By Gryffindor [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Gryffindor [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

170,000 documents were found that were hidden during the Holocaust.

Jonathan Brent, the executive director of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research made an announcement which brings new light to Jewish life during the pre-war years . Researchers had discovered a staggering 170,000 documents which were believed to be destroyed during the cataclysmic days of the Holocaust. The documents date from the middle of the 18th century. A few are of Second World War heritage. Both Nazis and Soviets wanted to destroy these invaluable pieces of history. If Brent is to be believed, the findings from these discoveries constitute the biggest material collection concerning Jewish life, especially in Eastern Europe. The documents bring in a new perspective on the lives led by Jews living in Eastern Europe. This is important as most history texts depict the Jewish life at that time in the backdrop of persecutions.

One prominent document is the Communal record book, situated in Lazdijai, Lithuania. It is known as Pinkas. This book was written for use by Talmud study association. It was utilized to record pertinent information like births, business transactions, and deaths. Excellent illustrations are a characteristic. The document states that if the reader is to be a part of the group, then they should study Talmud together.

The Nazis raided the offices of the YIVO in Vilna in 1941. A few Jewish slaves at that time, termed 'Paper Brigade' smuggled a few books, artworks, and papers into Vilna ghetto- an action punishable by death. The end of the Second World War saw Antanas Ulpis, a librarian from Lithuania, and a non-Jew, hiding the same collection in a church basement. He had good reasons to do so: the Soviets wanted religion to be erased from that part of the world. The collection again saw the light of day in 1991. As per the Lithuanian Government, it found about 150,000 documents which Ulpis has hidden in the church. This discovery seems to surpass that collection not only in terms of size, but they were also in a much better condition.

The Government of Lithuania found the document trove in 2016. The government, however, told YIVO only in the first few months of 2017. A majority of the material continues to be in careful storage in Lithuania. About 10 items are being exhibited by the YIVO in January. The latter is cooperating with the Government of Lithuania to archive and also digitize the complete connection.

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