In the past week, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York reported on the discovery of Jewish documents, which after the Second World War were thought to be lost.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research that is Jidiszer Wisnszaftlecher Organisation (Yiddish - Jewish Scientific Organisation, JIWO) was founded in Berlin in 1925. Its head office was in Vilnius, and branches were in Warsaw, Berlin and New York. During World War II, the headquarters were moved to New York, and somewhat later a branch was opened in Buenos Aires.

Many documents, and a rich library of the Institute remained in Vilnius. They were hidden from Germans by the so-called Papier Brigade (Yiddish - Paper Brigade). That’s how was called the 40-person group of Jews chosen by the Germans to select the most valuable specimens from the JIWO collection, which were to be taken to the Institute for the Study of Jewish Question in Frankfurt am Main. Among the members of the brigade were poets Abraham Sutzkever and Szmerke Kaczergiński. They tried to hide the most valuable documents and books. They smuggled them to the "Aryan side", buried them in the ground, and concealed them in various hideaways. Some of the books and documents ended up in New York after the war. Others were considered destroyed. However, as it turns out they have survived - secured by a Lithuanian librarian Antanas Ulpis in the cellars of the (Lay Carmelites’) St. George church which served as a library storehouse after 1945.

At the end of the 1980s, information on the existence of these valuable files reached the YIVO researchers in New York. In 2015, after years of negotiations, the cooperation between YIVO and the Lithuanian National Library began, thanks to which it was possible to find, preserve and digitize over two million pages of documents and books. The originals are in the YIVO Library and Archives in New York, in the Martynas Mažvydas National Library in Vilnius as well as Wróblewskis Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, and the Lithuanian Central State Archives.

But this is not the end of the discoveries. As we learn from YIVO website, the latest find contains more than 170 thousand pages. This throve includes unpublished manuscripts of well-known Jewish writers, religious texts and social documents, among which are Chaim Grade's poems, Shalom Aleichem's letters, poems of members of the Abraham Sutzkever and Abigail Kaczegski's ‘Papier-Brigade’ as well as Abraham Goldfaden's early poems from 1883 with a stamp of the Russian Censorship Office and Jakob Dinezon’s manuscripts.

The finding can serve as a proof that although 72 years have passed since the end of World War II, there is still a chance of finding many valuable works though to be lost forever.

Here is the link showing 10 of the recovered documents -


Aleksandra Król