The Fortunoff Video Archive catalog records use what are called subject headings to identify subjects, concepts, people, organizations, and geographic areas like cities and countries discussed in testimonies. Having a standardized way to refer to a topic allows us to group all relevant testimonies together and gives researchers places to start their search. At Fortunoff as well as many other libraries and archives, these subject headings are primarily created using Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), a common controlled vocabulary. This includes current city and country names, concentration camp names, historical figures, government organizations, and specific topics, concepts, experiences, and relationships, such as “refugee camps,” “death marches” or “fathers and sons.” However, LCSH has some limitations in use, especially where geographic headings are concerned, and may not contain headings that are specific to experiences of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust. To address these shortcomings, we have created a local controlled vocabulary that researchers can search as well.

Common Subject Heading Formatting for Places


There are almost no LCSH subject headings to identify ghettos.* Therefore, we use both LCSH subject headings and local vocabulary subject headings to flag ghettos. To represent ghettos using the LCSH controlled vocabulary, we will use two LCSH headings: “Jews – [Country] -[City/Town/Village]” and “Jewish ghettos.”

  • Jews–Lithuania–Siauliai.
  • Jewish ghettos.

Our local subject headings are more explicit. To represent ghettos using our local controlled vocabulary, the format is “[Name of the city/town] ghetto.”

  • Krakow ghetto.

*Please note that the Warsaw Ghetto does have a formal subject heading in LCSH: “Getto warszawskie (Warsaw, Poland)”. However, this is a recent development and almost all of our catalog records will identify Warsaw by the practices above.

Concentration camps

Most concentration camps have been added to LCSH. These headings are always formed the same way: “[Camp name] (Concentration camp).”

  • Auschwitz (Concentration camp)

In a few cases, the camp was small or not well documented and will not have a LCSH subject heading. In other cases, the record was created before the camp in question was added to LCSH and the record was not updated with the authorized heading. Our local subject heading will use this format: “[Name of camp] ([Name of country] : Concentration camp).” Because of the gradual addition of concentration camps to LCSH, it is advisable to search for camp names under both heading types.

  • Christianstadt (Poland : Concentration camp)

Refugee camps/displaced persons camps:

Refugee camps and displaced persons camps are synonymous. Both refer to the camps created after World War II that held people who could not return to their homes, mostly survivors of concentration camps. LCSH identify these camps as displaced persons camps and use the format “[Camp name] (Displaced persons camp).”

  • Neu Freimann (Displaced persons camp)

We also regularly add the LCSH subject heading “Refugee camps” for researchers looking for refugee or displaced persons camps in general.

Our local subject headings refer to these camps as refugee camps instead and use the format “[Name of camp] ([Country] : Refugee camp).” Please note that some of our older records may have displaced persons camp names in local headings if the testimony was cataloged before the camp was added to LCSH and have yet to be updated. Therefore, it is advisable to search for camp names under both heading types.

  • Heidelberg (Germany : Refugee camp)


Geographic headings

Both LCSH and local subject headings are formed by similar conventions: “[City/town/village name[ ([Country]).” In some cases, LCSH will also include the province or region that the city/town/village is part of and will format those headings as [City/town/village name] ([Province/region], [Country])” or [City/town/village name] ([Country] : [Province/region])”

  • Wolfratshausen (Germany) [LCSH]
  • Uzhorod (Czechoslovakia) [Local]
  • Nikolaev (Nikolaevskaia oblast, Ukraine) [LCSH]
  • Schwerin (Germany : Landkreis) [LCSH]

In many cases, both LCSH and local headings will be used in a record. As stated above, LCSH practice is to only use the current, official version of a geographic heading. However, many of the countries occupied during the Holocaust had people of multiple ethnicities living together in the same cities, especially in Eastern Europe. As a result, many of these towns were known by several names and inhabitants would often refer to it by the name used in their primary language. For example, the town of Berehove, Ukraine was also referred to as Berekhovo and Beregszasz. Additionally, governments controlling these countries were regularly in flux, both during and after the war. For example, survivors from Vilna, Poland would not have their birthplace represented by that name in a LCSH subject heading, but rather by its present-day town and country, Vilnius, Lithuania. Finally, certain countries have changed their names and borders. Czechoslovakia is one example, where its Transcarpathia Rus region transferred to first Hungary and then Ukraine, and the rest of the country split into the independent countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Since subjects of testimonies will often use the historic name or the name used in their mother tongue to refer to places rather than the official, present-day name, we will also account for these towns, cities, and countries using additional local subject headings. We also advise to look under all names that a town you are researching was or is known. While we attempt to account for these towns in all possible ways, there is always a chance that we may miss a variation in our records.

Topical subject headings

Our topical subject headings use both LCSH and local vocabularies. Both are searchable using the subject field in Orbis. While LCSH contains a great deal of subject headings that are pertinent to our collection, certain aspects of the Holocaust, such as relationships between Jewish and non-Jewish people, ways of evading deportation, and specific aspects of camps and ghettos are not well represented. Additionally, as our cataloging practices have been developed organically over the years, we have some idiosyncratic usage of both LCSH and local subject headings. A thesaurus to explicate heading usage is still under development, but we have included scope notes for these commonly used headings here:

Mutual aid [Local]

Testimonies where survivors describe prisoners helping each other, such as sharing food or assisting them while ill. This heading is used to describe personal experiences rather than just witnessing mutual aid between other prisoners.

Child survivors [Local]

Testimonies of survivors who experienced Nazi persecution or persecution of those allied with the Nazis who were under the age of 16.

Postwar experiences [Local]

Testimonies that include information about the survivor’s experiences after World War II, including treatment by others, displaced person’s camps, and immigration to other countries.

Postwar effects [Local]

Testimonies that include descriptions of reactions and effects of their experiences after the end of World War II and rejoining society.

Sociological aspects [LCSH subdivision]

Used mostly with the headings Concentration camps and Ghettos (e.g. “Concentration camps -Sociological aspects.”) Testimonies that describe how camps and ghettos were organized regarding prisoners. This can include camp hierarchies, classes of prisoners, and supervisory guards and prisoners (camp elders, blockaltesters, kapos).

Psychological aspects [LCSH subdivision]

Used mostly with the headings Concentration camps and Ghettos (e.g. “Concentration camps – Psychological aspects.”) Testimonies that describe how the environment of the camp/ghetto/other situation affected their mental health and/or well-being as well as other prisoners/inhabitants.

Atrocities [LCSH]

Testimonies that include descriptions of mass killings, such as mass shootings.

Migrations [LCSH subdivision]

Used mostly with Jewish refugees. Testimonies that include descriptions of escaping Europe either at the beginning or during World War II, often to England, the United States, or Palestine (Israel). It does not include post-war immigration.

For a full list of our local topical subject headings, click here to launch a PDF.

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