"Mendel pulls out his camera. No more flowers, clouds, nature, still life, landscapes. Amid the horror all around him, he has found his destiny: to photograph and leave behind a testimony for all generations about the great tragedy unfolding before his eyes.”
This is how Arieh Ben Menahem describes the work of Lodz ghetto photographer Mendel Grossman in his book: "With a Camera in the Ghetto" (Hebrew). Ben Menahem was himself a photographer who worked as Grossman’s assistant during the war. Grossman died in April 1944 in a German labor camp, but Ben Menahem survived the Holocaust and, thanks to him, hundreds of photographs the two men took in the ghetto made their way to Yad Vashem.
Mendel Grossman's photos are but a small portion of the historical photograph collection preserved in the Yad Vashem Archives. Yad Vashem’s photographic collection began with the gathering of individual and group photographs immediately after WWII. When the Yad Vashem archives opened in 1955, these collections were incorporated within. In 1983, a separate Photographic Section was established, with the purpose of collating, cataloging and researching historic photographs relating to the Holocaust. In 1993 we began computerized cataloguing of the collection and scanning began in 1998. A portion of the collection was first uploaded to the internet in 2008. The photos in the database are a valuable source for historians, educators, writers, film producers and the general public.
The photographic collection covers the entire range of fields relating to the lives of the Jews before, during and after the Holocaust, as well as Holocaust remembrance around the world. The photographs come from a variety of sources, including official archives, private collections, museums and various historic collections.
The online database contains some 150,000 historic photographs. We plan to upload additional collections, as well as photographs that we will receive in the future. Thousands more cannot be included because of legal constraints, such as the right to privacy and copyright infringement.
The photo database presented here as a public service is the largest existing photograph collection pertaining to the Holocaust and can be seen as a realization of Mendel Grossman's legacy.
Credit and Rights of Use
Users wishing to make commercial use of photographs from the Yad Vashem Photo Archive website are required to contact the Yad Vashem Archives and/or the individual or institution who holds the rights to the photograph, to obtain official permission. In case of doubt regarding the use of photographs in the Yad Vashem Archives, users are requested to contact the Yad Vashem Archives at the following email address:
Credit of the photographs in the Yad Vashem Archives was done in good faith and according to the information available at the time that these photographs were catalogued. In the event of any question regarding the rights to any photographs in the Yad Vashem Archives, or any request to correct the existing registration information, kindly contact the Yad Vashem Photo Archive at email@example.com.
Each query will be thoroughly checked. In the event that an error has been made, it will be corrected in due course.
In the event that the owner of a photograph in the Yad Vashem Archives is not interested in having that photograph displayed on the Yad Vashem website, the owner is kindly requested to contact the Yad Vashem Photo Archive as soon as possible. The photograph will be removed from the Yad Vashem website, in line with the owner’s written request.
Photographs with attached credits are displayed on the Yad Vashem website after obtaining permission from the owners, whether individuals or organizations. In the event that a photograph on the Yad Vashem website has been mounted without the owner’s permission, kindly contact Yad Vashem in order to correct the current situation.
The Yad Vashem Photo Archive website is offered “as is” as a public service. The information displayed was recorded in good faith and according to the information available at the time that these photographs were catalogued. Yad Vashem has taken utmost care and effort to present precise, historical information on its Photo Archive website. Nevertheless, in a collection of such magnitude and complexity, a possibility of inaccuracy remains. If it appears that an error has been made, kindly contact us with a description of the problem, as well as your suggestion regarding its correction. In the event that the Yad Vashem Photo Archive sees fit, any proven error will be corrected in due course.
Yad Vashem is not responsible for any changes made, in the material displayed in this website, by users or a third party. Users of the Yad Vashem website carry sole responsibility for the manner in which they make use of the service offered by this website.
This website contains photographs which may be difficult to view. Users who are unable to cope with viewing photographs of this sort are asked not to search for these photographs and are likewise asked not to view them. Yad Vashem takes no responsibility for any emotional or physical harm that may be caused to users as a result of viewing the photographs displayed on this website.
Transfer/ Donation of Photographs to Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem makes constant efforts to enlarge and vary the Photo Archive collection, through a planned acquisitions program and by receiving donations of photographs. Many individuals have important historical photographs relating to the Holocaust in their personal possession.
Yad Vashem kindly asks members of the public to consider donating such photographs to the Yad Vashem Photo Archive collection. By transferring photographs to the Yad Vashem Photo Archive, the owners are guaranteeing optimal storage conditions for these photographs, as well as their orderly registration into the Yad Vashem Archives.
In this manner, the photographs and the valuable information they contain will be preserved for future generations. In the event that you are interested in transferring photographs related to the Holocaust to Yad Vashem, kindly contact us in one of the following ways:
By regular mail:
Yad Vashem Archives
9103401 Jerusalem, ISRAEL
Copies of photographs from the Yad Vashem Photo Archive, which appear on our website, may be ordered for a fee. Ordered photographs are supplied in the form of digital files of 300 DPI or higher resolution.
Copies with specific dimensions or higher resolution scans will be supplied only upon receipt of a precise, justifiable, written description of what is required and for what purpose, and upon payment of an additional fee. Please remember that the photographs were scanned primarily to protect the originals and that each additional scan causes further damage to a photograph.
To order a copy of a photograph, kindly contact us by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Archive; Yad Vashem Archives
With each order, kindly designate the Archival Signature and the Album Number (if applicable). Likewise, kindly supply the intended use for the photograph, as well as your contact details (full name, email, mailing address, telephone number, and organizational or academic affiliation).
Tips on How to Search for Photographs in the Yad Vashem Website
- Before starting a search, the user should first define the subject as clearly as possible, ideally by preparing a list of topics, concepts or names. General topics such as “a paper about the Holocaust” or “the fate of the Jews from 1933-1945” should be avoided. Search topics defined in a manner such as: “daily life in the Warsaw Ghetto” or “children in concentration camps” or “deportation of French Jews” will produce more useful results.
- This section of the website, contains thousands of photographs of people who perished in the Holocaust, but it is not intended for searching the names of people who perished in the Holocaust. In the event that you are searching for a specific person, it is recommended that you search the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names.
- If your search is based on a subject and your search definition is too broad (such as searching for “ghetto” or “Lodz”), it is suggested that you use the “Advanced Search” feature or think of ways in which you can narrow your search to more specific subjects.
- It is suggested that you make a cross-linked search (using names of people, places, organizations, etc.) combined with Keywords, in order to obtain more specific search results.
- People who transfer a photograph to Yad Vashem receive an access number to the photograph. This number appears in the return letter from Yad Vashem acknowledging receipt of the photograph. To download a particular photograph, input the photograph’s access number in the field designated “Archival Signature” in the “Advanced Search”.
- It is possible to search by date, using the “Photograph/Event date” field, as well as in the “Caption” or “Additional Info” fields. You can search by date by the year only (yyyy), or by specific dates (dd/mm/yyyy).
Visiting the Yad Vashem Photo Archive
When visiting Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, you can visit the Archives and search for photographs there. Help is available from the Reference staff. In the interest of the protection and preservation of original materials, the photographs in the Yad Vashem Photo Archive are not available for viewing by visitors. Therefore, digital copies are made available for researchers using the Yad Vashem Archives Reading Room.