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Tcherikower Archive YIVO Administration Records

Identifier: RG 82

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of records related to Elias Tcherikower's administrative involvement in YIVO. The records in Series I document Tcherikower's activity as a member of the Berlin Initiative Group for a Jewish Academic Institute, the YIVO Organizing Committee, and finally the YIVO Executive Office. They consist chiefly of internal correspondence, as well as a small quantity of minutes, reports, and financial records. The records arranged in Series VII: Materials on the founding of YIVO, 1925-1927, are significant as they constitute the best source of information for that topic.

A small quantity of records, arranged in Series VI, attest to Tcherikower's fundraising activity in Western Europe on behalf of YIVO. These efforts were carried out in Germany, France, England, and Belgium, sometimes in collaboration with businessman and YIVO fundraiser Herz Gilishensky. These materials include correspondence, lists, addresses, receipts, financial statements, newspaper clippings and publicity materials.

In addition to general administrative records, Tcherikower's YIVO archive contains materials related to YIVO departments and research projects. Most of these materials pertain to the Historical Section, which Tcherikower headed, with a smaller amount of material from the Economic-Statistical Section and Philological Section. They include research proposals, questionnaires and survey forms, correspondence, minutes, reports, preparatory materials for publications, newspaper clippings, brochures, circulars, programs, and other publicity material. These records are arranged in Series II and III.

YIVO activity coalesced around Tcherikower, first in Berlin and later in Paris. In Berlin, where he lived until 1933, he was a leader of the local Society for YIVO, along with Jacob Lestschinsky, Nahum Gergel, Avrom Menes, Ben-Adir (Avrom Rosin), Daniel Charney, Henoch Hochgelernter and others. Materials from the Society for YIVO in Berlin, arranged in Series IV, include minutes, correspondence, financial records, and address lists. During Tcherikower's stay in Paris in 1926-1927 to participate in the defense of Shalom Schwarzbard he founded a local YIVO branch, which continued as a Society of Friends of YIVO in his absence under the leadership of Israel Efroykin. In 1933 Tcherikower and many other Jewish activists and scholars relocated from Berlin to Paris. Series V: YIVO Paris branch includes correspondence, minutes, lecture and program notes, reports, newspaper clippings, publicity materials for events, projects, and exhibitions, membership information, and financial records.

Some materials submitted to the YIVO Ethnographic Section found their way into the Tcherikower Archive and are arranged in Series VIII of this collection. The materials were submitted in response to a 1930 contest for memoirs and recollections of the Great War (World War I). In addition to short memoirs and stories, the materials include folklore such as jokes, sayings, anecdotes, terminology, poems and songs.


  • Creation: 1921-1962
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1925-1943


Language of Materials

The collection is in Yiddish, with some German, French, Russian, English, and Polish.

Access Restrictions

This collection is closed for digitization.

Use Restrictions

The images, documents, film footage, audio materials, and texts displayed in any portion of this web site may be copyrighted. Permission to use this web site is given on condition that the user agrees to follow U.S. copyright laws. The user agrees that she or he assumes liability for any copyright violations resulting from unauthorized use of items appearing on this web site and to hold YIVO harmless from any action involving copyright infringement. It is the responsibility of the user to carry out a due diligence search under U.S. copyright laws to determine the copyright status of items displayed on this web site.

Historical Note

The initiative for creating an academic institution dedicated to the study of Yiddish and East European Jewish culture came from the scholar Nahum Shtif. In a 1924 memorandum "Vegn a yidishn akademishe institut," he envisioned the structure, organization, and work of such an institution. On March 24, 1925, at a conference of Jewish cultural organizations in Vilna, Max Weinreich, a Yiddish linguist, was asked to prepare a statement of principles and an organizational outline for the future institute. At a second conference, which took place in Berlin on August 7-12, 1925, Weinreich's outline was accepted. A resolution was approved to begin preparations for the establishment of the new organization, to be called the Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut (known in English as the Yiddish Scientific Institute, and by its Yiddish acronym, YIVO).

The aims of the YIVO Institute were formulated as follows: to serve as the center for organized research into all aspects of Jewish history and culture; to train Jewish scholars; to gather library and archival source materials relevant to YIVO's scholarly objectives; to develop a broad base of support for the Institute in Jewish communities around the world.

The new institute was structured as four sections: Philological, Historical, Economic-Statistical, and Psychological-Pedagogical. While the Philological Section was headed by Weinreich in Vilna, the Historical Section and Economical-Statistical Section were both based in Berlin, headed by Elias Tcherikower and Jacob Lestchinsky respectively. The fourth section, Psychological-Pedagogical, became active belatedly under the leadership of Leibush Lehrer (New York). Each section produced its own series of the institute’s journal, Shriftn fun yidishn visnshaftlekhn institut (Writings of the Yiddish Scientific Institute). An organizational committee, consisting of Shtif and Tcherikower in Berlin and Weinreich and Reisen in Vilna, oversaw the work.

In the summer of 1926, after Shtif took a professorship in Kiev and Tcherikower, as the leading authority on the 1919-1921 Ukraine pogroms, was pulled away from Berlin to participate in the Sholem Schwarzbard trial in Paris, Vilna became the de facto center of YIVO. This was formalized at the 1st YIVO Convention, in October 1929, when YIVO was also officially founded. The Organizing Committee was replaced with an Executive Office (Max Weinreich, Zalman Reisen, and Zelig Kalmanovich) in Vilna that would handle the day-to-day administrative work, and a larger Central Board that included the section heads and other major supporters and collaborators. Though centered in Vilna, YIVO continued to operate as an international institute. The most significant branches were in New York, Berlin, and Warsaw. Friends of YIVO Societies existed in Poland, the Baltics, Germany, France, England, Belgium, North and South America, South Africa, and Palestine. The Societies’ primary purpose was to solicit support and organize fundraising events. YIVO also involved its large numbers of societies and friends in collecting publications and documentation for its library and archives and participating in research surveys and field work. YIVO volunteer zamlers, or collectors, documented and acquired valuable documentation from around the world, and sent it to YIVO.

With the outbreak of World War II, several YIVO leaders, including Jacob Lestschinsky, Max Weinreich, and Elias Tcherikower, already were or would soon arrive in New York. Others were less fortunate. Zalman Reisen was arrested and deported to Russia, where he died. New York was designated as the temporary headquarters of YIVO in January 1940. As Lithuania passed from Soviet to Lithuanian to Soviet control, YIVO attempted to continue its work, first under the leadership of Zelig Kalmanovich, then Moshe Lerer, then Noah Prylucki. All three would later perish in the Klooga concentration camp in Estonia. The Nazi invasion of Vilna in June 1941 marked the end of YIVO in Eastern Europe.


6.25 Linear Feet


This collection contains documents and records accumulated by Elias Tcherikower in his capacity as co-founder of YIVO, member of the Executive Office, and Chair of the Historical Section, 1925-1943. It is particularly significant for its records of the YIVO Historical Section, and extensive correspondence documenting the founding of the Institute.


Series I: General administrative material, 1921-1962, bulk 1926-1943
Subseries 1: Correspondence with the YIVO Executive Office, 1926-1939
Subseries 2: Correspondence with YIVO associates, 1921-1962
Subseries 3: Copies of YIVO Vilna materials, 1926-1939
Subseries 4: Financial records, 1927-1937
Series II: YIVO research projects, 1927-1943
Series III: YIVO sections and departments, 1925-1943
Series IV: YIVO Berlin branch, 1925-1932
Series V: YIVO Paris branch, 1926-1940
Series VI: Fundraising, 1929-1939
Series VII: Materials on the founding of YIVO, 1925-1927
Series VIII: YIVO Ethnographic Section war folklore, 1930


This collection is available in microfilm format in the YIVO Archive on reels MK 470.140 through MK 470.151.

Related Material

This collection is indexed and arranged as a portion of the Tcherikower Archive, which includes RG 80 through RG 89. Relevant material, including manuscripts and publications of the YIVO Historical Section, Tcherikower's historical works, and personal and professional correspondence, can be found in RG 81, Papers of Elias Tcherikower.

Records of the YIVO in Vilna are arranged in Record Group 1. Many of the records in this collection parallel records in RG 1.1, the YIVO - Vilna Administration Records.

Processing information

The records in this collection were initially arranged by the Tcherikowers. Rebecca Tcherikower, an archivist at YIVO from 1940 on, continued to add documents after Elias passed away in 1943 up until her own death in 1963.

Zosa Szajkowski re-arranged the records in the 1970s, at which point they were given page numbers and folder numbers contiguous with the other materials in the Tcherikower Archive (RGs 80-89). Szajkowski interspersed in the collection photocopies of documents from other collections in the YIVO Archive which he found relevant. In 2019, as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections project, Jessica Podhorcer translated Szajkowski's Yiddish folder listing into English and refoldered the original documents. Photocopies of external documents were left in the original folders, side by side with the new folder. Only the original documents have been digitized.

Guide to the Tcherikower Archive YIVO Administration Records
Arranged and described by Rivka Tcherikower and Zosa Szajkowski. Finding aid translation and additional processing by Jessica Podhorcer.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Processed, conserved and digitized as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections project (2015-2022).

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States