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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
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Yizkor Books

        With the upcoming anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I thought it would be appropriate to write about Yizkor Books. Based in New York, I have the advantage of being able to visit many libraries and find Yizkor Books that are not always available elsewhere. I have found that many of the Jewish libraries have a good collection of these memorial books. There is the YIVO Library and the library at the Jewish Theological Seminary. It might surprise people that one of the largest collections of Yizkor Books is in The New York Public Library, located at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

 

         The Dorot Jewish Division of The New York Public Library is one of the great collections of Judaica in the world and the most accessible for both scholarly and personal use. The Yizkor Book collection consists of over 750 books that cover small and large villages, towns and cities affected by the Holocaust. These books are non-circulating (cannot be removed from the library) but can be viewed in the spacious reading room of the Dorot Jewish Division, located on the first floor of the library. The very competent and knowledgeable staff is always on hand to lend assistance when needed.

 

         The Dorot Jewish Division collection of Yizkor Books gives scholars and lay people around the world an advantage. You can view 650 of the books without even going to the library. In an ongoing project they have digitized 650 of the books from their collection and put them on the Internet site. These scans are basically pictures of every page in the books as they are in the library.

 

         Most of the books are in Yiddish and Hebrew with only a few pages, if any, in English (there are no translations on this site). There is a list of directions to guide the user through the process of using the website. Volumes currently available in hard copy only are indicated by an asterisk on the alphabetical list of all the books.

 

         The Yizkor Book collection is only part of the vast holdings of the Dorot Jewish Division at the New York Public Library.

 

         The Dorot Jewish Division was established as a distinct collection with funding contributed by Jacob Schiff in 1897, just two years after the formation of The New York Public Library. Abraham S. Freidus, cataloger of the Astor Library’s rich collection of Judaica, was appointed the Division’s first chief and presided over its rapid growth for 25 years. The Library’s foundation for collections on Jewish subjects in Hebrew and other languages was provided by holdings from the Astor and Lenox libraries.

 

         This existing nucleus was quickly expanded by the acquisition of the private libraries of Leon Mandelstamm, Meyer Lehren, and Isaac Meyer, as well as some holdings of the Aguilar Free Library, a small public library system operated by a group of philanthropic Jews in the nineteenth century that merged with The New York Public Library in 1903. By the early 1900′s the Dorot Jewish Division already rivaled the oldest and best Jewish libraries in Europe.

 

         Today about 10,000 people each year use the non-circulating material available in the Dorot Jewish Division’s reading room. The readers include authors, college students, and professors of history, literature, and many other subjects. Elderly immigrants staying in touch with their culture and young Jews investigating their roots also find the collection a unique resource.

 

         The website is nypl.org/research/chss/jws.yizkorbookonline.cfm.

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More Articles from Shmuel Ben Eliezer
Arnold Fine 2008

I REMEMBER WHEN I first started working at the Jewish Press 18 years ago, Arnie who was in charge of the newsroom, took me under his wing…

The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

In September 1939 the Germans started establishing ghettos in the occupied territory of Poland. Ghettos played an important role in the Jewish extermination policy. They were filled with Polish and Western European Jewish deportees. The ghettos differed in times of existence, size, internal organization, and living conditions. The Germans called them ” death boxes” (Todeskiste). The city of Lodz belonged to the Wartheland District and the Germans changed its name into Litzmannstadt.

In September 1939 the Germans started establishing ghettos in the occupied territory of Poland. Ghettos played an important role in the Jewish extermination policy. They were filled with Polish and Western European Jewish deportees. The ghettos differed in times of existence, size, internal organization, and living conditions. The Germans called them ” death boxes” (Todeskiste). The city of Lodz belonged to the Wartheland District and the Germans changed its name into Litzmannstadt.

Growing up in the U.S. during the second half of the 20th century, I, along with most people, know very little about the First World War. The little that I did know was about the trench warfare in France and Belgium. The Eastern Front was barely, if ever, mentioned and usually stated that it ended with the Russian Revolution and overthrowing the Czar.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/yizkor-books/2007/01/31/

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