Collecting, preserving, and making available evidence of the Holocaust to scholars, survivors, and the general public is one of the Museum's highest priorities. The massive documentary record of the Holocaust has been scattered to virtually every country in the world and shows clearly the enormity of the crime and its implications. This critical evidence is endangered, however, and its dispersal of materials hinders expedient and productive use by researchers, survivors, and the broader public.
The Museum’s highly trained and motivated International Archival Program (IAP) division travels the world to locate and evaluate original documentation and arrange for its reproduction and acquisition by the Museum. The work of IAP has made millions of pages of documents readily available for Museum visitors. Acquiring these records is difficult work, however, and it is often an endeavor of discovery. As the distinguished scholar Professor Raul Hilberg estimated, roughly 80 percent of Holocaust records remain underutilized or unknown. A tremendous amount of material remains buried, perhaps forgotten, in the repositories of governments and municipalities, Jewish communities, private companies, banks, and other institutions, as well as in private collections across the world. Many collections also remain classified or restricted, and thus unavailable to individual researchers.
To locate and retrieve these records, the IAP conducts search and acquisition programs in 53 countries. As an agency of the US Government, IAP has helped the Museum successfully open previously sealed governmental archives, and then made the records accessible. Impressive amounts of institutional, communal, and private documentation have also surfaced in locations where Jewish communities disappeared or were diminished by the Holocaust. Many such records are at very high risk, in fragile condition, or endangered due to inadequate storage, poor paper quality, and the passage of time.
The Museum’s Archive currently houses more than 70 million pages of records and is one of the world’s foremost and most accessible repositories of Holocaust documentation. Museum holdings include more than 3 million pages each from Germany, Romania, France, and the former Soviet Union, 2.5 million pages from Austria, over 2 million pages each from Poland and Israel, and one million pages each from Belgium, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Slovakia, and Ukraine. Smaller collections contain unique materials from a great variety of repositories, such as the Vatican archives; the Natural History Museum in Vienna; the State Archives of Kazakhstan; the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva; and the Shanghai Municipal Archive. The diversity of collections easily accessible at the Museum make it a unique facility for conducting research on the Holocaust; a facility that is already having a significant impact on the field of Holocaust studies, in publications, public forums, and in teaching the Holocaust on American campuses.
Archival evidence is also a fundamental resource for confronting Holocaust denial, contemporary antisemitism, and racist ideology, as well as for challenging national myths about the Holocaust. Although some collections are not fully catalogued, all are available for research to scholars, survivors, and the general public. In addition to the Museum’s online catalogs, the Center has compiled an Archival Guide to the Collections of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and other archival guides and resources for researchers. Read more about research resources.
Requests for information on specific archival collections or to make arrangements for conducting onsite research in the reading rooms can be directed to the reference desk using this form.
For inquiries regarding current international archival collection activity, please contact:
Dr. Radu Ioanid
International Archival Programs
Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
Washington, DC 20024-2126