Nachman Blumental

Nachman Blumental (1905–1983) introduced scientific rigor into research on the Holocaust and brought it from Poland to Israel.

© Yad Vashem Photo Archive, Jerusalem. 1427/221
Nachman Blumental, Łódź, 1945.

He was born in Borszczów, Galicia, and studied Literature in Warsaw. He worked until 1939 as a teacher in Lublin and survived the war under a false identity.

© Yad Vashem Photo Archive, Jerusalem. 1427/358
Polish investigators in a conversation with Blumental, Łódź, date unknown. Blumental served as an expert during several postwar trials of Nazi perpetrators.

In 1944, Blumental joined the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland. In 1947, he became the main expert of the prosecution in the trial against the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höß. In the same year, Blumental was named the first director of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. He edited a dictionary of terms used by the Germans in ghettos and concentration camps.

In 1950, Blumental emigrated to Israel, where he published the two most influential journals on the Holocaust: Dapim leḥeker hashoah vehamered (Pages for Research of the Holocaust and Resistance) and the Bulletin of the State Memorial Yad Vashem. The political prerogative of his Holocaust research was important to him.

“In addition to the scholarly work we are doing what we call applied history. [...] Everything we do is a weapon in the war against Fascism and anti-Semitism.”

Nachman Blumental
© Yad Vashem Photo Archive, Jerusalem 1427/221
Blumental (middle) in an interview with a witness of the Holocaust, shortly after the war. In 1941, the Germans set up the first extermination camp near the Polish village Chełmno nad Nerem named „Kulmhof“. Blumental worked for the Polish commission which investigated this site of crime.

Blumental considered the collection of sources to be indispensable for a scientific analysis of the Holocaust. In 1954, he summarized his thoughts with succinct words: “Remember that research will always be possible later, but collecting documents will eventually cease to be possible.