Skip to navigation

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Support YIVO
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research » Library & Archives » Archives » Major Collections

Search YIVO

Collection Overview

Search online catalog



Research Tools

People of a Thousand Towns Online Photo Catalog

The Miriam Weiner Genealogy Collection

Digital Exhibitions

YIVO's Preservation Program

YIVO on Facebook
YIVO on Twitter

Newsletter Sign-up

Major Collections

For a detailed listing of collections in the YIVO Archive, consult the online Guide to the YIVO Archives, Information about YIVO's Archival collections can also be obtained from the web site of the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections.

The YIVO Archives is currently participating in a project (funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission/NHPRC) to create an online union catalog of all archival and library holdings in the Center for Jewish History.

Organizational Records: A Partial List

  • American Jewish Committee, 1918-1970s (RG 347)
  • American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1919-1950 (RG 335)
  • American ORT Federation, 1922-1960 (RG 380)
  • Day-Morning Journal, 1922-1972 (RG 639)
  • Educational Alliance, 1888-1968 (RG 312)
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society - HIAS, ca. 1900-ca. 1970 (RG 245)
  • Rabbinical School and Teachers' Seminary, Vilna, 1847-1917 (RG 24)
  • United Hebrew Trades, 1899-1979 (RG 434)
  • Vaad Hayeshivot (Vilna), 1924-1940 (RG 25
  • Workmen's Circle, 1893-1972 (RG 575)

The YIVO Archives also holds the records of over 700 landsmanshaftn (immigrant mutual aid societies), most of which were collected in the course of a community outreach project from 1979 to 1983.

Personal Papers: A Partial List

The YIVO Archives holds the private papers of hundreds of prominent Jewish communal leaders and cultural figures. Following is a short, very selective list of personal papers in the Archives. (More extensive descriptions of these and other collections are planned for future editions of the web site.)

Herman Bernstein (1876-1935). Papers, 1897-1935. (RG 713). Author, journalist, translator, playwright. Active in Jewish communal organizations. Secretary of the American Jewish Committee. Founder in 1914 and editor of Der tog (The Day), editor of the Jewish Daily Bulletin. Correspondent for the New York Herald in Russia, 1917-1920, and at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. Instituted a libel suit in the 1920s against Henry Ford and the Dearborn Independent for publishing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. United States envoy to Albania, 1931-1933.

Abraham Cahan (1860-1951). Papers, 1906-1952. (RG 1139). Yiddish and English writer, editor, socialist leader, prominent figure in Jewish public life. Founder of the Jewish Daily Forward and its editor-in-chief from 1901 until his death. Contributor to many other periodicals. Co-founder of the first Jewish trade union in the United States, the Progressive Tailors' Union. Published several works of fiction in English, the best known being The Rise of David Levinsky.

Daniel Charney (1888-1959). Papers, 1920s-1959. (RG 421) Yiddish writer and journalist. Active in Jewish cultural, relief, and immigration organizations in Eastern Europe and the United States, including EKOPO, HICEM, Jewish Writers' Union, and the Louis Lamed Foundation. Editor of Yiddish newspapers and periodicals in Soviet Russia, 1918-1922. Contributor to the Yiddish press around the world.

Simon Dubnow (1860-1941). Papers, 1632-1938. (RG 87) Historian, political thinker, educator, and collector of historical and ethnographic documents. One of the founders and directors of the Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society in St. Petersburg and editor of its quarterly Evreiskaya Starina. Co-founder of the YIVO Institute in Vilna and chairman of its Honorary Board of Trustees. After the Kishinev pogrom, Dubnow was among those who called for an active Jewish self-defense. He supported Jewish participation in the 1905 elections to the Duma. Active in the Society for Equal Rights of the Jewish People in Russia. Founder in 1906 of the Jewish People's or "Folkist" party which existed until 1930s in the Ukraine, Russia, Poland, and the Baltic Countries.

Jacob Glatstein (1896-1971). Papers, 1920s-1960s. (RG 353) Yiddish poet, essayist, and literary critic. Born in Lublin, Poland, and emigrated to the United States in 1914. Co-founder of the "In zikh" literary group in the 1920s.

Horace Meyer Kallen (1882-1974). Papers, 1922-1952. (RG 317) Philosopher, writer, and educator. Co-founder of the New School for Social Research, New York, in 1919 and dean of its Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science, 1944-1946. An early advocate of consumer rights and environmental controls. Active in liberal, education, and Jewish groups. Served on government committees, such as the Presidential Commission on Higher Education and the New York City Commission on Inter-group Relations.

Elias Tcherikower (1881-1943). Papers, 1903-1963. (RG 81) Jewish historian, political activist. Active in the Labor Zionist movement at the turn of the century. Co-founder of the YIVO Institute in Vilna in 1925. Member of the YIVO Executive Board and secretary of the Historical Section of YIVO. Between 1918 and 1920, he was involved in a project in Kiev to collect and publish documents on pogroms in the Ukraine during the civil war. A founder of the Mizrakh Yidisher Historisher Arkhiv (Ostjuedisches Historisches Archiv), established in Berlin in 1921 to preserve and publish the pogrom documents. Involved in celebrated court cases, such as the 1926-1927 Paris trial of Shalom Schwarzbard, assassin of Simon Petlyura; and the 1934-1935 Bern trial regarding the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Contributor to and editor of numerous periodicals and encyclopedias, and the author of historical works on the Jews of France and the labor movement in the United States.

Lucien Wolf (1857-1930) and David Mowshowitch (1887-1957). Papers, 1865-1957. (RG 348) Lucien Wolf was an Anglo-Jewish diplomat, journalist, and historian. In 1917, he became secretary of the Joint Foreign Committee formed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association. Played an important role in efforts to assist persecuted East European Jewish communities. Served as a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and was involved in the drafting of the minority treaties. Was regarded as an authority on minority rights at the League of Nations and in England. David Mowshowitch was secretary to Lucien Wolf, as well as secretary of the Foreign Department of the Board of Deputies.

Chaim Zhitlowsky (1861-1943). Papers, 1882-1953. (RG 208) Socialist, philosopher, social and political thinker, writer, literary critic. Founding member and theoretician of the Socialist Revolutionary Party in Russia. Ideologist of Yiddishism and Diaspora nationalism, which influenced the Jewish territorialist and nationalist movements. Ardent proponent of Yiddish language and culture. Chairman of the historic conference on the Yiddish language held in Czernowitz, 1908.

Manuscripts: A Sampling of Resources

Manuscripts (RG 108)
Many, but not all of the original literary manuscripts in the YIVO Archives can be found in this large mixed-provenance collection of published and unpublished works in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English. Authors include: Hirsz Abramowicz, Ephraim Auerbach, Y.D. Berkowitz, Menahem Boraisha, Reuben Brainin, Marc Chagall, Simon Dubnow, Abraham Duker, Ossip Dymow, Saul Ginsburg, Rudolf Glanz, Aaron Glanz-Leieles, Jacob Glatstein, Ben Zion Goldberg, Nachum Goldmann, Chaim Grade, Peretz Hirschbein, Reuben Iceland, Naftali Herz Imber, Malka Lee, Leibush Lehrer, Jacob Lestschinsky, Mani Leib, Shmuel Niger, Mendel Osherowitch, Emanuel Ringelblum, Maurice Schwartz, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Israel Joshua Singer, Nahum Sokolow, Yehiel Yeshaia Trunk, Max Weinreich, Mark Wischnitzer, Yehoash, Wolf Younin, and Chaim Zhitlowsky.

Rabbinical and Historical Manuscripts. Collection, 1567-1930s. (RG 128)
This collection is of mixed provenance. Part of it was deposited in the YIVO Archives in Vilna before World War II. The second part of the collection was gathered in France and Germany after the war by Gershon Epstein, a YIVO collector.

The collection consists of letters, loose manuscripts as well as bound manuscript volumes, notes, notebooks, legal documents, and rabbinical certificates. Included are letters to and from rabbinical (including Hasidic) and scholarly figures; rabbinical responsa; novellae and commentaries on the Bible, the Talmud, and liturgical texts; prayers; kabbalistic and ethical works; sermons; Hebrew dictionaries and other grammatical works; communal documents, such as registers and minute books; folklore material, such as cookbooks; and miscellaneous documents.

Materials are from Austria, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Tunisia, Palestine, Poland, Romania, the United States, Russian, the USSR, Yugoslavia. The authors are for the most part rabbinical figures, including Ezekiel ben Yehudah (Nodah B'yehudah) Landau, Abraham Tiktin, Gedaliah Tiktin, Israel Joshua Trunk, Abraham Abusch Lissa of Leszno, Meir Loeb ben Jehiel Michael Malbim, and Meir Simhah Ha-Kohen of Dvinsk.

Theater & Literature: A Sampling of Resources

The YIVO Archives holds important collections of materials related to the history of Yiddish literature and theater. Collections of personal papers include those of well-known writers, poets, playwrights, and actors, such as Daniel Charney, Jacob Glatstein, Jacob Gordin, Shmuel Niger, Joseph Opatoshu, Morris Rosenfeld, Maurice Schwartz, and Zvee Scooler. Other significant collections include:

Esther-Rachel Kaminska Theater Museum. Collection, ca. 1900-1939. (RG 8) The remnants of the Yiddish theater museum established by YIVO in Vilna in 1927 out of an initial donation of the papers of Esther-Rachel Kaminska, known as the "mother" of Yiddish theater. The collection includes handwritten manuscripts, play bills, posters, correspondence, clippings, and photographs relating to Jewish theater in Poland and other countries before World War II.

Plays. Collection. (RG 114)
A mixed-provenance collection of manuscripts and copies of manuscripts of Yiddish plays.

Yiddish Literature and Language. Collection, 1870s-1941. (RG 3) This collection consists of fragments of many literary collections which were part of the YIVO Archives in Vilna before 1941, and of materials which originated in Jewish institutions of higher learning in the Soviet Union, notably in the Institute for Proletarian Culture in Kiev. It includes materials on Jewish writers used in the preparation of Zalmen Reisenâs Lexicon of Yiddish Literature, Press, and Philology, 4 volumes, Vilna, 1926-1929.

Holocaust Collections: A Partial List

The YIVO Archives holds important collections of materials related to the study of the Holocaust. Collections of personal papers include those of well-known Holocaust historians, such as Isaiah Trunk and Philip Friedman. Many Holocaust-related materials can be found in the following collections:

Official Records of Nazi Governmental Bodies and Institutions Berlin Collection.

Records, 1931-1945. (RG 215)
This collection consists of the fragmentary records of the Nazi government, particularly in relation to the propaganda apparatus in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe and its role in the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question"; to the work with collaborationist groups in the occupied countries; and to efforts against the underground resistance movements. The records originated primarily in the Reich Ministry for Propaganda and in the Reich Administration for Occupied Eastern Territories (Reichskommisariat fuer das Ostland).

Einsatzgruppen. Records, 1941-1942. (RG 557)
Reports of the Einsatzgruppen, the special mobile killing units positioned in the rear of the German army, mainly in German-occupied territories of the USSR, where they murdered between 500,000 and one million Jews.

Institut der NSDAP zur Erforschung der Judenfrage (Frankfurt am Main). Records, 1930- 1945. (RG 222)
The records of a Nazi institute that collected materials related to Jews and participated in Nazi propaganda activities against the Jews. Included are not only materials related to anti-Semitism, but also such items as rare Jewish book fragments and manuscripts and documents pertaining to Jewish life in many different countries. Also includes police identification cards of German Jews, 1938-1942.

Original Documents from Ghettos in Poland

Abraham Sutzkever-Szmerke Kaczerginski Collection, 1806-1945. (RG 223)
This collection is of mixed provenance and consists of two parts. The bulk of the collection relates to the Vilna ghetto during the Nazi occupation. The second part consists of historical and literary manuscripts that belonged to the YIVO Institute in Vilna before the war. Both the ghetto materials and the manuscripts were hidden and preserved by a group of ghetto inmates which included the Yiddish poets Abraham Sutzkever and Szmerke Kaczerginski.

Hersch Wasser Collection, 1939-1946. (RG 225)
Hersch Wasser was a Jewish historian, an associate of Emanuel Ringelblum, organizer of "Oneg Shabat," a secret archive in the Warsaw Ghetto that gathered documentation and eyewitness testimonies on the situation of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. This material, hidden and recovered after the war, includes diaries, eyewitness accounts, essays, official and underground publications, and documents from the Jewish councils (Judenrate) established by the Nazis. The documents pertain to Jewish communities, ghettos, labor camps, Jews living illegally outside the ghetto by posing as "Aryans," and the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Nachman Zonabend Collection, 1939-1944. (RG 241)
Nachman Zonabend was an inmate of the Lodz ghetto from 1940 to 1945. In August 1944, following the liquidation of the ghetto, the Germans assigned him to a work unit whose task was to clean up the deserted ghetto. He succeeded in hiding parts of the ghetto archives, as well as photographs and art works of ghetto photographers and artists. These are surviving records of the Eldest of the Jews of the Lodz Ghetto, by which name the Jewish ghetto administration was known. Dr. Lucjan Dobroszycki's The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto (Yale University Press, 1984) was based on the bulletins of the Daily Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, which are to be found in this collection. An inventory of the Zonabend Collection, The Documents of the Lodz Ghetto, was published by YIVO in 1988, and can be purchased from the Jewish Book Center of the Workmen's Circle, 1-800-922-2558.

Three Collections Related to Jews in France during World War II

Union Generale des Israelites de France (UGIF). Records, 1940-1944. (RG 210)
Rue Amelot. Records, 1939-1944. (RG 343)
Kehillat Haharedim. Records, 1939-1947. (RG 340)

UGIF was the General Association of Jews in France, established by order of the Nazis in 1941. It was the administrative body representing all Jews in the occupied and free zones of France. "Rue Amelot" was an underground organization founded in Paris in 1940, which provided aid to Jewish refugees, internees, and children. Kehillat Haharedim (Association des Israelites Pratiquants) was an organization of Orthodox Jews, founded in 1936, which engaged in underground rescue activities of Jews, particularly children, during World War II.

Eyewitness Accounts of the Holocaust

Eyewitness Accounts of the Holocaust Period. Collection, 1939-1945. (RG 104)
Over 1,900 written testimonies of Holocaust survivors collected by the Jewish Historical Commission in Poland after the war, by YIVO in displaced persons camps, by other Jewish organizations involved in similar projects, and as part of the YIVO-Yad Vashem Documentary Projects.

Julian (Yehiel) Hirszhaut (1908-1983). Papers, 1939-1945 (RG 720)
The papers of Julian Hirszhaut, a Yiddish journalist wrote extensively on the Holocaust period in Poland include several hundred eyewitness testimonies collected ca. 1945 by local Jewish historical commissions in Bialystok, Katowice, Krakow, Lublin, Lodz, and Warsaw.

Philip Friedman (1901-1960). Papers, 1930s-1959. (RG 1258)
Historian Philip Friedman collected documentation on the Holocaust and wrote extensively on the subject. He served as the first director of the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland in the post-war period, as consultant to the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, and as director of the YIVO-Yad Vashem bibliographical series on the Holocaust. His papers include eyewitness accounts collected from Holocaust survivors by the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland.

Leo W. Schwarz (1906-1967). Papers, 1945-1948 (RG 294.1)
The papers of Leo Schwarz, director of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) for the United States Occupation Zone in Germany in 1946-1947, contain firsthand accounts of the Holocaust collected from survivors living in displaced persons camps and other refugee centers aided by the JDC.

Aftermath of Holocaust

Displaced Persons Camps in Germany, Austria, and Italy. Records, 1945-1952. (RG 294)
Records related to the administration of the refugee camps established in the American and British zones of Austria and Germany, and in Italy, shortly after the end of World War II. Material related to cultural, educational, political, and religious life in these camps.

Bund Archives

In 1992, YIVO acquired the Bund Archives, one of the foremost Jewish collections specializing in the history of the socialist and labor movements. Founded in Geneva by the Jewish socialist party commonly known as the "Bund," the Archives was transferred to Berlin 1919. In 1933, with the rise of the Nazi Party, the Bund Archives was smuggled over the border into France. The documents were confiscated by the Germans during the occupation period, but survived the war. The Archives was brought to the United States in 1951.