YIVO - Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut (Vilna). Subgroup: Administration. Records.
YIVO was founded in 1925 in the city of Vilna (Pol. Wilno; Lith. Vilnius). The aims of the YIVO Institute were formulated as follows: to serve as a center for organized research into all aspects of Jewish history and culture; to train Jewish scholars; to gather library and archival source materials relevant to YIVO's scholarly objectives;and to develop a broad base of support for the Institute in Jewish communities around the world. The founders of YIVO viewed Yiddish as the Jewish national language and considered the development of secular Jewish scholarship in this language as the future instrument of cultural and spiritual betterment of the Jewish people.
The Executive Office consisted of Max Weinreich, Zelig Kalmanovitch, and Zalmen Reisen. The Honorary Board of Trustees (Curatorium) was chaired by Simon Dubnow, and its members were Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Moses Gaster, Edward Sapir and Chaim Zhitlowsky.
The work of the YIVO Institute was carried out by four sections: Philology, History, Economics and Statistics, Psychology and Education.
In the 15 years between its establishment and destruction by the Nazis, YIVO experienced rapid growth and earned great respect as a leading center for the Jewish humanities. YIVO development a network of collectors throughout Poland and in other countries. These YIVO volunteers, or 'zamlers' as they were called, searched for and gathered newspapers, posters and documents, and sent them to YIVO in Vilna. In 1935, a graduate training division, the Aspirantur, was added to existing YIVO departments. YIVO strongly emphasised the need to publish the works of its affiliate scholars. Each of YIVO's four sections published its own proceedings. YIVO's list of publications included the periodicals 'Filologishe Shriftn', 'Psikhologishe Shriftn', 'Yidishe Ekonomik', 'Yidish Far Ale', 'YIVO Bleter' and numerous monographs, yearbooks, essays and articles. By 1941 the bibliography of YIVO publications included 2,500 items.
After the outbreak of World War II, YIVO continued its work in Vilna, at first under Lithuanian and later under Soviet rule. Gradually, the Institute was merged into the Soviet cultural system. With the outbreak of the Soviet-German war in June 1941, and the subsequent occupation of Vilna by the Nazis, the existence of the YIVO Institute in Vilna came to an end. Its collections were either dispersed or sent to Germany. The YIVO staff incarcerated in the Vilna Ghetto met their deaths prior to or during the final liquidation of the ghetto. Among the victims were: Zelig Kalmanovitch, who perished in the concentration camp in Klooga, Estonia; Uma Olkienicka, director of the YIVO Theater Museum; Noah Prylucki; and Moishe Lerer. Simon Dubnow was killed in Riga, Latvia on December 1, 1941. The historian Yitzhak (Ignacy) Schipper and Emmanuel Ringelblum, the economist Menakhem Linder, and the folklorist Shmuel Lehman, all perished in Warsaw. Many other YIVO associates, collectors and friends, shared their fate.
Under the Nazi occupation the YIVO collections fell into the hands of the Einsatzstab Rosenberg, the Nazi unit created by Alfred Rosenberg, the Reich Minister for Occupied Eastern Territories. The group was charged with the looting and disposition of Jewish cultural treasures. The YIVO building in Vilna was converted into a processing center for ransacked Jewish libraries and archives from Vilna and the surrounding area. A group of twenty inmates from the Vilna Ghetto was taken each day to the YIVO building where selected collections were being prepared for shipment to the Institute der NSDAP zur Erforschung der Judenfrage in Frankfurt-am-Main. The group included Zelig Kalmanovitch, Uma Olkienicka, Abraham Sutzkever, Szmerke Kaczerginski, Rokhl Pupko-Krynski, and Daniel Feinstein. The members of this group resolved to take the risk of hiding the more valuable YIVO documents from the Nazis. After the war this hidden collection of several thousand items was returned by Sutzkever and Kaczerginski to YIVO in New York.
The materials selected for the Einsatzstab Rosenberg were shipped to Frankfurt in 1942 and 1943; the remaining collections from the YIVO library and archives were to be either destroyed on the spot or sold to paper mills for recycling. Not everything that was sent to Frankfurt reached its destination. Some crates ended up in Prague where their contents are presumed to be stored until the present day.
The books and archival records from Vilna that were transferred to Frankfurt survived the final years of the war intact and were reclaimed in 1947 by YIVO in New York. In 1940, Max Weinreich, who had escaped to New York just after the outbreak of the war, and a group of YIVO leaders, had reestablished YIVO headquarters in New York.
For a history of the YIVO Institute in New York, please see the 'Guide to the YIVO Archives',. compiled and edited by Fruma Mohrer and Marek Web, 1998.
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Restrictions: The collection is open by appointment with the Chief Archivist. Researchers should write to the Chief Archivist at firstname.lastname@example.org to request an appointment.
This collection is a subgroup of Record Group 1, Records of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (Vilna) and consists of administrative records of the activities of the YIVO Institute in Vilna from 1925 to 1941.
The collection includes the following types of materials: Records of the Organizing Committee: minutes of meetings, correspondence, 1925-1928; records of expenses; resolutions, speeches, proposals.
Records of the Executive Board: correspondence with individuals and organizations; minutes of meetings; membership lists; financial reports, 1928-1937.
Records of the Building Committee: contracts, plans. Records of the Audit Commission: reports and minutes; materials on contributions to the YIVO.
Records of the Economic-Statistical Section: reports, minutes, articles and correspondence; lectures about Poland, Latvia, Russia, Germany, Israel, Holland, France, Hungary, the U.S. Records of the Psychological-Pedagogical Section: minutes relating to its founding; correspondence; questionnaire about Jewish schools; heder survey.
Records of the Philological Section: minutes of meetings and reports from the committees on bibliography, orthography and terminology; instructions for YIVO collectors; correspondence, 1925-1940; terminology for various activities.
Records of exhibitions: documents relating to "Treasures of the YIVO", "Sholem-Aleichem", "I.L. Peretz", "Mendele Moykher Seforim", "Yiddish Press", "Jewish Social Movements". Materials relating to the Theater Archive, Music Archive, Art Archive: catalogs, press notices, photographs. Records of the Aspirantur: correspondence, texts of lectures by Rudolf Glanz, Pesakh Libman Hersh, Zalman Reisen, Ignacy Schipper, Max Weinreich.
Correspondence of the Executive Board with individuals, including, Shalom Asch, Moses Broderson, Marc Chagall, Simon Dubnow, Israel Efroykin, Albert Einstein, Baron Horace de Gunzburg, Isaac Guterman, Pesakh Libman Hersh, Judah Joffe, Leibush Lehrer, Jacob Lestschinsky, Raphael Mahler, Yudel Mark, Shmuel Niger, David Pinsky, Noah Prylucki, Emanuel Ringelblum, Ignacy Schipper, Shalom Schwarzbard, Jacob Shatzky, Nahum Shtif, Elias Tcherikower, Yechiel Yeshaia Trunk, Michael Weichert, Jacob Zipper. Correspondence with collectors: Samuel Lehman, Moyshe Odoner, Tsidkoni, Menashe Unger.
Materials relating to YIVO publications. Clippings relating to YIVO from various newspapers, 1925-1940.
Records of the Society of Friends of YIVO: by-laws, minutes, reports, invitations, clippings, correspondence, financial reports from Warsaw, Vilna.