Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, on which we remember those who suffered in the Holocaust, under Nazi persecution, and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
The following is taken from UNESCO Memory of the World, available here.
What is it?
A collection of books, manuscripts and other historical items in different languages from the Ashkenazi Jewish Community of Mexico.
Why was it inscribed?
It is a unique heritage of Ashkenazi culture in Mexico and a testament to the extraordinary historic saga that brought it from Europe. It is the memory of a cultural minority that was persecuted in Europe but found survival in the Americas.
Where is it?
Comunidad Ashkenazí de México, Lomas de Chapultepec, Mexico City, Mexico
|Illustration from Fonen und Blunt (‘Flags and Blood’) by Jacobo Glantz, 1936.|
The Center of Documentation and Investigation of the Ashkenazi Community of Mexico preserves and disseminates the Ashkenazi culture, which nearly disappeared during the Nazi era in Germany between 1933 and 1945. It also safeguards the historic memory of the Jewish minority in Mexico that arrived from Central and Eastern Europe.
The collection consists of 16,000 volumes, mostly in Yiddish and Hebrew, but also in Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Russian and other languages relating to Ashkenazi culture.
From the end of the 19th century the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe decided to emigrate towards America to find better living conditions, resulting in large groups of Jews cutting their ties to the lands in which they had developed a way of life, a language (Yiddish) and a manner of being: the Ashkenazi.
In the first two decades of the last century, many Jews coming from countries such as Russia, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and France settled in Mexico. To retain their identity and continuity for later generations, they founded the Nidjei Israel (1922), a community very similar in its functions to what they had left behind in Europe.
Their former life was ended forever by the pogroms unleashed at the dawn of the 20th century, by the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, and by the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s.
When the religious and cultural centres finally disappeared during the Holocaust, the responsibility
for preserving the Ashkenazi culture fell on the shoulders of Latin American communities.
In 1945, thousands of books that had been confiscated by the Nazis were rescued by the Allies near Offenbach in Germany. Returning them to their original libraries was impossible, so it was decided to contact the established Jewish communities in Latin America. The Ashkenazi community in Mexico received 1000 of those books, which became the starting point for a new collection of Ashkenazi and wider Jewish culture in Mexico.
The CDICA now has more than 16,000 volumes dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries, the greater part of them written in Yiddish and Hebrew, and a few in other languages including Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian and Russian. It also has all the manuscripts from the Ashkenazi institutions in Mexico. The books focus mainly on the humanities, Jewish studies and cultural history.
The collection is unique for two main reasons: the first, because it is the only one of its kind in Mexico and the second, because of the extraordinary historic saga that brought it from Europe.