United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Oral History Archives: Excerpts from Testimonies about the Holocaust in Lithuania

Ina Navazelskis (US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Most of the 12,500 Holocaust-related oral history testimonies in the archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) were conducted with Holocaust survivors. However, some 1450 are interviews also with non-Jews, who provide direct eyewitness testimony to many aspects of the Holocaust. In my presentation I will highlight those witness testimonies that relate to the Baltics, including how the some 350 interviewees from the Baltic countries were identified and interviewed.

In addition, I will show excerpts from some interviews relating to Lithuania. Among the interviewees will be Ada Gens, daughter of Vilnius ghetto police chief Jakubas Gensas, who witnessed key events in the Vilna ghetto from 1941 until 1943. Another will be excerpts from an interview with Algimantas Gureckas, a long-time member of the US branch of Lithuanian World Community, a non-governmental organization that brought together Lithuanians living outside of Lithuania. Gureckas witnessed some of the repression that led to the eventual murder of Jews in northeastern Lithuania in the summer of 1941. Questions relating to how these oral histories inform Holocaust scholarship will be addressed. What do they contribute? How should they be used? What are the limitations of these individual testimonies?

Finally, I will briefly describe the digitized collection at the USHMM of about 100 million documents from the International Tracing Service (ITS), established after the war to help reunite families separated by the war and to trace missing individuals. Three quarters of these documents relate to non-Jewish refugees. I will provide samples of these ITS documents from some Lithuanian refugees to illustrate how they can augment oral history testimonies.

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