Yad Vashem unveils digital exhibits for International Holocaust Remembrance Day

“If you look at the photos, they look so happy, smiling and dancing. But behind those behind those happy, smiling faces, there are a lot of tragedies.”

By Joseph Wolkin, World Israel News

Jan. 27 marks the day the world officially remembers those who perished during the Holocaust. This year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

Approximately 1.1 million souls perished in Auschwitz.

This year, Yad Vashem is marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day with a plethora of digital exhibitions. From the “My Lost Childhood” exhibit to the IRemember Wall and a virtual tour of the Block 27 memorial at Auschwitz.

“We have dozens upon dozens of photos of children from their homes,” Yona Kobo, the curator at Yad Vashem who created the “My Lost Childhood” exhibition, said. “If you look at the photos, they look so happy, smiling and dancing. But behind those behind those happy, smiling faces, there are a lot of tragedies.”

Child survivors from Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Germany and France were placed into homes where they could regain a sense of normal life, as well as return to their Jewish faith.

“We bridge the gap between the happy faces and what they went through,” Kobo said. “We want people to understand what it means to be a child survivor. They were robbed of everything from family members to school. People they met usually wanted to kill them.”

Many of the child survivors, once they were old enough to do so, moved to Israel in the Jewish State’s early years.

The anecdotes that Yad Vashem includes in this exhibit are highly detailed, telling not only stories of survival, but of triumph amid the worst of all scenarios. One of the heart-warming stories is of the “Buchenwald Boys,” who were moved to the children’s home in Écouis, France after the war.

“One of the stories here is about Zvi Unger, who was about 14 years old,” Kobo said. “He came from a family of nine siblings, and he lost all of them. He found himself alone at Auschwitz. He said he became some kind of an animal, only listening to his instinct and listening to no one.”

The IRemember Wall is enhanced this year to personalize the experience of remembering people who perished during the Holocaust. People who register for it can either be randomly matched with someone’s name and memory, and they can pick a specific victim who they are related to or have a personal connection with. Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names includes more than 4.8 million Jewish people who died during the Holocaust.

Finally, the digitization of Block 27 is something that Yad Vashem never did before. The block is a memorial in Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was prepared by Yad Vashem and debuted in 2013. It boasts galleries, a massive book of names of people who perished and a room dedicated to the memory of children who were murdered.

“Although we have Yom HaShoah, this is something that goes beyond Israel,” Kobo said. “We’re not only talking about the Jewish tragedy because this happened to mankind.”