Skip to main content

Poland (Vilna) Collection

Identifier: RG 28

Scope and Content Note

The Poland (Vilna Archives) Collection consists entirely of ephemera and fragmentary materials. Included are printed materials, announcements, invitations, leaflets, notes, minutes, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and posters. The materials are loosely linked by the fact that they derive from the same town or city. The following topics are included: political organizations such as Agudas Yisroel, Bund, Hehalutz, Mizrachi, Poalei Agudas Yisroel, Poale Zion; community elections, elections to the Sejm (Polish Diet); business and economics: banks, credit unions, taxes; labor: trade unions, strikes; cultural activities and groups: Yiddish cultural organizations, publishing houses; religious matters: synagogues, ritual slaughter (shekhitah), rabbinical figures; sports clubs, games; historical events: pogroms, German occupation of Poland during World War I. Of special interest are town histories compiled by YIVO correspondents who took part in a project by the YIVO Historical Commission for Poland to research and write Jewish communal history in the places where they lived.


  • 1845-1939
  • Majority of material found within 1919-1939

Language of Materials

The collection is in Yiddish, Polish, Hebrew, Russian, and German.

Access Restrictions

Permission to use the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archivist.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives. For more information, contact:

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


Historical Note

Although fragmentary in nature, the documents in this collection reflect in considerable detail the period between the two world wars and the situation of the Jewish minority in reborn independent Poland. In the course of twenty years, the Jewish community in Poland led the existence of a national minority whose status was formally vouchsafed by the Minority Treaties which Poland signed, but which was largely ignored. In reality, hostility toward Jews from both the government as well as from large segments of the population prevailed. At the same time, Jewish communities strived to develop and maintain a host of internal institutions and organizations which served the most crucial needs of the people, such as health care, education, and economic needs. Jewish autonomy was a fact of life despite the government’s reluctance to recognize it as such. Of singular importance were the community councils (kehillah, kehiles) which constituted an internal administration for the Jewish population on a local level. kehillah elections (in which the majority of Jewish political groups participated) are richly illustrated in this collection through election announcements, leaflets, appeals, and other forms of electoral campaigning. Elections to the Sejm (Polish parliament) are well documented in a similar manner through electoral propaganda materials published by the political parties, which participated in the elections individually or allied as blocs with other groups. A significant number of documents pertain to the 1930s, which were years of a worsening political and economic situation for Jews in Poland.


8.5 Linear Feet


The Poland (Vilna Archives) Collection is comprised of documents that were amassed at the YIVO in Vilna (Vilnius), mainly as a result of collecting work by the volunteer YIVO “zamlers” (collectors). The bulk of the collection relates to Jewish communities in over 260 cities and towns in interwar Poland (1919-1939). Documents of earlier years are also included.


The collection consists of two series arranged geographically and alphabetically. It was organized in the 1950s from the surviving fragments of the pre-war YIVO Vilna archives. Materials are grouped in folders according to locality name. In the present finding aid the locality’s Polish name and the corresponding Yiddish name are shown together in the folder title with the Yiddish name in parentheses, e.g.: “ Rzeszów (Rayshe).”

Acquisition Information

These records were part of the YIVO Vilna Archives which were taken by the Germans during World War II and recovered by YIVO New York after the war.

Related Material

Related material can be found in various collections in the YIVO Vilna Archives which contain similar geographic and historical content about Polish Jewry, including in the YIVO collection Territorial Collection Poland 1 (RG 116), a collection created in New York in the post-war period, which is of similar structure and provenance to RG 28.

Separated Material

There is no information about materials that are associated by provenance to the described materials that have been physically separated or removed.

Processing information

The card-catalog finding aid was written in Yiddish by Shloyme Krystal in 1990. The English-language version of the catalog was prepared by Chava Lapin and Marek Web in 2007. Additional processing by Rivka Schiller. Processing completed and encoded by Shayna Goodman in 2011. Materials digitized and finding aid finalized in 2021.

Poland Territorial Collection 1845-1939 (bulk 1919-1939) RG 28
Processed by Shloyme Krystal, Marek Web, Chava Lapin, and Rivka Schiller
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
With the assistance of a grant from the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation. Described and encoded as part of the CJH Holocaust Resource Initiative, made possible by 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