RECORDS-AT-RISK – POLAND
A critical first step in rescuing our documentary heritage.
“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage—to know who we are and where we have come from” (Alex Haley).
No one notices the hunger more than those who cannot find their ancestors because they believe the records don’t exist. They do exist.
Our early pilots demonstrated the existence of Jewish records thought lost forever. In four weeks, we found 52 previously unknown collections – 116,000 lives rediscovered.
Act now – our documentary heritage is vulnerable. The 2021 fire at Kraków City Archives destroyed 20 million documents “leaving an unfillable hole in the history of the city and its people”.
Jewish Documentary Heritage Was Not Destroyed
Many with Jewish ancestors assume they can never learn about where they came from because all the records have been destroyed. This is not true. These records are hiding in plain sight. And finding them, and learning who you are, brings joy to many people and all of their loved ones.
The L’Dor V’Dor Foundation seeks to discover lost Jewish heritage through its Documentation of Jewish Records Worldwide (DoJR) project. DoJR’s goal is to discover every existing document of every Jew who ever lived – Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, Crypto, Rabbinic and more – in a massive, free, online searchable catalogue called JCat.
The L’Dor V’Dor Foundation will implement the DoJR project in all countries of the Diaspora, beginning with a pilot project in Poland and with the support of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad (USCPAHA).
How We Know These Records Exist
Early pilot projects conducted within archives in Ukraine, Poland and repositories in Venezuela and Australia have corroborated the estimates of genealogical records experts – that 85% of historical record collections useful to discovering Jewish ancestors are currently unknown. They are, in many cases, hidden-in-plain-sight… mislabeled, misfiled, misplaced, or simply forgotten.
The documentary heritage of Jews in Poland is extensive. The first permanent Jewish community, in the city of Przemyśl, is documented in 1085. Remarkably, centuries-old records that document Jewish lives have, in fact, survived.
While millions of Jewish Polish records are currently accessible, millions more have not yet even been identified.
Our Goal Is a Catalog
For all possible records to be made available, we need to know where they are. Historical records of documentary heritage are not only held within archives and registry offices. They are also found within local cultural centers, schools, community organizations, churches and synagogues, in the storerooms, attics, and trunks of individuals, and other unexpected places.
Ultimately, each facility and collection will be assessed and entered into JCat.
First Step Is Find the Records-at-Risk
Prioritization is essential to a task of this scale. Records that have survived the ravages of time and even the Holocaust cannot be replaced. The most vulnerable must be identified so their preservation can become a reality – before it is too late.
The massive fire that raged for 36 hours in the Kraków City archives in 2021 destroyed many records.
Disasters such as Poland’s 1997 “Millennium Flood” (Powódź tysiąclecia) that devastated archives in Wrocław, Kamieniec Ząbkowski, Nysa, Racibórz, and Opole, occurred again in 2010 and can happen again – at any time.
Today, records from as early as 1550 Poland are available. The vast majority are not digitally preserved.
The Records-at-Risk – Poland project is the first critical step to secure our documentary heritage. A successful pilot project can be replicated country by country.
Second Step Is Complete the Comprehensive Survey
Using the results of the Records-at-Risk pilot project, the L’Dor V’Dor Foundation’s DoJR project will inventory record collections within repositories.
Other organizations will utilize the findings to preserve records and make them searchable. That is how Americans can learn about the lives of their Polish Jewish ancestors and discover their roots.
How Your Money Will Be Used
With your support, L’Dor V’Dor Foundation will launch a first-of-its-kind six month pilot project called Records-at-Risk – Poland. It will identify and describe the condition of relevant record repositories of Jewish documentary heritage holdings in Poland.
Your donations will fund surveys across various repository types throughout Poland and compilation of the findings.
The Commission’s fundraising goal is $25,000 to support the Records-at-Risk – Poland pilot project. Following the success of the pilot project, the Commission may support the L’Dor V’Dor Foundation on future projects in other countries with Jewish records-at-risk.
Charitable contributions to USCPAHA are tax-deductible under section 170(c)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code.