Page from the passport application of Rabbi Leizer Brandwein (b. 1868), a resident of Stanisławów, Poland (now Ivano-Frankivs’k, Ukr.), 1922. An example of the archival materials about the Jews of Ivano-Frankivs’k collected by Rabbi Moishe Leib Kolesnik in Ukraine. (Courtesy Moishe Leib Kolesnik)

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Hundreds of state and local archives throughout Eastern Europe hold millions of documents that reflect the experience of Jews over many centuries. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and other East European Communist regimes, government archives became more accessible. Although it is true that numerous documents were lost during World War II, the documents that still exist are enormously rich and valuable. Particularly with the case of the former Soviet Union, the data remain largely unexplored by researchers interested in Jewish history.

In recent years, obstacles to research created by the absence of published guides to archival collections, compounded by the fact that it is often difficult to identify collections holding materials relevant to Jewish history, have begun to be addressed. A further complication for those interested in a particular locality has resulted from the shifting of borders. Thus even for a city like Odessa, records can be found not only in the city itself but also in Kiev at the Vernadskiy National Library, in the Moldovan National Archives in Chişinău (Kishinev), in the Russian State Historical Archives in Saint Petersburg, and in the State Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow.

Page from the pinkes (community record book) of the Jewish community of Sudilkov, Ukraine, part of the collection of the Vernadskiy National Library, which is believed to have the largest collection of East European pinkeysim in the world. (Vernadskiy National Library of Ukraine, Kiev)

Archival documents generally fit into two categories: those of Jewish provenance and those that form part of broader governmental and institutional records. Documents created by Jewish communal authorities—such as record books (Heb., pinkasim; Yid., pinkeysim), vital records kept by rabbis, materials from Jewish schools and other organizations and institutions—are included in the first category.

Archival Guides

Beginning about 1990, some state and local archives (e.g., in Ukraine) have been publishing guides focusing on collections with materials that relate to Jews. Some of these have been published electronically. Other archives have Web sites that guide researchers interested in Jewish history. (For a current listing of countries whose archival holdings are described on the Internet, see the UNESCO Archives Portal and repositories of primary sources listed in Appendix 1 and 2.)

Private Collections

Throughout Eastern Europe are private collections of Judaica and documents that have often been preserved with great care by those who have chosen to become trustees of this material. Frequently these collections originated in a period when such activity was either forbidden or unauthorized. For example, in Korolivka, a village in western Ukraine, a local schoolteacher has meticulously reconstructed the Jewish community of the village with a hand-drawn map showing the location of each Jewish family home, the family’s surname, and the occupation(s) of its members. Also included in the collection are school records dating back to 1899. In Ivano-Frankivs’k (formerly Stanisławów), Rabbi Moishe Leib Kolesnik has assembled a remarkable collection of documents and photographs. A partial inventory of his collection has been published on the Roots to Routes Foundation Web site.

Libraries and Other Repositories in Eastern Europe

The Vernadskiy National Library in Kiev holds about 8,000 manuscripts—including about 100 pinkasim of communities and associations related to Jews mainly in Ukraine in the nineteenth century. Some of these materials once belonged to the orientalist and Jewish historian Avraham (Albert) Harkavy, while others may have been collected by the An-ski Ethnographic Expedition

Vitaly Chumak and Larisa S. Mazurenko holding a Torah, one of dozens held by the local museum in Ostrog, Ukraine, 1993. (Photo Archive, Miriam Weiner)

Many other state museums contain significant collections of Judaica. For example, the local museum in Ostrog, Ukraine, holds numerous artifacts as well as civil record books and other documents. The Jewish Museum in Prague contains a particularly rich collection of documents, records, and artifacts, some dating back as long as 400 years. Similarly, the collections of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw include materials from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries. Its collections hold material related to the Jewish communities of Kraków and Wrocław (Breslau), among others. Like the Jewish Museum in Prague, it has an important and extensive collection of Holocaust-related documents.

Libraries and Other Repositories outside of Eastern Europe

There are important collections of Jewish material in Jerusalem at the Jewish National Library, the Central Zionist Archives, and Yad Vashem (the latter for Holocaust-related documents). The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, also located in Jerusalem and affiliated with the Hebrew University, has a large collection of original documents of East European provenance as well as an enormously rich collection of microfilmed copies of documents housed in East European archives.

In New York City, the most important centers for research include the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Leo Baeck Institute (for German Jews; regarding Eastern Europe, especially for documentation of German-speaking Jews of Hungary and Czech lands), and the literally millions of documents at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, including the Labor Bund Archives, which it holds. In Washington, D.C., the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is an important repository. In addition, the Hoover Institution, Library, and Archives at Stanford University in California has extensive holdings related to East European diplomatic and political matters.

Inventory and Other Projects

Founded in 1991, Project Judaica, a collaborative effort of the Jewish Theological Seminary, the YIVO Institute, and the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow, has as one of its aims the identification of archival sources related to Jewish history in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Thus far, a number of preliminary lists have appeared in print and more are in preparation. The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People has for decades been engaged in microfilming archival material related to Jewish history in European and other archives. Not directly related to archives but nevertheless worthy of mention is the International Survey of Jewish Monuments, which is engaged in producing a comprehensive listing of architectural and material remains of Jewish culture in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

Resources for Genealogical Research

Until the late 1980s, there was virtually no possibility of tracing Jewish roots in the archives of Eastern Europe, including the former Soviet Union. Today, most of these archives are accessible to the public and many indexed and translated documents may be found on the official archive’s Internet Web site and also at The national archives in some countries devote a specific section of their Web site to Jewish genealogical resources including those of Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and others.

One way to begin to identify archival materials relevant to genealogical research is to utilize the extensive resources on the Web provided by JewishGen, which styles itself as the primary Internet source linking researchers of Jewish genealogy worldwide. Its extensive Web site provides access to a JewishGen Family Finder (a database comprising 350,000 family surnames and names of towns); ShtetLinks for more than 200 communities; and links to Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that provide information on resources related to particular regions and states. JewishGen’s online Family Tree of the Jewish People contains data on more than 3 million people.

An important resource is the journal Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, which has been published in the United States since 1985. It regularly carries articles of interest to genealogists and reports on the availability of various resources.

The most extensive project involving collecting and copying genealogical records on microfilm is the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since the 1960s, Jewish vital records have been microfilmed in various Central and East European countries, beginning with Poland, Germany, and Hungary. One recent step has been the microfilming of Russian census lists. Inventories and lists of locations for which data has been collected are available on the Internet.

In early 1997, Jewish Records Indexing–Poland project (JRI-Poland) reached an agreement with the Polish State Archives to create a name index for documents within the system that had not been microfilmed by the Family History Library. A similar agreement was signed with the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. By 2005 these efforts had resulted in the largest fully searchable database of Jewish vital records accessible online, with more than 2.4 million records from 400 Polish towns.

In 1989, Miriam Weiner, in collaboration with the Polish State Archives, undertook to inventory Jewish and civil records on a town-by-town basis. The result was a volume titled Jewish Roots in Poland: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories, published under the joint auspices of the Routes to Roots Foundation and the YIVO Institute. It covers the holdings of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw as well as local records held in state archives. In 1991, Weiner cooperated with the State Archives in Ukraine and Moldova to produce a similar volume, titled Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories. Finally, in the mid-1990s Weiner signed a similar agreement with the State Archives in Belarus and Lithuania. On the Routes to Roots Foundation Web site, the searchable database includes inventories of holdings in all of the countries mentioned. The Web site also includes 450 pages of text comprised of articles by archivists and historians, maps, document examples, and various archival sources.


Arlene Beare, A Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Latvia and Estonia (London, 2001).

Hennadii V. Boriak et al., “Natsysts’ke zoloto” z Ukrainy: U poshukakh arkhivnykh svidchen’, 2 vols. (Kiev, 1998–2000).

Genrikh Markovich Deich, Arkhivnye dokumenty po istorii evreev v Rossii v XIX–nachale XX vv: Putevoditel’ / A Research Guide to Materials on the History of Russian Jewry, 19th and Early 20th Centuries in Selected Archives of the Former Soviet Union, ed. Benjamin Nathans (Moscow and Pittsburgh, 1994).

Dmitrii Arkad’evich Eliashevich, Dokumental’nye materialy po istorii evreev v arkhivakh SNG i stran Baltii: Predvaritel’nyi spisok arkhivnykh fondov (St. Petersburg, 1994).

Ladislau Gyémánt, “Sources of Jewish Genealogical Research in the Romanian Archival System,” Avotaynu 14.3 (1998): 22–28.

György Haraszti, Magyar zsidó levéltári reportórium (Budapest, 1993).

Viktoriia Khiterer, Dokumenty po evreiskoi istorii XVI–XX vekov v Kievskikh arkhivakh (Kiev and Moscow, 2001).

Zuzana Kollárová and Jozef Hanus, A Guide to the Slovak Archives (Prešov, Slovakia, 1999).

Mark S. Kupovetskii, Eduard Mikhailovich Savitskii, and Marek Web, Dokumenty po istorii i kul’ture evreev v arkhivakh Belarusi: Putevoditel’ (Moscow and New York, 2003).

Mark S. Kupovetskii, Evgenii Vasil’evich Starostin, and Marek Web, Dokumenty po istorii i kul’ture evreev v arkhivakh Moskvy: Putevoditel’ (Moscow and New York, 1997).

Efim Iosifovich Melamed, Arkhivnaia iudaika Rossii, Ukrainy i Belorussii: Materialy dlia ukazatelia literatury (St. Petersburg, 2001), summary in English.

Anna Valeriivna Morozova and N. Poletun, Dokumenty z istorii ievreiv u Derzhavnomu arkhivi Chernihivs’koi oblasti: Dovidnyk (Nizhyn, Ukr., 2003).

L. A. Pokidchenko, Istoriia ukrainskogo evreistva v dokumental’nykh i pechatnykh istochnikakh Gosudarstvennogo arkhiva Sumskoi oblasti: Putevoditel’ (Sumy, Ukr., 2001).

Dorit Sallis and Marek Web, Jewish Documentary Sources in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus: A Preliminary List (New York, 1996).

Irina Sergeeva, “Vernadsky Library of Ukraine,” in Preserving Jewish Archives as Part of the European Cultural Heritage, ed. Jean-Claude Kuperminc and Raphaële Arditti, pp. 85–93 (Paris, 2001).

Adam Teller, Hanna Volovici, and Hadassah Assouline, comps., Guide to the Sources for the History of the Jews in Poland in the Central Archives (Jerusalem, 1988).

Miriam Weiner, Jewish Roots in Poland: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories (Secaucus, N.J., and New York, 1997).

Miriam Weiner, Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories (Secaucus, N.J., and New York, 1999).

Bolesław Woszczyński and Violetta Urbaniak, Źródła archiwalne do dziejów Żydów w Polsce (Warsaw, 2001).


1. General Resources

Bund (Jewish Labor Movement): See YIVO Institute Center for Jewish History:

Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People:

Family History Library:

Federation of East European Family History Societies:

Hoover Institution:

International Survey of Jewish Monuments:

JewishGen®, Inc.:

Leo Baeck Institute:

Project Judaica:

UNESCO Archives Portal:

YIVO Institute:

2. Holocaust Research

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

Yad Vashem:

3. Country Listings


Belarus State Archives:

JewishGen SIG Belarus:

Routes to Roots Foundation:

Czech Republic

Czech State Archives:

JewishGen SIG Austria-Czech:

AustriaCzechJewish Museum of Prague:

Leo Baeck Institute:


Estonian State Archives:


JewishGen SIG Galicia:


Hungarian State Archives:

Gen SIG Hungary:


JewishGen SIG Latvia:; see also

Latvian State Archives:


JewishGen SIG Lithuania:

Lithuanian Archives Department: en

Routes to Roots Foundation:


JewishGen SIG Romania/Moldova:

Routes to Roots Foundation:


JewishGen SIG Galicia:

Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw:

Jewish Records Indexing–Poland:

Polish State Archives:

Routes to Roots Foundation:


JewishGen SIG Romania/Moldova:


Russian Federation Archives:

Russian State Historical Archives:

Slovak Republic

Slovak State Archives:


JewishGen SIG Galicia:

JewishGen SIG Ukraine:

Routes to Roots Foundation:

Ukraine State Archives: