In advance of Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, Yad Vashem has curated and uploaded a unique online exhibition featuring last letters sent by Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe in 1943. Although they were written in different languages – German, Dutch, Yiddish, Ladino, Polish and French – they share one unifying thread: they represent the last evidence attesting to the existence of their authors. The mothers, fathers and children who penned these emotional messages later found their untimely deaths at the hands of the German Nazis and their collaborators.
This online exhibition, which features ten such last letters, represents a small selection of the thousands of personal letters housed in the Yad Vashem Archives. Seventy-five years after they were written, these letters contain descriptions of the sufferings in their daily existence and the hardships endured by Jews wishing to receive news of their loved ones from whom they were forced to part. They also reveal the fateful decisions they had to make in order to survive, including those made by parents to separate from their children, not knowing when – or if – they would ever see them again.
Yona Kobo, researcher of online exhibitions in Yad Vashem's Digital Department and curator of the two previous online exhibitions featuring last letters from 1941 and 1942, points out the uniqueness of these precious documents: "Handwriting is one the most individual, intimate and personal forms of self-expression. These last letters give us a small window into the lives of these individuals and provides a firsthand testimony of the hardships they faced as well as their longing to be reunited with their families. Despite being composed often under the most unspeakable conditions in the ghettos and camps, while fleeing, in hiding and while wandering from place to place, they also reveal glimmers of hope and wishes for a better life." Yad Vashem has also uploaded a mini-site for Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, featuring a variety of resources for the public to view, share and engage in.
For more information about the Yad Vashem's activities or to access survivors related to the content of the online exhibition, please contact: Simmy Allen / Head, International Media Section / Communications Division / Yad Vashem
+972 2 644 3410/3412