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Overview of Museum Collections

Scope and Nature of the Collections

In order to properly understand the events associated with the Third Reich and the Nazi occupation of Europe from 1933 to 1945 within their historical context, the temporal parameters of collecting activity extend from the end of World War I to the close of the Jewish displaced persons (DP) camps in the mid-1950s. These chronological boundaries can be further extended by collecting materials related to Holocaust war crimes trials; testimonies about the Holocaust and its aftermath; materials regarding restitution efforts; contemporary documentation concerning Holocaust deniers; Holocaust commemoration and memorialization; and by accepting other materials that preserve the integrity of personal collections.

Description of the Collection

The Museum's collection is represented by a broad range of subject areas, including the following:

  • Prewar communal life of victim groups in affected areas of Europe and North Africa
  • Rise to power of the Nazi movement in Germany and Austria
  • Nazi racial “science” and the propaganda campaign against Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and other targeted groups in Germany during the 1930s
  • Nazi anti-Jewish policy in the 1930s
  • Flight of victim groups from Nazi-occupied Europe
  • Refugee communities in various countries
  • World response to the rise of Nazism and the persecution of Jews and other targeted groups
  • Nazi occupation policies and practices
  • Roundups, deportations, and murder of European Jewry
  • Mass shootings conducted by the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) as well as other German and indigenous police and auxiliary units
  • Ghettos, concentration camps, labor camps, and killing centers
  • Fate of Poles; Roma (Gypsies); homosexuals; Jehovah’s Witnesses; the mentally and physically handicapped; Soviet prisoners of war; and other targeted groups during the war
  • Persecution of and by indigenous populations
  • Nazi collaborators in all affected countries
  • Regimes of the Nazi satellite states and their treatment of the populations under their control
  • Resistance to Nazi policies and actions
  • Rescue
  • Life in hiding during the Holocaust
  • Discovery and disclosure of the concentration and death camps
  • Liberation of Holocaust victims
  • War crimes trials and the search for and apprehension of war criminals
  • Experiences of victim groups following liberation
  • Bricha (postwar escape and rescue of Jews from eastern Europe)
  • Jewish experiences in DP camps and elsewhere following liberation
  • Legal and illegal immigration to Palestine, the United States, and other countries
  • Victim reparation and compensation
  • Holocaust memorialization and commemoration
  • Contemporary documentation regarding Holocaust deniers

Types of Media Collected

The various types of materials include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Art: drawings, paintings, prints, sculpture, artistic posters, and other creative works by Holocaust survivors or victims
  • Audio and video interviews
  • Books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and transcripts
  • Electronic copies, facsimiles, casts, microfilm, and photo-reproductions
  • Film, video, and audio recordings
  • Musical recordings and scores
  • Photographs (original and copy prints), photo albums, transparencies, and negatives
  • Textiles: uniforms, costumes, clothing, badges, armbands, flags, and banners
  • Textual records: government documents, legal proceedings, institutional records, personal papers, diaries, memoirs, and correspondence
  • Three-dimensional objects: personal effects, furnishings, architectural fragments, ritual objects, jewelry, numismatics, models, machinery, tools, and other implements
  • Works on paper: broadsides, announcements, advertisements, posters, and maps

Donating to the Museum

The Museum's collection has grown as a result of donations from private individuals and institutions, as well as through targeted projects and international programs. The Museum focuses on the events of only a few years in the middle of the twentieth century; however the individuals who experienced that history are passing from the scene, and there is a diminishing window of opportunity to collect the objects, and stories that provide their context, from those individuals most closely associated with the artifacts. More information about donating materials to the Museum, including answers to frequently-asked questions from donors, can be found at the Donating to Collections/Archives page. If you or a member of your family have artifacts related to the Holocaust and would like to discuss donating them to the Museum, please fill out the online form, e-mail curator@ushmm.org, or call 202.488.2649.