of arrest and deportation further west, in the east whole communities were marched off and massacred without any such formalities. An estimated 1.5 million Jews were shot to death by the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.
The significant growth of the names database, which has been available online since 2004, has led to emotional reunions of survivors who had lived their lives not knowing there was anyone else from their family left alive.