Voices of Holocaust Survivors: Oral Histories and Personal Narratives

By Dorot Jewish Division Staff
January 25, 2016
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

Updated 1/9/2023

Each year on January 27 the United Nations commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Survivors’ personal stories are a powerful primary source for learning about the Holocaust. Explore the Library’s collection of oral histories, autobiographies, biographies, and memoirs of Holocaust survivors. Also available is a LibGuide, Holocaust Research, Education, and Remembrance Online, put together by Dorot Jewish Division Staff, outlining online resources at NYPL and beyond including research, curriculum, and multimedia resources. 

Rena Grynblat

Rena Grynblat, b. 1926, Warsaw, Poland. Image ID: 5164371

Oral Histories

Vladka Meed (Feigele Pelte Miedzyrzecki) was a teenager when the Nazis occupied Poland. Active in the underground youth movement, she lived as a Polish non-Jew in Warsaw, outside of the ghetto, and worked as a courier, carrying out illegal missions such as hiding people, smuggling documents, and organizing the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. She was the only one in her family to survive and came to the United States in 1946, writing a memoir about her experiences. Read her interview in our Digital Collections.

Egon Loebner was an accomplished student in Czechoslovakia, who dreamed of becoming a diplomat but chose engineering because he knew he would have to emigrate due to antisemitism. He survived the ghettos, the camps Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, and lost nearly his entire family. His engineering skills saved his life many times during the war. He later came to the U.S. where he met Albert Einstein and got Einstein's recommendation to study physics, helping to develop today’s flat screen televisions. Read his interview in our Digital Collections.

Maria Rosenbloom grew up in Kolomija in a wealthy and religious family. She battled antisemitic quotas and violence to study Polish literature in Lviv in the late 1930’s. During the Second World War, she lost her husband, parents, and virtually her entire family, in an atmosphere of horrific violence and starvation. She lived as a non-Jewish Pole but her Jewish appearance frequently put her life in danger and caused her to flee. She was shot while participating in resistance activities. Working with displaced persons after the war, she eventually became a leading psychiatric social worker and teacher. Read her interview in our Digital Collections.

Aryeh Neier was born in Berlin in 1937, the child of Galician Jews. His family fled to England just a few years later, where his father was held in an internment camp on suspicion of being a possible spy, and Aryeh lived in a home for refugee children for a year. Virtually all of his relatives in Germany and Poland were killed during the Holocaust. In London, their house was bombed. After the war, the family settled in New York. Aryeh studied labor relations at Cornell and became a well-known advocate for civil liberties and human rights. A prolific author and professor, his most famous and controversial case was ACLU’s defense of the Nazis’ right to march in Skokie. Read his interview in our Digital Collections.

The above individuals were interviewed for the American Jewish Committee Oral History Collection, which includes 2,250 individuals, among them approximately 250 Holocaust survivors. Read more oral histories of Holocaust survivors online and onsite. Search the catalog using the keywords “oral” and survivor” to find more.

Personal Narratives

Explore the Library’s collection of autobiographies, biographies, and memoirs of Holocaust survivors.

Search the catalog:

By call number: *PWZ - then click “modify search” and choose subject word “Holocaust”

Search for personal narratives by thematic subject heading :

Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel is an award-winning author and professor. His most famous book, Night, is a memoir of his experience surviving the Holocaust as a teenager, and has been translated into more than 30 languages. Image ID: TH-64778

Yizkor Books

The Library’s collection includes approximately 700 yizkor books, memorial books of Jewish communities destroyed in the Holocaust. Yizkor books were largely written and compiled by survivors, and by landslayt (townspeople who had left before the war) and often include personal essays, memoirs and eyewitness accounts from wartime.

Search Jewish Gen’s bibliographic yizkor book database by the names of towns or cities, and check NYPL’s website for an alphabetical list of our yizkor book holdings. Read yizkor books online and onsite, and find English translations at JewishGen.

For yizkor book narratives of Holocaust survivors in Poland, see From A Ruined Garden: The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry, translated and edited by Jack Kugelmass and Jonathan Boyarin ; with geographical index and bibliography by Zachary M. Baker.

Lida, Belarus yizkor book Zionist yeshiva 1910

Zionist yeshiva, 1910. From the yizkor book of Lida, Belarus. Image ID: 5038825