The Survivor Registry by Nancy Gorrell
Our Registry honors as survivors and victims any person or persons who were displaced, persecuted or discriminated against due to the racial, religious, ethnic and political policies of the Nazi’s and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945. In addition to inmates of concentration camps, ghettos and prisons, this definition includes people who were refugees, partisans and in hiding.
The SSBJCC Holocaust Education Center Survivor Registry began in 2014 as research project to answer the following questions:
- Who were the survivors in our community?
- Was there a list or database of survivors for Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties?
Each of our local agencies and organizations had their own lists, but there was no coordinated list for each of the three counties.
As a result, Nancy Gorrell began establishing a Registry for Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties. She worked with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C. where survivors voluntarily register themselves. The museum’s representatives identified by zip codes, 111 survivors in our tri-county area. Following USHMM’s protocols, the museum sent out inquiry letters to the 111 survivors requesting permission to release their contact information to our HEC Survivor Registry. Out of 111 letters of inquiry, only ten survivors or their descendants replied. Out of the ten, several of the survivors were already well-known to our community.
The lack of response and the aging of the local survivor population underscored the urgent need to establish a Survivor Registry for Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties to bring the remaining survivor community together and to give voice to their descendants.
Establishing a Survivor Registry 2015 – 2017
In early 2015, Nancy Gorrell began establishing a database of survivors from Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties. Shortly thereafter, by demand and need, the database was expanded to include Middlesex and surrounding counties. At the same time, an additional section of the Survivor Registry was established – Voices of the Descendants – to give voice to the 2nd and 3rd generations. Not only were descendant children registering their survivor parents, but grandchildren were registering their grandparents “to tell the stories” they had heard.
By the opening of the Holocaust Memorial and Education Center in December 10, 2017, our Survivor Registry had 100 registered survivors. At the opening celebration, over 300 survivors and their descendants attended to honor our survivor community and their loved ones fulfilling our mission to remember, zachor, from generation to generation.
Our Registry is On-Going
Once the Holocaust Memorial and Education Center opened at the SSBJCC, interest in the local Survivor Registry and Voices of the Descendants grew in our region as Holocaust survivors in their aging years, returned to our counties to be near their children. Although the total number of Holocaust survivors has declined statewide, Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Warren and Hunterdon counties reports an increase in their client population and attendance at their monthly meetings for Holocaust Survivors, Café Europa.
Survivor Registry Expands to All of New Jersey 2018
The decision to include survivors from all of New Jersey became a logical one as descendants throughout New Jersey desired to register their loved ones. By early 2018 our Survivor Registry reached over 100 registered survivors. As of 2021, the Registry had a total of 130. The number continues to grow.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
Q: Who is a Holocaust Survivor?
Any person or persons who were displaced, persecuted or discriminated against due to the racial, religious, ethnic and political policies of the Nazi’s and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945. In addition to inmates of concentration camps, ghettos and prisons, this definition includes people who were refugees, partisans and in hiding.
Q: Who can register?
Any Holocaust survivor or their descendants (2nd, 3rd, 4th generations) residing or having resided at any time in New Jersey. Our registry began as a local one and then expanded statewide.
Q: I am a child of a Holocaust survivor. I have medals and family photographs and historic documents to donate.
We welcome donations of electronic and digital copies of photographs, historic documents, artifacts and memorabilia. We are not a museum, and do not have the space to archive and display.
Q: What if I want to search for survivors from a particular country and I don’t know their names?
Refer to Registry Search by Country or Place of Birth: