Skip to Main Content

Genealogy Guide: Yizkor Books

Yizkor Books

"The memorial books are the fruit of the impulse to write a testament for future generations. They constitute an unprecedented, truly popular labor to record in writing as much as possible of a destroyed world."

-Jack Kugelmass and Jonathan Boyarin,
From a Ruined Garden


Yizkor books are memorial books that recollect Eastern European Jewish communities and were typically created by landsmanshaftn (societies of immigrants from the same town) after the Holocaust. They often are concerned with one or two main towns and several surrounding smaller towns, but, in some cases, cover entire regions and even countries. Usually written in Hebrew and/or Yiddish, most yizkor books were compiled by ordinary people who remembered life in their hometown, not by professional writers, editors, or historians.

Yizkor Books as a Genealogical Resource

Because the production of yizkor books was a grassroots phenomenon, the books vary in their usefulness for family history research. Most, however, have at least some focus on families and individuals and contain many names and information about family relationships. Many also contain necrologies, or lists of Holocaust victims, from one or more towns. Yizkor books convey the culture and feeling of Jewish life in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust through personal narratives, photographs, maps, and drawings.

Additional Resource

From a Ruined Garden: The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry, edited and translated by Jack Kugelmass and Jonathan Boyarin (New York: Schocken Books, 2nd ed. 1998). The book includes a scholarly introduction to the genre and translations of selections from over sixty memorial books.

Genealogy Institute   DS 135 .P6 F77 1998