Holocaust research and commemoration programmes have been hit by the global recession and Israel’s security problems.
Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, which opened a new $50m museum four years ago, has been forced to freeze some of its main programmes. Among them was an initiative to collect the names of all the Jews murdered in the Holocaust — with 3.5 million gathered so far; to record survivors’ testimonies; and to compile an encyclopedia of Jewish communities.
“These are the most crucial years for recording and preserving the memories of people who sadly, will not be with us in a few more years,” says the Director General of Yad Vashem, Avner Shalev. “If we don’t do it now for lack of funds, this information will be lost.”
Other Holocaust museums in Israel have had to lay off staff and cancel renovation plans. The museum commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, at Kibbutz Yad Mordehai in the northern Negev, has been hit by the ongoing conflict around the Gaza Strip. Few schools were prepared to send students to an area where Palestinian rockets were falling.
Another organisation hurt by the fundraising slump is March of the Living International, which brings young people from around the world to the concentration camp and ghetto memorials in Poland every year on Holocaust Memorial Day.
Lack of funds this year meant there were no professional singers or actors at the ceremonies this week. The high costs of participation in youth delegations to Poland caused a five per cent drop in the number of Israeli students taking part.