By Rebecca Voisich, Library and Archives Coordinator
Family history and genealogy is essential to the Museum’s mission to educate people about the story of Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust. Many families passed down accounts about the Holocaust that speak of the end of lineages and the destruction of communities. However, by preserving documentation and artifacts, we can ensure that the history of Jewish life in Europe is remembered—not only by memorializing those who were lost, but also by continuing to share the life stories of those who survived.
The above document is a list of the Jewish community members in the displaced persons camp in Amberg, Germany, November 1945. This list was made possible by Sgt. Maurice J. Rubinoff. A member of the United States Army, Sgt. Rubinoff helped liberate Buchenwald concentration camp. He decided to visit the town of Amberg upon hearing rumors that there were Jewish concentration camp survivors there. In Amberg, Sgt. Rubinoff found a group of survivors afflicted with tuberculosis, and he became their advocate. He brought them food, made sure they received medical treatment, and reached out to Jewish organizations for help tracking down surviving family members. He was also instrumental in rebuilding the local synagogue and even led worship services. Sgt. Rubinoff created a community for the Jews displaced in Amberg; he reconnected them with their roots, their history, and their families.
At first glance, documents like this might seem simple, even boring. What can a list of names really tell us? To start, they can share amazing stories of the kindness of individuals like Sgt. Rubinoff. They can also act as a missing puzzle piece, a clue in the search for family ties and personal histories. Documents like this connect people to distant times and places and ensure that their lineage is discoverable. The Museum has the privilege and responsibility of housing and preserving documents such as this one.
Are you interested in your own family history? Check out JewishGen, with 30+ million records on Jewish genealogy.
The story behind this document was made possible with the invaluable translation assistance by Gedenkdiener volunteer Simon Hilscher.