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Publishing Research Quarterly

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Grey literature, Memorial books (Holocaust)


Yizkor is a Hebrew word meaning 'you will remember', and Yizkor books are books that commemorate the vanished communities destroyed by the Holocaust. As the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the German concentration camps is commemorated this year, it seems fitting, with this conference being held in Europe, to call attention to this unique and interesting body of literature.

Yizkor books present an historic but interesting type of grey literature, with significant modern day interest. While the Yizkor Book had its origins in the 13th century, it reemerged early in the 20th Century as a tool for documenting the declining villages and Jewish communities of Eastern and Western Europe. Following the Holocaust, these books were put to a new purpose in their memorialization of the destruction of Jewish life in Europe’s cities and villages. These books originated as manuscripts, collected in bits and pieces by fraternal organizations and mutual aid societies, and were eventually printed noncommercially in very small editions in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. Like the world population of Jews, the collections of these books are diasporic; scattered throughout the world. They are of current interest to a variety of scholars and others, for example – as tools for genealogical research and study – both for families of those who perished and for genealogists; to historians as primary sources- rich with detailed information about the past; to sociologists and anthropologists, as studies of a segment of European village life; to psychologists with an interest in the documentation of memory, and, it is hoped, to scholars of information creation and dissemination, as an addition to the canon of grey literature.

This paper approaches Yizkor books from all of these angles, and focuses on contextualizing them as Holocaust-era grey literature. The creation of these books, their publication and distribution history, and collection development efforts are discussed. Like the vanished communities that they describe, these books themselves have become endangered due to their small production numbers and various preservation challenges. Currently, there are digitization efforts underway to preserve and to increase open access to this genre of literature. These efforts are described and discussed.


This is the author's version of a work accepted for publication.


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