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The Holocaust
A Passover Haggadah created by Holocaust survivors

The Holocaust

In the annals of the human species, the Holocaust in Europe during World War II (1945–1939) is recognized as the most heinous crime ever perpetrated by one nation against another. It was an event unprecedented in scope, in terms of the murderous technology used to carry it out, and in the readiness of Nazi Germany and its collaborators—individuals and governments—to eradicate every living memory of the existence of the Jewish people from the face of the earth.

The National Library of Israel preserves many different items connected to the Holocaust, with many of these relating to the place of the book during those dark days of terror and destruction.

The varied materials illuminate different aspects of this topic: the efforts made to save books from destruction on the eve of the Holocaust, the publishing of Hebrew books in Nazi-occupied countries, books and manuscripts saved immediately after the Holocaust, items linked to communities and individuals destroyed in the Holocaust, as well as books and memoirs written by survivors.

The Library also preserves photographs, personal archives of Holocaust survivors, music from the period and oral documentation.

Archival documents and unique items originating in ghettos, concentration camps and hiding places during World War II offer different perspectives on the horrors that transpired during the days of the genocide of the Jewish people. Completing this comprehensive documentation are items created by Sh'erit haPletah (lit. "the surviving remnant") - the displaced persons and illegal immigrants who did not lose hope or their thirst for life during some of the darkest days in world history.


Jewish heroism in the Holocaust was shown in courageous acts of resistance carried out with the aim of thwarting and reducing the Nazi atrocities, preserving a sense of humanity, and strengthening the spirit of the persecuted Jews. Partisan and underground movements also participated in these heroic acts. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was considered a symbol of resistance in the Holocaust, in which all the ghetto’s residents participated in cooperation with the two resistance organizations: the Jewish Combat Organization (ŻOB, Żydoska Oganizacja Bojowa) and the Jewish Military Union (ŻZW, Żydowski Związek Wojskowy). The revolt broke out in April 1943 and lasted for several weeks until the Nazis set fire to the ghetto. In the uprising in the Bialystok Ghetto, the Nazis managed to isolate the fighters from the other prisoners before killing them, thus leading to the uprising’s failure.

There were also attempts at revolt in the extermination camps: in the great revolt in Treblinka, hundreds of Jews fled, but only about 70 survived. The uprising in Sobibor was discovered at a relatively early stage. The Nazis opened fire and many Jews fled in the direction of the fences and surrounding forests. About 200 survived. The Nazis’ fear that the atrocities of Sobibor would be revealed to the world led to the camp’s closure after the uprising. The Library presents many moving stories of heroism from the ghettos and camps, as well as accounts of the bravery of Jewish fighters against the Nazis.

In addition to active resistance, Jewish heroism was also expressed in spiritual ways: in the attempt to preserve a semblance of humanity in that trying time, in acts of mutual aid, and in the maintenance of religious and cultural life as much as possible, despite efforts to eradicate it.

Holocaust Stories

Stories about communities that were and are no longer; stories revealing the terrible disaster woven from bits of information; historical findings and chilling testimonies.

Heartbreaking stories were gradually revealed during the Holocaust itself and primarily in the years that followed. As time went on, the multiplicity of evidence and shocking personal accounts continued to grow. Eight decades after, hitherto unknown stories continue to come to light.

These testimonies depict the horror experienced by millions of Jews. Many of them document life in deplorable and cruel conditions in the ghettos and concentration camps, of which Auschwitz and Treblinka were among the worst. Some of the stories try to tell of atrocities that took place in the various extermination camps, but words pale in significance.

After the Holocaust

With the Allies’ liberation of the camps, the extent of the atrocity began to become clear, and gradually the stories of the Jewish survivors (at least of those who were willing to share the horrific events) became known. In the first years after the war, there were hundreds of thousands of broken and destitute survivors across Europe housed in DP camps. They became known as She’rit haPletah (lit. "the surviving remnant"), and began trying to piece together and rebuild the fragments of their shattered lives. Many who returned to their homes were greeted with hostility by their neighbors. The Kielce pogrom, which led to the brutal murder of 163 Holocaust survivors living the city, was one of the climactic expressions of antisemitism in post-war Poland. It broke out in July 1946, when a blood libel spread in the city that Jews had abducted and murdered Christian children. The shock of the pogrom led many Holocaust survivors to leave Poland for Israel, the United States and other countries.

Bergen-Belsen Survivors Sing “Hatikva”

Listen to the moving anthem as sung by survivors following their liberation from the camp.