Try to remember the name of your childhood friend. The neighbor’s son who had a pretty older sister named Sara. The one you played ball with on Friday afternoons in the field down the street before your mother called you home to get cleaned up for Shabbos. You can still hear the sound of his laughter. His name evades you like the features on faces that fade from images in wartime photographs. He was deported together with his entire family during the Aktion on the eve of Pesach 1943. He was just a boy. He has no grave; no tombstone; no one to grieve and say kaddish for him. How can you ensure that his name and memory will not be forgotten?
Many people think that the Germans kept meticulous lists of all the Jews who were murdered and that it should be relatively easy to know their names. But that is only true for a minority of the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. In the areas of the former Soviet Union, some 1.5 million Jews were simply shot to death where they lived. There were no transports, no lists, no records.
Since its inception 60 years ago, one of Yad Vashem’s central missions has been to recover the identity of each and every victim of the Holocaust.
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