Recession hits Shoah programmes

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 21, 2009

Holocaust research and commemoration programmes have been hit by the global recession and Israel’s security problems.

The global financial crisis has cut donations to the main organisations commemorating the Holocaust in Israel. Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, which opened a new $50m museum four years ago, has now been forced to put on hold some of its main programmes. Among them are the collecting of the names of all the Jews murdered in the Holocaust, which has so far reached three and a half million names, the recording of survivors' testimonies and the compilation of 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, all this information will be lost forever."

Other Holocaust museums in Israel are suffering from lack of funds and 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 also been hit by the ongoing conflict around the Gaza Strip. Over the last year few schools were prepared to send students there, while Palestinian rockets were falling, in and around the kibbutz.

Another organisation hurt by the fund-raising 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, actors and presenters at the ceremonies this week and their roles were carried out by volunteers. The high costs of participation in youth delegations to Poland, around $1400 for Israeli high-school students, has caused a five percent drop in the number of Israeli students taking part.

Last updated: 5:01pm, April 23 2009