December 21, 2010 / 4:06 PM / 8 years ago

Two thirds of Holocaust victims now identified

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A list of confirmed names of Jews killed by the Nazis in World War Two has reached the four million mark, Israel’s Holocaust museum announced Tuesday, saying the identity of all six million dead may never be known.

“It is a moral imperative, an obligation for us to retrieve information and commemorate each and every individual who perished,” said Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Jerusalem.

“By doing so, a lot of important material comes up in our research to help combat Holocaust denial,” he told Reuters.

Yad Vashem has sorted through “millions of occurrences of names” over nearly six decades of research and taking testimony from survivors.

Announcing the organization had confirmed the identities of four million of the Jews who perished, Shalev said he doubted the names of all six million would ever come to light, although he stressed the figure was still accurate.

“I don’t see that we will get to every last name,” Shalev said, noting the difficulty of verifying the deaths or survival of small children, and other unrecorded victims executed or carted off to death camps across Europe during the war.

Yad Vashem, founded in the early 1950s, has redoubled its efforts to identify the victims in the past few years, partly to counter detractors such as Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who publicly deny or question whether the Holocaust took place.

Shalev said the four million names Yad Vashem has verified so far is double the number the institution had confirmed as recently as 1999.

Advances in computer technology have speeded up the process of identifying victims, along with an increasing flow of information from eastern Europe where most Jews on the continent perished.

Shalev said he hoped researchers would identify at least five million of the victims within a few years.

He said the six million death toll is based largely on census tallies from before the war of Jews who lived in specific towns and cities from where most were deported to death camps or otherwise executed.

Many of these lists have been in turn checked against millions of pages of survivor testimony taken over the years and prisoner records, among other archive material at Yad Vashem’s disposal.

Editing by David Stamp

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