Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: April 21 – April 30, 2017
In the wake of the destruction of the Jewish communities of Europe and the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazi Regime, survivors sought to preserve the history of these cities and towns and the lives of their residents. The yizkor book, or community memorial volume, became a preferred method of preservation. This one-case exhibit displays yizkor books from the University of Chicago Library’s collection in commemoration of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), which begins at sundown on April 23, 2017.
Publication of such volumes began immediately after the war and peaked in the 1960s, though volumes continue to be published today, often as translations of earlier volumes. Yizkor books, sifre zikaron in Hebrew, yisker bikher or pinkeysim in Yiddish, were written primarily by Holocaust survivors in their countries of resettlement, typically by landsmanshaftn, mutual aid organizations comprised of immigrants from the same town or region. It is estimated that 600-800 such volumes have been published, mostly in Israel and the United States. The majority were written in Hebrew or Yiddish, sometimes both, and some with a summary or introduction in English.
Yizkor books are typically divided into four parts: the town and its inhabitants before the war, the events during the war, the fate of the town and its people after the war, and a necrology. They were meant to serve as witnesses both to the pre-War Jewish community and the crimes of the Holocaust, as such they include multiple autobiographical accounts of survivors, maps of city before the War, and photographs of the murdered and of survivors, such as those who served in the Israeli army and who edited the volume. The volumes often incorporate illustrations that draw heavily of flame imagery, referencing the Jewish custom of lighting a candle at the time of death and every year on the anniversary of the death of a family member.