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Papers of Genia Silkes

Identifier: RG 1187

Scope and Content Note

The documents held in this collection are arranged in 10 series. The series reflect the life of Genia Silkes during the postwar years, beginning in 1948 until her death in 1984.

Series I: Includes, in chronological order, appearances by Genia Silkes and lectures to societies, memorial evenings, university classes, according to the invitations found in her archive. Among other items, there are advertisements in the press and short write-ups of Silkes as a speaker.

Series II: Consists of a collection of testimonies, stories and drawings by children, collected after the war in Poland and France, from children who had survived the Holocaust. This series is divided into three parts. The first includes the testimonies collected by Silkes or others at the Historical Commission in Poland. This includes 64 children’s memoirs. The second part includes drawings, specifically about the war, which have a particular significance psychologically or pedagogically. The third part contains stories by children on the topic of free time during the war.

Series III: Consists of memoirs of adults, about their wartime experiences. The letters by F. Rubinlikht to her sister are particularly important.

Series IV: Articles by Genia Silkes divided into 6 subseries by topic. The parts are: (1) The Holocaust in Poland.(2) The Warsaw Ghetto uprising.(3) Children and the Holocaust.(4) Pedagogy and Childrearing Practices.(5) Teachers who Perished in the Holocaust.(6) General Topics.

Series V: Consists of correspondence. Subseries 1 contains more personal correspondence, and is arranged by individual correspondent. Subseries 2 contains more official correspondence, primarily in relation to her public appearances, and is arranged chronologically.

Series VI: Includes passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, and other personal documents.

Series VII: Newspaper clippings of articles by or about Genia Silkes, in chronological order from 1948 to 1983.

Series VIII: Bibliographic notes assembled by Silkes in the course of her research.

Series IX: Photographs, mostly unidentified, connected with Silkes’ life after the war.

Series X: Items having to do with others associated with her, specifically her brother, Avraham Silkes, and her lover, the writer A. Kaganovsky.


  • 1931-1983

Language of Materials

The collection is in Yiddish, with a few items in English and Polish.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public. Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained in writing from the YIVO Archives.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

YIVO Archives, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Genia Silkes was born in Brisk (now known as Brest-Litovsk), a town in eastern Poland, not far from the Russian border, on March 3, 1913. She died in New York on November 17, 1984 after a long illness.

In Brisk she graduated from a Yiddish-Hebrew high school, and later, studied with Abraham Golomb at the Yiddish Teacher’s Seminary in Vilna. She graduated in June 1930. In the years leading up to the outbreak of WWII, she worked as a teacher in Warsaw, in the Jewish People’s Schools [folksshuln] where the language of instruction was Yiddish. In 1937, she married and had a child. Her husband and child died in Warsaw. In the Warsaw ghetto, she taught in the underground schools. She recounted how she leapt from a moving train headed toward Treblinka, and hid on the Aryan side until the liberation of Warsaw.

From 1945 to 1949, in liberated Poland, she worked at the Central Jewish Committee in Poland, in the educational institutes and the historical commission. This was when she collected the Holocaust testimonies from child survivors in Poland, which are such an important part of this collection.

She lived in Paris, France, from 1949 to 1958. She taught in the Jewish schools of Patronage and worked as the secretary of YIVO for a short time. In 1958 she came to New York as a delegate to a YIVO conference, and stayed.

Here she specialized in the history of the Holocaust. She wrote articles, gave lectures to the general public and also in Jewish institutions, universities, and spoke at Holocaust memorials. She traveled throughout America and Europe on behalf of the Groysn verterbukh fun der yidisher shprakh.

She died in New York on November 17, 1984 after a long illness.


Zalmen Reyzin. Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, prese, un filologye. 4 vols. Vilna: Vilna Farlag fun B. Kletzkin, 1927-1929.


2.92 Linear Feet


Genia Silkes, a teacher in pre-war Poland, dedicated her postwar career to the history of the Holocaust. The testimonies of Polish Holocaust survivors, of which there are 64 from children and 9 from adults, have great historical value. Also included are her research notes, records of her speaking engagements, and personal letters and photographs.


The series are arranged by type of material.

  1. Series I: Fliers, Circulars, and Newspaper Write-ups of Lectures, 1950-1983
  2. Series II: Child Survivor Testimonies, undated, 1931-1983
  3. Subseries 1: Eyewitness Testimonies, undated, 1935-1983
  4. Subseries 2: Children's Drawings of the War, undated, 1946
  5. Subseries 3: Silkes' Interviews Regarding Children's Games and Play During the War, undated, 1931-1946
  6. Series III: Adult Survivor Testimonies, undated, 1943-1954
  7. Series IV: Drafts of Articles, undated
  8. Subseries 1: The Holocaust in Poland, undated
  9. Subseries 2: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, undated
  10. Subseries 3: Children in the Holocaust, undated
  11. Subseries 4: Pedagogy and Childrearing Practices, undated
  12. Subseries 5: Teachers who Perished in the Holocaust, undated
  13. Subseries 6: Various Topics, undated
  14. Series V: Correspondence, 1946-1983
  15. Subseries 1: Correspondence by Individual Correspondent, 1947-1965
  16. Subseries 2: Correspondence by Year, undated, 1946-1983
  17. Series VI: Biographical Materials, 1946-1958
  18. Series VII: Newspaper Clippings, 1948-1983
  19. Series VIII: Research Materials, undated, 1947
  20. Series IX: Photographs, 1945-1977
  21. Series X: Miscellaneous, 1934-1983

Other Finding Aid

A Yiddish language finding aid, which contains additional details on the collection can be found here: Papers of Genia Silkes

Acquisition Information

These records were given to YIVO by Abraham Silkes in 1985.

Guide to the Papers of Genia Silkes (1913-1984) 1931-1983 RG 1187
Processed by Shloyme Krystal and YIVO staff. Additional processing by Sarah Ponichtera
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States