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"Researchers" submitting Yad Vashem Pages of Testimony #israel #holocaust


Adam Turner
 

A probable relative of mine is listed on a Yad Vashem Page of Testimony submitted in 2007 by a "researcher" named Xavier Messalati. On further checking, it appears that Mr. Messalati has submitted almost 14,000 pages over the years - most of them with virtually no sourcing on the Pages that would aid in verifying the accuracy of the information. Frustrating, and not just for me - there is at least one other post from someone on this very list who had questions for the same person about his "research."

Does anyone know precisely what Yad Vashem means for Testimony to have come from a "researcher"? Do they have any procedures in place for vetting such testimony?

There is a specific scenario I am wondering about in this case: some Googling for the name "Xavier Messalati" suggests that a person by that name is (or recently was) a tour guide, especially for Francophone tour groups, in Jerusalem. So I am curious about the possibility that Mr. Messalati is not a "researcher" in the sense that folks on this list generally think of it - someone whose job, or serious hobby, is to pore through various sources in an attempt to answer specific research questions, and habitually submits Pages to Yad Vashem on people who he has incidentally found were Holocaust victims in the course of his research.

Instead, I wonder if the reason this "researcher" has submitted such a huge number of Pages of Testimony is actually just that he has contact with an enormous number of victims' friends and relatives in the course of his job as a tour guide, and when he takes his tour groups to Yad Vashem, he asks if anyone knows of any victims and submits Pages with zero corroborating info (possibly on computer terminals Yad Vashem has set up onsite to facilitate easier submission) on their behalf at that time.

My only experience with the layout of Yad Vashem was a brief visit as a tourist in 2015. Is the scenario I've guessed at plausible - that a tour group leader could potentially submit tons of Pages on behalf of his clients, and yet still be categorized by Yad Vashem as a "researcher"?

Adam Turner


Miriam Bulwar David-Hay
 

As a guide at Yad Vashem, and even more so as someone who has spent years researching my family in the Holocaust and has submitted about 40 Pages of Testimony for those whose fates I have been able to document, this information saddens me. I took a look at a couple of the pages submitted by this person and saw what Adam meant about there being no sources and no real information. Some of the pages I saw were for people who already had detailed pages written by relatives in the 1950s, so it is not even as if this was an attempt to list people who had not been commemorated. Of course no one can carefully research 14,000 people. I do not wish to speculate as to what this person’s motives may be. However, I will raise the matter with Yad Vashem. 

Just to answer your question, Adam, on how Yad Vashem categorizes researchers: The answer is, it doesn’t. Anyone can submit a Page of Testimony, and how the submitter defines himself or herself is up to them. “Researcher” simply seems to be a convenient category for people who aren’t relatives. It does not mean the person is a real researcher in a scientific sense. 

All the best,
Miriam Bulwar David-Hay,
Raanana, Israel.

Professional journalist, writer, editor, proofreader.
Professional translator (Hebrew/Yiddish to English).
Certified guide, Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum.
Email: miriambdh@...

Researching: BULWA/BULWAR (Rawa Mazowiecka, Lodz, Paris); FRENKIEL/FRENKEL, FERLIPTER/VERLIEBTER (Belz); KALUSZYNER, KUSMIERSKI, KASZKIET, KUZKA, JABLONKA, RZETELNY, WROBEL (Kaluszyn, Lodz); KRYSKA/KRYSZKA, CHABIELSKI/HABELSKI (Sieradz, Lodz); LICHTENSZTAJN (Kiernozia, Wyszogrod, Lodz); ROZENBERG (Przedborz, Lodz); WAKS (Nowe Miasto nad Pilica, Lodz); PELCMAN, STORCZ (Rawa Mazowiecka); SOBEL (Paris); SAPIR/SZAFIR (Wyszogrod).  


David
 

I do not have much experience in submitting online pages of testimony (POTs), but have done this once in my life, less than a year ago. Unfortunately, for various reasons most probably psychological, my grandparents on both sides of the family (all grew up in the UK)  did not do this although both my paternal grandparents had told me that they had lost cousins as well as it seems great uncles and great aunts. My maternal grandparents did not tell me anything and am not sure to what extent they were even aware of their more distant family, or even that my grandfather knew the fate of his half-brother that he told me he had and with whom they lost contact - that is my grandfather ever had any contact before the half-brother left for continent Western Europe, as my grandfather was born almost twenty years later.

From what I saw of the online forms, if one was not a relative or teacher or employer etc. of the murdered, then one would designate oneself as a researcher.

So, I feel your scenario is very plausible, although I think it would have been better for the tour guide to have written the name of the person who gave him the information and his/her relationship on the form, whether manual or online or at a terminal at Yad Vashem before this became available on the Internet. Yet, it might be for the same reason that my grandparents did not want to be "submitters", these tourists preferred to give it to do, to someone else whom they did not really know personally.

If this tour guide is still going strong, why not try and find his contact details (maybe online Israel telephone directories) and phone him?

David
PS The sole POT I submitted was for my grandfather's half brother Jacques GEWELBE. He already has a mention on Yad Vashem database from one of the Transport lists from France - but his age on this existing Yad Vashem transcription is completely out of proportion and not as on the original Transport list.

--
David Ziants

Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel


J Antrich
 

Hello all!
 
Sorry – I don’t see a ‘reply’ button on my daily summary, so can’t reply there.
 
Re "Researchers" submitting Yad Vashem Pages of Testimony
 
This is appalling if it’s correct – almost unbelieveable that anyone can contribute information to Yad Vashem without submitting evidence and without moderation. Even if done so in good faith. Just as importantly - What a blow to real researchers and historians, if they can’t trust the Yad Vashem website. And what a gift to Holocaust deniers.
 
Jeremy Antrich


Sam G.
 

Thank you for bringing up what appears to be a  flaw in Yad Vashem's testimony collection protocols. 
--
-Amnon Gronner, USA
Researching GRONNER SANDLER


Nevet Basker
 

The Yad Vashem victims' database is, unfortunately, a mess. There are so many redundant and questionable records that it's difficult to trust the information. Just yesterday I was looking for information on a person, and when I entered a last name I got 100+ records in addition to the one that I was hoping to find -- but there were only about 30 individuals represented in these records. I submitted over 20 reports of duplicate, triplicate, and quadruplicate entries. (And I classified myself as a "researcher" in each of these reports submitted, since I'm not related to any of these individuals.) The process is tedious, since the form must be submitted separately for each set of duplicate records, but I considered it worth doing in the interest of data integrity.

I received 20+ responses promptly, within less than 24 hours. Each message said, "As a result of your query we have connected the entries relating to the name you mentioned. Note that this will be visible in our online database only after the next update of the database which is updated every three months." -- Yup, less than a day to correct, but up to three months to make the updated records visible. 

--Nevet Basker, Bellevue, WA
nevet@...
Researching names: Basechis, Klughaupt, Lieberman, Laubfeld, Heilpern
Towns: Zolkiew, Uhnow, Rawa Ruska, Brody


Rony Golan
 

Adam et. al., 

I forwarded your question to the Director of Yad Vashem Hall of Names -  Dr. Alexander Abraham.

He answered me the following reply and asked that his reply be posted here:

Yad VaShem checked Mr. Xavier Messalati. He is an amateur researcher:

- He started with victims from France: found names in various publications from the time of the Holocaust

- Then he went on with names from different places: he found the information from all sorts of sources, even from the Internet, where they are scattered. Some source were unlikely to be reached by Yad VaShem.

- According to Yad VaShem's checks, his material is reliable. Of course there might also be errors, as with anyone else.

- He also locates and sends photos and this is very important for Yad VaShaem.

- Regarding "duplications", Yad VaShem is working very hard on it.

- Regarding updating the database every 3 months: The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names 
 is not an independent database: it is linked to other  Yad VaShem databases. For this reason it is impossible to update the database more frequently - it depends on updating all the other databases every 3 months. 

--
Rony Golan
Ramat HaSharon, Israel

SEARCHING: KRMARUTSKY, KRIVORUCHKI, Kaunas, Lithuania
                        EISDORFER, Hungary
                        SLOMOVITS, Sighet, Romania


Mark Halpern
 

I have been upset with Yad Vashem since May or June 2020. Let me explain.

I found a number of POTs submitted by an Israeli Holocaust survivor in 2012 who has since passed on. He may or may not be a distant cousin. His surname was Filip TENENBAUM. My grandmother was Ronia TENENBAUM. This gentleman used the JRI-Poland results of a search for TENENBAUM from Tarnopol Wojewodztwo. He then prepared POTs for people who had a birth record with no death record. This included my grandmother and my uncle. 

I mentioned the entire situation asking Yad Vashem to look into this. I pointed out that my widowed grandmother immigrated to America in 1938 to be with her sons and she died in November 1946. I also pointed out that my grandmother's first born named Sussie had died as an infant as my father had told me. 

The response received from Yad Vashem said to me that any POTs submitted were actual records and they would not be removed without proof. I sent them my grandmother's death certificate from New York. I told them I know that Sussie died in infancy, but there was no death record for him. 

The response was they would not change any entry without proof. They said they would remove my grandmother's name at the next database update and then place her name in their survivor list. She left Europe in 1938 and was not a survivor. 

My email conversations with Yad Vashem were not acceptable to me. The fact that they consider all entries of POTs as fact that must be disproven should be of concern to everyone who wants the Jewish people to have an accurate count of those who perished. I actually was asked to prove that my uncle died before 1939. They believed a man who identified my uncle as "a relative" with information taken directly from the JRI-Poland database and did not believe me.

I would like to understand why my pointing out that one person has submitted bogus POTs to Yad Vashem would not be of intertest to them and lead to an investigation. 

Thank you for letting me vent on this subject.

Mark Halpern
Conshohocken, PA, USA

On 2020-12-03 9:34 am, Rony Golan wrote:

Adam et. al., 

I forwarded your question to the Director of Yad Vashem Hall of Names -  Dr. Alexander Abraham.

He answered me the following reply and asked that his reply be posted here:

Yad VaShem checked Mr. Xavier Messalati. He is an amateur researcher:

- He started with victims from France: found names in various publications from the time of the Holocaust

- Then he went on with names from different places: he found the information from all sorts of sources, even from the Internet, where they are scattered. Some source were unlikely to be reached by Yad VaShem.

- According to Yad VaShem's checks, his material is reliable. Of course there might also be errors, as with anyone else.

- He also locates and sends photos and this is very important for Yad VaShaem.

- Regarding "duplications", Yad VaShem is working very hard on it.

- Regarding updating the database every 3 months: The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names 
 is not an independent database: it is linked to other  Yad VaShem databases. For this reason it is impossible to update the database more frequently - it depends on updating all the other databases every 3 months. 

--
Rony Golan
Ramat HaSharon, Israel

SEARCHING: KRMARUTSKY, KRIVORUCHKI, Kaunas, Lithuania
                        EISDORFER, Hungary
                        SLOMOVITS, Sighet, Romania


Stephen Weinstein
 

On Wed, Dec 2, 2020 at 05:08 PM, <nevet@...> wrote:
when I entered a last name I got 100+ records in addition to the one that I was hoping to find -- but there were only about 30 individuals represented in these records. I submitted over 20 reports of duplicate, triplicate, and quadruplicate entries
When they say "To date an estimated four and a half million Jews murdered in the Shoah have been commemorated in the database", does that mean four and a half million unique individuals (about 3/4 of the six million) or four and a half million records?

If this ratio -- an average of more than 3 records per unique individual and a number of individuals below 30% of the number of records -- is typical, then four and a half million records would be under one and a half million unique individuals (less than 1/4 of the six million).
 
--
Stephen Weinstein
Camarillo, California, USA
stephenweinstein@...


Ellen
 

Stephen,

According to a webinar I attended yesterday (hosted by the Center for Jewish History), Yad Vashem's online databases contain "7.5 million records related to 4.8 million Jews murdered and to hundreds of thousands of Jews persecuted" whose final fate may not be known.  About 40% are from Pages of Testimony, while 60% are from other sources.  It is not uncommon for there to be several records from different sources for the same person.  They try to "cluster" those records; however, slight variations in the spelling of names and other details can make that a challenge, so they rely on family members to compare the records and determine whether they reference the same person.  

Ellen
--
Ellen Morosoff Pemrick 
Saratoga County, NY

Researching WEISSMAN/VAYSMAN (Ostropol, Ukraine); MOROZ and ESTRIN/ESTERKIN (Shklov & Bykhov, Belarus); LESSER/LESZEROVITZ, MAIMAN, and BARNETT/BEINHART/BERNHART (Lithuania/Latvia); and ROSENSWEIG/ROSENZWEIG, KIRSCHEN, and SCHWARTZ (Botosani, Romania)


zionsharav
 

I am a bit puzzled by the concern expressed over incompletely researched names submitted to Yad vaShem.  Far more harm is done by the  often near-mythical lineages appearing on Geni. 
-Ari Dale,
Vered Jericho, Israel


Jay L Gordon
 

I am pretty new to the Yad Vashem names database. The problems people are reporting sound like the problems that would come with any crowdsourced clearinghouse of information. I do understand the concern that there could be a lot of bad information mixed in with the good, but short of changing the entire model of data collection, I don't think there's much that can be done. Yes, certainly some denier could latch onto the narrative that this big source of evidence is corrupted by bad data, and that somehow that undermines the integrity of the whole enterprise, but... that's a false narrative and we know that.

Also, I think the user bears some responsibility here. The testimonial sheets look like one potentially useful but also potentially problematic form of data. As a user, I take that for what it is-- I'd need corroborating materials to render that sheet meaningful. I can't speak for anyone else, but in my case, most of my family was already in the USA well before 1920, mostly between 1890 and 1905. So when I research METZENDORF in Bochnia and I find there's a Kalman Metzendorf in the database, all I can conclude is that possibly there's a connection, and that's that. I can't claim I have family I'm certain perished in the Holocaust.

Sincerely,

Jay Gordon


zionsharav
 

Excellent points, Jay Gordon.  When looking over a POT, it is very relevant to note whether the submitter is a close relative - and in what year the information
was submitted.
-Ari Dale