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Scope and Nature of the Collections

The Museum’s David M. Rubenstein National Institute for Holocaust Documentation houses an unparalleled repository of Holocaust evidence that documents the fate of victims, survivors, rescuers, liberators, and others. Our comprehensive collection contains millions of documents, artifacts, photos, films, books, and testimonies.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was established by an act of Congress that mandated the creation of a “permanent living memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.” It is the items that belonged to those victims and survivors—as well as other materials that relate their stories, experiences, and histories—that form the basis of the Museum’s collections.

Materials have been donated by individuals who directly experienced the Holocaust or by their families, or have been acquired from domestic and international institutions. Museum staff collect, preserve, and make available to the public this collection of record of the Holocaust and support the Museum’s wide-ranging efforts in the areas of research, exhibition, publication, education, and commemoration.

In order to document how and why the Holocaust happened, we must collect and make accessible materials that were specifically designed to be antisemitic and racist. This is essential to tell the truth about Nazism and to combat Holocaust denial, distortion, and minimization.


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

  • Prewar communal life of victim groups in affected areas of Europe and North Africa

  • Nazi rise to power

  • Nazi racial “science” and the propaganda campaign against Jews, Roma/Sinti (Gypsies) and other targeted groups in Germany during the 1930s

  • Flight of victim groups from Nazi-occupied Europe and 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/Sinti (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

  • Regimes of the Nazi satellite states and their treatment of the populations under their control

  • Resistance to Nazi policies and actions

  • Rescue efforts and Bricha

  • Life in hiding during the Holocaust

  • Discovery, disclosure, and liberation of the concentration and death camps

  • War crimes trials and the search for and apprehension of war criminals

  • Experiences and testimonies of victim groups following liberation

  • Jewish experiences in displaced persons (DP) camps and elsewhere

  • 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


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

  • 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