Yad Vashem, the national
Authority for the Remembrance of the Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust, was established in 1953 by act of the Knesset (Israels
parliament) to commemorate the six million Jewish men, women and
children murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the
years 1933-1945. The Authority also commemorates the heroism and
fortitude of the Jewish partisans and the fighters in the Ghetto
revolts, as well as the actions of the "Righteous
Among the Nations" (non-Jews who saved
the lives of Jews).
Located on Har Hazikaron (Heb., Hill of Remembrance), a ridge on the western outskirts of Jerusalem,
the Yad Vashem Memorial and Institute includes several commemorative
monuments, an historical museum, a central archive and a research
center for the documentation of the Holocaust.
The task of Yad Vashem is to
perpetuate the memory and lessons of the Holocaust for future
Central state ceremonies are
held at Yad Vashem each year on Remembrance
Day for the Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust, which is observed
according to the Hebrew Calendar on the 27th day of Nisan, the anniversary
of the start of the 1943 Warsaw
The principle memorial at
Yad Vashem is the Hall of Remembrance (Ohel Yizkor). The
severe concrete-walled structure with a low tent-like roof stands
empty, save for an eternal flame. Engraved in the black basalt floor
are the names of 21 Nazi extermination camps, concentration camps and
killing sites in central and eastern Europe. A crypt in front of the
memorial flame contains ashes of victims.
The approach to the Hall of Remembrance
is lined with trees planted in honor of non-Jewish men and women - "Righteous
Among the Nations" - who, at the risk of their own lives, attempted
to rescue Jews from
the Holocaust. Several of the trees
honor members of the Christian clergy, among them a Franciscan priest
in Assisi, the bishop of the Greek island of Zakinthos, a Polish nun
in Lithuania and a French Protestant pastor. More
than 20,000 persons have been honored with the title "Righteous
Among the Nations".
Approximately 1.5 million Jewish
children perished in the Holocaust.
They are specially remembered in the nearby Childrens Memorial,
an underground cavern in which the flickering flames of memorial candles
are reflected in an infinity of tiny lights within the prevailing darkness.
The Valley of the Communities is a 2.5 acre monument
that was dug out from the natural bedrock. Engraved on the massive stone
walls of the memorial are the names of over five thousand Jewish communities
that were destroyed and of the few that suffered but survived in the
shadow of the Holocaust.
The Memorial to the Deportees is an original cattle-car
which was used to transport thousands of Jews to the death camps. Perched
on the edge of an abyss facing the Jerusalem forest, the monument symbolizes
both the impending horror, and the rebirth which followed the Holocaust.
More than 30 heads of state and ministers from around
the world attended the historic inauguration of Yad
Vashem’s new Holocaust History Museum on March 15, 2005. A
decade in the making, the new museum is the pinnacle of Yad Vashem’s
multiyear development plan and presents the story of the Shoah in an informational and experiential format. Four times the size of
the current Historical Museum which it replaces, the new museum occupies
more than 4,200 square meters, mainly underground. Both multidisciplinary
and interdisciplinary, it presents the story of the Shoah from a unique
Jewish perspective, emphasizing the experiences of the individual victims
through original artifacts, survivor testimonies and personal possessions.
It will open to the public at the end of March.
Its 180 meters-long linear structure in the form of
a spike cuts through the mountain with its uppermost edge - a skylight
- protruding through the mountain ridge. Galleries portraying the complexity
of the Jewish situation during those terrible years branch off this
spike-like shaft, and the exit emerges dramatically out of the mountainside,
affording a view of the valley below.
At the end of the museum’s historical narrative
is the Hall of Names - a repository for the Pages of Testimony of millions
of Holocaust victims, a memorial to those who perished.
The Yad Vashem Archive collection,
the largest and most comprehensive on the Holocaust in the world, comprises
55 million pages of documents, nearly 100,000 photographs, film footage
and the videotaped testimonies of survivors. The library contains more
than 80,000 titles, thousands of periodicals, and a large number of
The International Institute for
Holocaust Research coordinates and supports research on national and
international levels, organizes conferences and colloquia, and publishes
a variety of important works on the Holocaust, including memoirs and
diaries. To date, the Institute has published 18 volumes of the projected
32-volume Encyclopedia of Communities (Pinkasei Hakehilot), an
historical-geographical compendium of every Jewish community destroyed
by the Nazis and their collaborators.
A principal mission of Yad Vashem
is education. The International School for Holocaust Studies each year
holds courses for over 100,000 students, 50,000 soldiers and thousands
of educators. Courses for teachers are offered in seven languages in
addition to Hebrew, and the school also sends its professional staff
abroad to further education about the Holocaust.
On January 25, 2010, the newest exhibition opened at Yad Vashem, marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The exhibit, “Architecture of Murder: The Auschwitz-Birkenau Blueprints,” displays original architectural blueprints of Auschwitz-Birkenau and original plans for the structures of the concentration camp that were mostly prepared in the fall of 1941. The plans were found in 2008 in an abandoned apartment in Berlin and purchased by the German media corporation Axel Springer, the publisher of the newspaper Bild. They were given to Prime Minister Netanyahu on August 30, 2009, and will be preserved for perpetuity in Yad Vashem.