Shoah Research- Getting Started

English: Map of the Holocaust in Poland during...

English: Map of the Holocaust in Poland during World War II, 1939-1945. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Are you embarking on Shoah (Holocaust) research?  Would you like a little coaching in this area of research?

Although I can hardly claim to be a Shoah research expert, I am more than willing to share what I have learned. By way of providing some background, for the past nine months, or so, I have been helping folks attempt to unearth the stories behind their Jewish roots in Poland and Germany, developing a Shoah mega-search engine (to aid in uncovering hidden ‘on-line’ data), trying to discover ‘lost’ family records, and more.  It has been quite the adventure.

Needless to say, the Shoah is an area of emotion, sadness, mystery, frustration, intrigue, and much more.  I thought that perhaps others might benefit from some of the lessons I have learned during the past few months.  I, also, hope that you might be willing to share additional pointers and tips with the readers here on ManyRoads.

Let me begin by providing general over-arching principles (things I have learned):

  1. Be prepared to learn, a lot!  I have to say I have learned more than I ever would have imagined.
  2. Do not give up. A lot of data is missing!  Remember the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei a.k.a. Nazis) sought eradication of the Jews (as well as homosexuals, Roma, Jehova Witnesses, etc.);  and, they did an efficient job of destroying many/ most(?) records.
  3. Each search is difficult, challenging, and filled with sadness. Try not to be overwhelmed.
  4. Do not limit yourself to searching in English. Many non-English records are available in German, Polish, Russian, etc. You never know who wrote what and where you might find something useful.
  5. Recognize that much data will be imprecise and even contradictory; such is the nature of first or second person accounts and remembrances.
  6. Be aware that any picture you develop will have many ‘holes’.  Do not expect to find a complete picture of the data.  You will need to use your best analysis and logic to try to connect the dots. Think of it as a puzzle with many missing pieces.
  7. Be ready to read documents written in many languages and scripts (and sometimes all within a single document).
  8. Do not expect your search to proceed in a linear fashion.  I have found I need to bounce around, a lot.
  9. You will need to employ almost every trick in the book including: collateral searches, cluster searches, image searches, reading trial records/ statements, memorial searches, and more.
  10. Above all remember to both “follow your heart and use your head”.

In the next posting in this little series, I will offer pointers to useful websites and research locations I have found doing my work.  Should you have items you’d like included in this series, please use our contact page to let me know.