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Memoirs of American Jewish Soldiers

Identifier: RG 110

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of essay submissions, autobiographical sketches submitted by the contestants, index cards in Yiddish summarizing some of the essays, a notebook with the pseudonyms and numbers of each contestant, newspaper clippings, photographs, correspondence between YIVO and some of the contestants, personal correspondence submitted by the entrants, administrative information about the contest and the entrants including demographic information, main themes of the essays, entrant addresses and real names, official announcements of the contest in Yiddish and English, and an invitation to the awards ceremony. Most of the essays are about the soldiers’ experiences in Western Europe and the Pacific theater. The main themes are interacting with Jews in other lands, Judaism and anti-Semitism in the army, interacting with Jews who had been in concentration camps or had hidden and were now Displaced Persons, and how the soldiers’ lives, thoughts and Judaism have changed because of the war and their time in the army. There are some particularly rich essays about the Jewish communities of India and the Philippines as well as Germany and one about Palestine. There is one submission from a woman detailing her experience being Jewish in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).

The folders are labeled with the contestant’s number, determined by YIVO staff, and the contestant’s real name, when known. Some entrants have two contestant numbers and thus two folders, either because they submitted two essays or because they sent essays and supplementary materials in separate packages. Some essays and materials were not given contestant numbers, perhaps because they arrived after the contest deadline or they did not meet the contest criteria. All of the essays are undated but were all submitted in 1946. The additional materials date from 1944-1946.


  • 1944-1946

Language of Materials

The collection is in English and Yiddish, with some German, Hebrew, Arabic, and Dutch.

Access Restrictions

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

Use Restrictions

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

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


Historical Note

In 1945-1946 YIVO held an essay contest for Jewish soldiers and veterans on the subject of “My Experiences and Observations as a Jew in World War II.” In addition to over 50 official submissions, YIVO received autobiographical information about the contestants, photographs, journals, private correspondence, and newspaper clippings. The contestants labeled their essays with pseudonyms and also sent their real names in a sealed envelope to be opened after the judging. YIVO reserved the right to keep all materials and to publish any of the essays, not only the winning submissions. The winning contestants received prizes ranging from $25 to $150.


0.75 Linear Feet


This collection contains mainly contest submissions from the 1945-1946 YIVO essay contest for Jewish soldiers and veterans of World War II as well as additional materials sent in by the contestants and administrative information about the contest compiled by YIVO staff members.


The materials are arranged in one series.

Acquisition Information

Essays and supplementary submission materials were sent directly from the contestant to YIVO in 1946. The administrative information was created by YIVO staff members in 1946.

Related Material

The YIVO Library has several books on the experiences of Jewish soldiers in wartime. Some of these include Birnbaum, Meyer. Lieutenant Birnbaum: A Soldier's Story; Fredman, J. George. Jews in American Wars; and Kligsberg, Moshe. American Jewish Soldiers on Jews and Judaism : (A Report of a Contest). This article, originally printed in YIVO Bleter 31-32 (1948) and republished in English in the YIVO Annual (1950), summarizes the main topics of the contest entries and breaks down the contestants and their experiences into psychological categories.

Guide to the Records of the Memoirs of American Jewish Soldiers 1944-1946 RG 110
Processed by Rachel S. Harrison as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States