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Yad Vashem This Month in Holocaust History
April 1943, Shelves filled with books in YIVO, Vilna

April 1943

Shelves filled with books in YIVO, Vilna

YIVO, the Yiddish Scientific Institute (Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut), was founded in Vilna, Poland, in 1925. YIVO served as an academic institution dedicated to the study of Yiddish and East European Jewish culture.

YIVO’s collections included more than 200,000 Jewish and secular books, Yiddish newspapers from all over the world, photographs of Jewish paintings and musical collections. These cultural treasures served as a source of Jewish identification, connecting the different sectors of the Jewish people. The institute’s publications were in Yiddish, accompanied by abstracts in English, German and Polish.

As an additional step in their attacks against Jewish cultural life in the Vilna Ghetto, the Germans confiscated books from the YIVO Library in April 1943, coming on the heels of a year of relative calm in the ghetto. As part of “Operation Rosenberg”, the Germans forced many Jews, including Shmerke Kaczerginski, to collect Jewish documentary materials from YIVO to be transferred to Germany. Since YIVO was situated outside of the ghetto, the Jews managed to rescue books, manuscripts and portions of the Vilna Ghetto Archive. Amongst the forced laborers for the Germans was also Herman Kruk, who organized the ghetto’s library and was its director.

With the German conquest of Vilna in June 1941, YIVO’s leadership moved to New York, where the institute continues its work today.

For more information about Vilna

Yad Vashem Photo Archives 4613/396