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Unto Every Person There is a Name – Theme Information

The following is a letter from the International Committee of “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” explaining this year’s theme for Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, May 5, 2016 – 27 Nissan 5776:


The worldwide Holocaust memorial project “Unto Every Person There is a Name”, now in its twenty-seventh consecutive year, is a unique project designed to perpetuate the memory of the Six Million – among them one-and-a-half million Jewish children – murdered while the world remained silent. The project offers the opportunity to memorialize them not only as a collective, but as individuals – one at a time – through the public recitation of their names on Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. You can help to restore the identity and dignity of the victims of the Holocaust by organizing a name-recitation ceremony on Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. Links to lists of names taken from Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names, and ceremony planning recommendations are included below.

The Unto Every Person There Is A Name project focuses attention on the urgent need to retrieve additional names of Holocaust victims, before they recede into oblivion. It also gives us leave to reflect on contemporary expressions of anti-Semitism and their impact on Diaspora communities and on the State of Israel.​

A World-Wide Effort

“Unto Every Person There Is A Name” ceremonies are conducted around the world in hundreds of Jewish communities through the efforts of four major Jewish organizations: B’nai B’rith International, Nativ, the World Jewish Congress and the World Zionist Organization.

The project is coordinated by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, in consultation with the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and enjoys the official auspices of President of the State of Israel, the Hon. Reuven Rivlin.

In Israel, “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” is an integral part of the official Yom Hashoah commemoration ceremonies, with central events held at the Knesset and Yad Vashem with the participation of elected officials, in addition to local events throughout the country.

Personalizing the Holocaust

The most fundamental feature of the Shoah is the systematic murder of six million innocent Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators for the sole reason that they were Jewish. Each of their deaths was a separate, distinct tragedy that together has caused indelible lasting trauma to the Jewish people. As time passes and fewer witnesses remain, it is imperative to create a personal link between the Jewish people today and those who perished under the Nazi genocidal regime. Ceremonies in which names of Holocaust victims are recited – together with such information as their age, place of birth and place of murder – personalize the tragedy of the Holocaust. Emphasis is thus put on the millions of individuals – men, women and children – who were lost to the Jewish people, and not solely on the cold intangibility embodied in the term “The Six Million”. “Unto Every Person There is a Name” rests on the success of Yad Vashem’s Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project that to date has identified over four million names of Shoah victims and that continues its quest to recover all the six million names.

“Everything is Forbidden to Us, and Yet We Do Everything” The Struggle to Maintain the Human Spirit during the Holocaust The Central Theme for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 2016

Everywhere the Nazi regime reached, it acted to rupture the very structures of Jewish life, both communal and familial. Among other steps, they attempted to annihilate the Jewish spirit and culture. Therefore, one of the Nazis’ first acts was the destruction of synagogues, and the outlawing of Jewish prayer and public assembly. Confronting this reality, the Jewish community found itself moving anxiously between self-preservation and disintegration, between dire crisis and persistent efforts to create communal frameworks that might facilitate continued physical and spiritual existence.

Under the subsistence conditions of the Holocaust, where life and death existed in such close proximity, many Jews naturally focused their efforts upon their own physical survival and that of their dear ones. In a world where murder had become the norm and brute force begat acts of unprecedented horror, many were unable to do more than struggle for mere survival. Yet, simultaneously, some were able to behave differently, and demonstrated astonishing spiritual
strength during a time of persecution and death. Facing the disintegration of entire fabrics of life, they clung to the essence of existence and attempted to preserve life grounded in moral values, as well as a cultural dimension befitting a decent society.​

Click here for full theme rationale and text.

Recover Names of Shoah Victims

“Unto Every Person There is a Name” events provide a unique opportunity to gather heretofore unknown names of all the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Since its inception, one of Yad Vashem’s central missions has been the recovery of the names and personal stories of all victims of the Shoah. While the Nazis sought not only to physically destroy the Jews but also to obliterate any memory

of them, The Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project realizes our moral imperative to memorialize each victim as a human being, and not merely a single collective number. (To learn more about the project click here.) The relentless endeavor has to date identified four million six hundred thousand names of Shoah victims, documented in the Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names.

>> Click here to access The Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names

Roughly half of the victims’ names in the database were derived from various archival sources and postwar commemoration projects. The other half are recorded on “Pages of Testimony” submitted by relatives and others who knew of the victims. The outstanding universal value of the Pages of Testimony Memorial Collection has been recognized by UNESCO, which in 2013 inscribed it in its prestigious Memory of the World Register.

The Names Database, uploaded to the Internet in 2004, marked a pioneering use of technology in the service of memory, documenting and commemorating nearly three million names of Holocaust victims. To continue to meet the needs of an expanding worldwide community of users, Yad Vashem has upgraded and re-designed the database, making use of an innovative platform that allows the accessibility of online information in a fast and user-friendly format.

“Unto Every Person” ceremonies may be utilized to call upon members of your community to complete a “Page of Testimony” for each unregistered victim, or to volunteer to assist others with this urgent task.

Recitation Ceremony Planning Recommendations

  1. Outreach: The International Committee urges organizers of “Unto Every Person” ceremonies to invite all Jewish organizations and institutions in their community, including schools, synagogues of the various streams and community centers, and Israeli diplomatic representatives, to take an active part in the name recitation ceremonies and in the Names
    Recovery Campaign. The Committee specifically requests that the four sponsoring organizations be actively engaged in each ceremony and that all local agencies cooperate to make the ceremony as inclusive and meaningful as possible. The Committee also recommends that non-Jewish groups and leaders in the larger
  2. Press: Local and national media, especially television, should be encouraged to cover the ceremonies. Any visual products from the ceremony should be sent to Yad Vashem in order to be archived and exhibited in the future.
  3. Family names retrieval: We urge you to encourage members of your community to search for names of relatives and friends who were victims of the Holocaust, to compile your own personal and local lists of names and family members for commemoration, and to submit names to Yad Vashem’s Database (see above).
  4. Ceremony requirements: The recitation ceremonies require coordination and planning but involve very little expenditure. Basic requirements for the ceremony are:

   5.   Central Ceremony at Yad Vashem: The official State ceremony marking the commencement          of Yom Hashoah will take place at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Wednesday 4 May at 20:00 (8          p.m.) Israel time. The ceremony is broadcast live on Israel’s Channels One, Two and Ten                  accessible via the internet, which might allow you to incorporate it into your own ceremony.                Furthermore, the ceremony will be available online on the Yad Vashem website within 2 hours          after it concludes and could be utilized as an element in your own ceremony.