The first Jewish memorial book was produced in Nuremberg in 1296, providing a record of Jewish communities slaughtered in the crusades across Europe. The book’s main purpose was liturgical, enabling relatives to say prayers for the dead, but its format provided the basic model on which all later memorial books were based. After the Second World War, the memorial book was given a dramatic revival as hundreds were published, often in limited print runs, by Holocaust survivors living in Israel, Argentina, and the United States. Post-war memorial books were usually produced in large format, often in excess of 400 pages and mostly written in Hebrew or Yiddish. A typical memorial book contains reminiscences, biographies, historical accounts, literary pieces, lists, photographs & maps. Each book provides an incredible primary resource for genealogists, biographers, and historians.
The Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica owns one of the largest collections of memorial books (yizkor books or yizker buchen) in the United States. Thought to be around 674 books, the Price Library collection is largely hidden due to the fact that each individual book is separately cataloged. This Memorial Books Portal aims to provide a means by which to distinguish the Price Library of Judaica Memorial Book Collection, to share information about its precise holdings, and to provide a first point of access to these important books.
To access the digital portal and a searcheable database of the Price Library Memorial Books use the links below.
A large number of memorial books can be read online through the JewishGen Yizkor Book Project, as well as those held in the New York Public Library which have been digitized as part of the Yizkor Books Online Project.
The largest recorded collection of memorial books (1040 titles) is housed at the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem.
The largest U.S. collection (1000+ titles) is held in the Morris and Emma Schaver Library-Archive at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Michigan.
For a list of libraries which are believed to own more than 450 titles and an estimation of their holdings visit the JewishGen website at: http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/yizlibs.html.
At present, due to the way memorial books are usually cataloged in OCLC, these libraries’ exact holdings are unknown; it is also unknown precisely which institutions hold which titles.
Edited and translated by Jack Kugelmass and Jonathan Boyarin, From a Ruined Garden includes the comprehensive bibliography of memorial books and gazetteer of place names.