Scope and Contents
This collection consists of items saved in the Vilna Ghetto by the 'paper brigade', a group of ghetto inmates led by the Yiddish poets Avraham Sutzkever and Szmerke Kaczerginski. The collection is arranged in eight series and includes correspondence with literary, communal, political and religious figures, Yiddish and Hebrew literary manuscripts, documents of the Yiddish theater, Jewish folklore materials, historical and legal documents, rabbinic responsa and writings, and pinkasim and other Jewish communal records. The bulk of the materials cover the period from the 18th century through the eve of World War II. The collection includes fragments of YIVO’s prewar archival collections, as well as documents from other collections of the prewar period, such as materials from the S. Ansky Historical and Ethnographic Society of Vilna, private papers of Matisyahu and Shmuel Strashun, and local synagogue and communal records from Vilna and outlying areas.
A multiple provenance collection, its very fragmentary nature reflects the circumstances of war and the activities of the Nazi plundering unit called the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, whose pillaging resulted in the breakup and destruction of much of the YIVO Archives and other Jewish cultural treasures. The collection is also in very poor condition because much of it was hidden underground for years and was smuggled out of Vilna into Poland in the postwar period, then into France, before being sent to New York. The collection holds documents which cover a wide range of subjects including the social, literary, political and religious life of Jews in Eastern Europe and also includes materials generated by leading Jewish literary, political and religious figures of the 18th through 20th century.
The collection reflects what aspects of Jewish culture were valuable to Jewish intellectuals in the Vilna Ghetto who needed to make quick and on-the-spot decisions about what to save. Their notion of what was valuable was broad. They saved everything from documents relating to traditional Jewish religious life, to artifacts of modern Yiddish and Hebrew culture. The collection also reflects the deep connection and passion these intellectuals felt for Jewish culture, folklore and history.
- undated, 1841-1937
- From the Collection: Sutzkever, Abraham, 1913-2010 (Compiler, Person)
- From the Collection: Kaczerginski, Szmerke, 1908-1954 (Compiler, Person)
Language of Materials
From the Collection: Yiddish
From the Collection: Hebrew
From the Collection: German
From the Collection: Russian