Identification and Description of Countries, Archival Institutions and Collections

EHRI’s mission is to integrate as much information on Holocaust-related archival institutions and their holdings as is possible. Therefore we employ broad criteria when selecting information for inclusion. However it has been necessary to prioritise certain regions, institutions and holdings. This has been due to the sheer quantity of institutions and holdings that are potentially relevant and their wide geographical distribution across Europe and beyond. Moreover, even in regard to our priority areas, we are aware that the Portal’s coverage, while extensive, is far from being complete. The population of the Portal is a long-term and ongoing effort, and more information is continuously being added.

The information in this chapter will provide you with a high-level understanding of our priorities in regard to the selection of countries, archival institutions and holdings, and about the way information on selected entities have been assembled. More detailed information for the situation in each country is available via the “Research Summaries” in the respective country report (see Chapter 1 above for details on the Country Reports).

Identification and description of countries

In regard to the selection of countries, our first priority area is on the Axis and Nazi-occupied countries in Europe (including the North-African colonies). This includes the following countries: Albania, Algeria, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYROM), Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Vatican City.

In addition, we have also written country reports on Israel, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States, as these countries hold important Holocaust-related archival collections.

Finally, we have identified and descripted archival institutions that are located in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan. The ultimate goal is to include a country report on every country which holds Holocaust-related archival collections and to keep the reports up to date in order to create a dynamic, growing resource for the identification of Holocaust-sources.

All country reports have been authored by EHRI staff, are written in English, and are structured according to a general template that is described in the Introduction to the EHRI Country Reports on Holocaust History and Archives (see https://ehri-project.eu/country-reports).

Identification and description of archival institutions

Holocaust-relevant archival institutions included in the portal have been identified by using the following major sources:

  • the Directory of Holocaust-Related Archives (Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany)
  • the Guide des Archives sur la Shoah (Mémorial de la Shoah)
  • an overview list of institutions with which Yad Vashem worked together and has copied archival material from
  • an overview of restitution and compensation archives from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

 For some countries, additional information has been gathered from:

  • the online catalogue of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • specific additions from national archival guides, experts, and published studies on the subject

The identification of archival institutions is an ongoing effort, and additional relevant institutions are continuously being described. All descriptions of archival institutions have been authored by EHRI staff, are written in English and conform to the International Council of Archive’s International Standard for Describing Institutions with Archival Holdings (ISDIAH).

Identification and description of archival holdings

The descriptions of archival holdings that are available in the Portal have two distinct origins. They either come from EHRI-authored descriptions, or from descriptions authored elsewhere. There are quite significant differences between these two types of archival descriptions in terms of selection criteria and their general characteristics:

Existing external descriptions (not authored by EHRI)

The vast majority of the descriptions of archival sources available in the Portal have not been authored by EHRI, but have been provided to us by the holding institutions or others such as authors of research guides or archival aggregators. When selecting such externally authored descriptions for integration in the Portal, we apply a very liberal definition of what constitutes a Holocaust-related archival holding.

In terms of content, we have mapped the local metadata schemas used by the original describing agency to our own, but have otherwise not significantly altered the content of the descriptions, Therefore, these descriptions are much more diverse in length, style and content than EHRI-authored descriptions. Moreover, we have so far not systematically linked such external descriptions to the EHRI controlled vocabularies. However, we are currently working on increasing the interlinkage between external archival descriptions and the EHRI controlled vocabularies, and expect to have a much more comprehensive coverage soon.

New descriptions authored by EHRI

EHRI staff writes new descriptions of archival holdings if the holdings had either never been (digitally) described before, if existing descriptions do not clearly indicate the presence of Holocaust-relevant materials, and if the holdings adhere to a stricter set of selection criteria.

  • In terms of time, we only describe holdings that relate to the period from 30 January 1933 to today. An exception to this general time-frame is made for victim sources (sources from Jews or people considered as Jews under Nazi rule, or victim organizations), and we describe victim sources on Jewish life at the eve of the persecution, including the interwar period.
  • In terms of geography, our primary focus is on Germany and Eastern Europe, the main crime site of the Holocaust; our second one is on other occupied countries and Axis countries; and our final one on further countries such as refugee countries. When describing archival holdings, EHRI uses a top-down approach: from national, to regional, to local, to individual.
  • In terms of scope, we consider a collection as Holocaust-related if it contains at least one file on the Holocaust.

Up to March 2015 EHRI authored descriptions for archives in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway and Ukraine, and we keep on adding further EHRI-authored archival descriptions to the Portal. All EHRI-authored descriptions conform to the International Council of Archive’s General International Standard Archival Description (ISAD(G)), and are linked to the EHRI controlled vocabularies described in chapter 1 above.