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Papers of Lucy S. Dawidowicz

 Collection
Identifier: P-675

Scope and Content Note

The Papers of Lucy S. Dawidowicz represent her research and work relating to American History and American Jewish History, anti-Semitism in America, Holocaust denial, European Jewish heritage and the Holocaust (including the American Jewish response). Biographical material pertains to her book, From That Place and Time: A Memoir: 1938-1947, as well as later material concerning her profession life.

Types of documents include correspondence, publications by Mrs. Dawidowicz, publications authored by others as research notes for her work, index cards, photographs, and written notes. The bulk of the material is in the form of articles, newspaper clippings, reports, studies and papers that she collected for her research. This research culminated in lectures and a series of published articles and books, such as On Equal Terms and an uncompleted book on American Jewish History. Correspondence encompasses personal letters to her husband Szymon, parents and sister; business correspondence with publishing houses and book editors; professional contacts with historians, professors, and scholars involved in Jewish affairs; letters to friends such as Cynthia Ozick and Marie Syrkin; and crank mail concerning Holocaust denial. Photographs range from those taken during her year in Vilna (1938) until her death in 1990.

See Index to Lucy S. Dawidowicz's Articles Within the Collection

For a more expansive scope of Lucy S. Dawidowicz's Articles see Commentary Magazine directory

Dates

  • undated, 1936-1990

Creator

Language of Materials

This collection is in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, German, French, and Polish.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at mmeyers@ajhs.org.

For reference questions, please email: inquiries@cjh.org

Biographical Note

Lucy S. Dawidowicz was born June 16, 1915 in New York City, to Max and Dora (Ofnaem) Schildkret, secular Jews unafiliated with a synagogue. In fact, the first time that Lucy S. Dawidowicz went to a Jewish service was in 1938 in Vilna. Dawidowicz attended Hunter College and received her B.A. in 1936. She continued her studies as a Masters student in English Literature at Columbia University. Although she enjoyed poetry and literature, the events taking place in Europe made her desire to study literature waver. As a result of her search for a new field of study, she sought the advice of a Polish History teacher and mentor, Jacob Shatzky. He advised studying Jewish history.

The idea didn't come as a surprise to me, perhaps because it had been afloat in my subconscious. But I protested that I was academically unprepared. The Mitlshul graduate courses in Jewish history were the only history I had ever studied, besides those high school tariffs and railroads. I would have to start once more from the beginning. Furthermore, it was even more impractical than studying English literature, for in those days, except for the rabbinate, the possibility of a career in Jewish studies was little more than a daydream.(From That Place and Time, 23)

Lucy S. Dawidowicz decided to continue her studies at Columbia University in February of 1937 in the field of European Jewry. Shatzky advised her to study the Yiddish press, and convinced her that the best place to study Yiddish was at the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO) in Vilna, Poland. Dawidowicz became an "aspirantur," or research fellow, with the help and advice of Shatzky.

In 1938 she traveled to Vilna, Poland, as a research fellow at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Lucy S. Dawidowicz worked with the three directors of the YIVO: Max Weinreich, Zelig Kalmanovich, and Zalmen Reisen. Of these three, only Weinreich survived the war to found the YIVO Institute in New York City. Three people were to have lifelong places in her heart from her brief time in Vilna: Max Weinreich, and the family that she became closest to, Riva and Zelig Kalmanovich. In her memoir Dawidowicz says that she felt closer to the Kalmanovichs than she had to her own parents. The preface to her Holocaust Reader has a quote from Zelig Kalmanovich (December 27, 1942-the Vilna Ghetto). "History will cherish your memory, people of the ghetto. Your least expression will be studied, your struggle for human dignity will inspire poems..." The Kalmanovichs, along with the other connections which Dawidowicz made in Vilna, helped her to integrate and bridge the gap which she felt existed between the two worlds of the European shtetl and modern-day life. She saw Vilna before it was destroyed by the Nazis, and spent the rest of her life demonstrating the tremendous potential which the world had tragically lost due to the murder of six million Jews.

During the years 1940-1946 Lucy S. Dawidowicz was an Assistant to the Research Director of YIVO in New York City. She followed the news of the Nazi persecutions of Jews in the papers; yet like most Americans, she did not completely comprehend the full scale of the destruction until the liberation of the concentration and death camps in 1947. Dawidowicz met her future husband at YIVO in New York:

Syzmon Dawidowicz, whom I was later to marry, was brought out soon after the Nazi invasion because as a Bundist leader his life was in imminent danger; but his family was still in Poland. In 1943-44, when the list of names came of people who had been killed in the Warsaw Ghetto, his daughter was on the list. I lived through all this suffering with people who were close to me. It was therefore natural that when the war was over I should go back to Germany to work with survivors, first in Munich and then in Bergen Belsen.(The Jerusalem Post Magazine, Friday July 11, 1980, pg. 8)


World War II had a profound effect upon Lucy S. Dawidowicz. Historical reality molded her into the historian she would become. After WW II, Lucy S. Dawidowicz returned to Europe as a relief worker for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC), the largest Jewish relief organization in America. While in Europe, Lucy S. Dawidowicz worked with Jewish survivors in the Displaced Persons (DP) Camps, and also became involved in the retrieval of stolen books for YIVO. Lucy S. Dawidowicz initiated the plan to retrieve these stolen books. She worked for months on identifying and retrieving YIVO's books from Frankfurt to New York City's YIVO. She has described her feelings about this time in her life in her memoir and in various articles about the writing of her memoir that may be found in this collection. "By arranging for the transfer of these volumes to the New York branch of YIVO, I felt I had, in some small, perhaps symbolic way, responded to the obsessive fantasies of rescue that had haunted me for years."

Lucy S. Dawidowicz published her most critically acclaimed book, The War Against the Jews 1933-1945, in 1975. This has been considered one of the definitive works in Holocaust historiography. In addition to this work, she published books on the Jews in America and essays on Jewish history and identity. In 1985, Dawidowicz initiated and founded the Fund for the Translation of Jewish Literature. Besides being a voracious New York Mets fan and avid walker, she spent much of her time painstakingly researching her great love: Jewish history. Dawidowicz was a regular contributor to Commentary, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Magazine, Times Literary Supplement, and This World.

Dawidowicz also taught and lectured. She considered teaching and lecturing secondary to historical research and writing.

<emph render="bolditalic">Honorary Degrees: </emph>

  1. Kenyon College
  2. Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion
  3. Monmouth College
  4. Yeshiva University
  5. Spertus College of Judaica

<emph render="bolditalic">Honors and Awards: </emph>

  1. Guggenheim Fellow in 1976
  2. Anisfeld-Wolf Prize for The War Against the Jews
  3. Jewish Book Award for her memoir, From That Place and Time
  4. Member of the President's Commission on the Holocaust, 1978-1979
  5. Jewish National Book Award for From That Place and Time: A Memoir, 1938-1947 (1989)

<emph render="bolditalic">Bibliography of published books by Lucy S. Dawidowicz</emph>

  1. Politics in a Pluralist Democracy (1963—Co-authored with Leon J. Goldstein)
  2. For Max Weinrich: Studies in Jewish Languages, Literature, and Society (1964—Co-Editor)
  3. The Golden Tradition: Jewish Life and Thought in Eastern Europe(1967)
  4. The War Against the Jews 1933-1945(1975)
  5. A Holocaust Reader (1976)
  6. The Jewish Presence: Essays on Identity and History (1977)
  7. The Holocaust and the Historians (1981)
  8. On Equal Terms: Jews in America 1881-1981 ( 1982)
  9. From That Place and Time: A Memoir, 1938-1947 (1989)
  10. What is the Use of Jewish History? (1992-PubIished posthumously)

CHRONOLOGY

June 16, 1915
Born in New York City.
1932-1936
Attended Hunter College and received a B.A. in English Literature.
1937
Studied English Literature as a Master's Student at Columbia University, did not finish degree due to the plight of European Jewry and the seeming irrelevance of English Literature.
1938
Research Fellow at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Learning in Vilna, Poland (YIVO).
August 1939
She left Poland and arrived in New York.
1940-1946
Worked as an Assistant to Max Weinrich (one of the three directors or Vilna's YIVO, and the only one to escape to America and survive).
She is Assistant to Research Director at New York City's YIVO.
1946-1947
Education Officer at Displaced Persons (DP) Camps with American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC).
1947
Works as member of AJDC—Retrieves stolen books from YIVO's library.
Did research for John Hersey's novel The Wall that was about the Warsaw Ghetto. The Wall was published in 1950.
January 3, 1948
Marriage to Syzmon Dawidowicz.
1965
Recipient of Award from National Foundation for Jewish Culture.
1948-1969
Research analyst and then a research director for the American Jewish Committee.
1969
Accepted position as teacher of Holocaust history at Yeshiva University.
Teaches course on Holocaust at Stem College— The War Against the Jews evolves out of the course.
1970-1975
Paul and Leah Lewis Professor Holocaust Studies.
1975
The War Against the Jews is published.
1976
Guggenheim Fellow.
The Holocaust Reader is published. This is a source book of firsthand data from the 1920's until 1945 and the completion of the German partition of Poland.
1978
Leaves Yeshiva University.
1979
Szymon Dawidowicz dies. Lucy and Szymon had been married 31 years.
1975-1981
Delivers Aaron-Roland Lectures in Judaic Studies at Stanford University.
1980
Delivers B. G. Rudolph Lecture in Judaic Studies at Syracuse University.
April 18, 1982
"American Jews and the Holocaust" (New York Times Magazine, this essay was part of the debate about the role of American Jewry. Dawidowicz believed that American Jews did all that was in their power to help European Jewry.)
1985
Initiated and founded the Fund for the Translation of Jewish Literature.
December 5,1990
Mrs. Dawidowicz dies at the age of seventy-five.

Extent

39 Linear Feet (79 manuscript boxes)

Abstract

The Papers of Lucy S. Dawidowicz contain documents pertaining to American Jewish history, anti-Semitism in America, Holocaust denial, European Jewish heritage, and the Holocaust (including the American Jewish response). The bulk of the collection consists of extensive research notes and publications by both Dawidowicz and others, as well as correspondence to family, business contacts, and friends. Additional items include photographs, memoir materials, and index cards.

Arrangement

Material is arranged by subject unless specified otherwise in the series description.

Organization

The collection is comprised of the following 9 series:
  1. Series I: Research Notes on American History, undated, 1800-1914
  2. Series II: Anti-Semitism in America, undated, 1840-1967
  3. Series III: Holocaust Denial, undated, 1983-1989
  4. Series IV: Research and Articles on Contemporary European (Jewish) History-Holocaust, undated, 1979-1985
  5. Series V: Research and Background Notes on Memoir, undated, 1936-1989
  6. Series VI: Publications, undated, 1965, 1974-1990
  7. Series VII: Personal and Biographical Material, undated, 1970-1971
  8. Series VIII: Photographs, 1938-1990
  9. Series IX: Correspondence, 1961-1990

Acquistion

In 1993 the Papers of Lucy S. Dawidowicz were donated to the Society by Neil Kozodoy of Commentary Magazine, Literary Executor of the Estate of Lucy S. Dawidowicz.

Digitization Note

Box 53 Folders 6, 7, 9 Box 55 Folders 1, 2 Box 75 Folders 1, 2, 4 and 7 have been digitized as part of an ongoing digitization-on-demand program at the Center for Jewish History.

Articles index

Checklist of Lucy S. Dawidowicz's Articles Within the Collection
"Perspectives on American Jews"
a1713
Box 17, Folder 13
"Economic History of American Jews"
a2311
Box 23, Folder 11
"And No Help Came-Could American Jews Have Done More?"
a312
Box 31, Folder 2
"American Jews and the Sheerith Ha-Pleta" (1984)
a325
Box 32, Folder 5
"The Jewish DP's and American Jews" (1984)
a327
Box 32, Folder 7
Anti-Semitism in the John Birch Society-Radical Right Draft Copy-September 23, 1964
a406
Box 40, Folder 6
Paper on Anti-Semitism, September 12, 1967
a419
Box 41, Folder 9
"Thoughts on IHR" (Institute of Historical Review)
a439
Box 43, Folder 9
Dawidowicz Articles on Norman Davies and Marek Edeleman (these articles can be found in Series III: Holocaust Denial)
a442
Box 44, Folder 2
"On David Mirsky" (April 19, 1983)-Mirsky was the former president of Yeshiva University. These words were composed by Dawidowicz for his funeral.
a447
Box 44, Folder 7
"The True History of Babi Yar"
a451
Box 45, Folder 1
"From Past to Past"
a4613
Box 46, Folder 13
Dawidowicz Rebuttal to David S. Wyman's Abandonment of the Jews
a482
Box 48, Folder 2
Two NY Times Magazine Articles-"Babi Yar's Legacy" (September, 27, 1981); "American Jews and the Holocaust" (April 18, 1982)
a4912
Box 49, Folder 12
"The Propaganda War Against the Jews"
a582
Box 58, Folder 2
Title
Guide to the Papers of Lucy S. Dawidowicz (1915-1990), undated, 1936-1990 P-675
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Tara Rabinowitz
Date
© December 2001.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from LSDawidowicz02.xml.

Revision Statements

  • July 2004.: Converted to ead 2002. Revised as LSDawidowicz02.xml by Stanislav Pejša. Removed deprecated elements and attributes, updated repository codes, added language codes, changed doctype declaration, etc.
  • April 2005.: Boilerplate text removed by Tanya Elder.
  • October 2020: EHyman: post-ASpace migration cleanup.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

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