YIVO - Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut (Vilna). Subgroup: Administration. Records.

Title: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (Vilna) : Administration Records
Inclusive Dates: 1925-1941
ID: RG 1.1
expand icon Extent Information
19'3"; 43 5"lgl; 4 2.5"lgl; 1 3"lgl; 1 3"over,1 map folder
expand icon Arrangement
Boxes 1-41 arranged by folder; boxes 42-49 unarranged
expand icon Biographical/Historical

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.

expand icon Administrative Information
Restrictions: The collection is open with permission of the Chief Archivist. An advance appointment must be made by writing to the Chief Archivist at archives@yivo.cjh.org.

The images, documents, film footage, audio materials, and texts displayed in any portion of this web site may be copyrighted. Permission to use this web site is given on condition that the user agrees to follow U.S. copyright laws. The user agrees that she or he assumes liability for any copyright violations resulting from unauthorized use of items appearing on this web site and to hold YIVO harmless from any action involving copyright infringement. It is the responsibility of the user to carry out a due diligence search under U.S. c opyright laws to determine the copyright status of items displayed on this web site.

The materials on this web site may be used for personal, research and educational purposes only. Publication (including posting on the Internet and online exhibitions) or any other use without prior authorization is prohibited. To request permission for use of these materials, please apply in writing to: YIVO Archives, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011, archives@yivo.cjh.org.

Restrictions: The collection is open by appointment with the Chief Archivist. Researchers should write to the Chief Archivist at archives@yivo.cjh.org to request an appointment.

expand icon Other Note
Inventory, Yiddish, 66 pp., typed

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