Museum racing to ID each Holocaust victim

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“Yad Vashem is barely halfway through the name-gathering project,” he said, but it will take at least 14 years for it to be completed.

Mr. Zimmermann noted that until the Nazi era, most of Germany’s Jews lived in well-organized communities but substantial numbers did not consider themselves Jewish. Even though the Nazis forced many to trace their Jewish identities back to their grandparents, records remained incomplete. As a result, some of the German Jews who perished may remain anonymous.

Another complicating factor, said Shlomo Aronson, also of the Hebrew University, is that the Waffen-SS and other Nazi units that engaged in mass killings throughout Eastern Europe did not record the names of their victims. Nor were Soviet Jewish casualties registered as Jews. In contrast, there were detailed records of local Jewish communities in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and other Western European countries.

Name-gathering efforts have not been limited to Israel’s Yad Vashem. A similar project was undertaken by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the U.S., which has a massive genealogical database used for posthumous baptisms.

Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, criticized the Mormon project.

He issued a statement in 2008 saying: “We ask you to respect our Judaism just as we respect your religion.”

Mr. Michel, whose parents perished in Auschwitz, added: “We ask you to leave our 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust alone; they suffered enough.”

Mike Otterson, a spokesman for the Mormon church, said he regretted Mr. Michel’s stand and that “it belies the long and valued mutual respect that has been had in past years.”

In 1995, the Mormons reportedly agreed not to perform baptisms by proxy or other rites for Holocaust victims except in rare instances in which the victims have living descendants who are Mormons.

Asked whether collecting and publishing the names of Holocaust victims would provide an effective rebuttal to those who deny that the Holocaust occurred or say that it affected relatively few Jews, Ms. Wroclawski said that was not the intention.

“Yad Vashem does not argue with Holocaust deniers,” she said.

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