Page 108 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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J
e w i s h
B
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A
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8 8
historical monuments of great value and significance. . . . Unfor
tunately, our generation is not much better. Where are complet
sets of such periodicals as
Der Yidisher Arbeter, D i Veit, De
Fraynd
from Petersburg and
Der Sotsial Demokrat
from Lemberg
The situation is not much better even in the great city of Ne
York. Our American friends complain, ‘it is a shame to admi
but not a single complete set of a local Yiddish newspaper i
available here.’ ”3 In view of this deplorable situation the YIVO
appealed to its friends to search for all Jewish newspapers and
periodicals, as well as for books and other printed matter, whether
complete sets or only single volumes or issues.
This appeal met with extraordinary success. In a report cover-
ing its first two years, the YIVO was able to inform its friends
that the materials of past decades and even of past centuries sent
to the library outnumbered the current publications. In the
beginning of 1927 the library had already amassed 1,200 peri-
odical titles, many of them publications of great rarity. The
number of books reached 4,000 and included such rare finds as
Mendel Levin’s translation of
Proverbs
(Tarnopol, 1814), the
Bible translation by Yekuthiel Blitz (Amsterdam, 1771), and
Yosippon
(Furth, 1771). True to its interest in “contemporary
history” the YIVO was also collecting such materials as the
popular editions of folk literature published by the cheap presses
in Poland, Lithuania, Galicia, and Hungary, the publications of
various societies and organizations celebrating anniversaries or
submitting reports, bulletins of schools and other local organiza-
tions, and the like. Thus the YIVO library was launched.
The voluntary contributions of the correspondents were sup-
plemented by a systematic acquisition policy started as soon as
funds became available. In 1938, summarizing 13 years of its
activities, YIVO was able to report that “it had rescued from
oblivion, prevented from loss and preserved for posterity monu-
ments of the Jewish past which are now available for study and
research.” The library counted “40,000 books, among them rare
editions, some unique copies to be found nowhere else in the
world” and included “press archives—the richest of all Jewish
collections of this type, numbering about 10,000 volumes of all
countries and in all languages.”4
This marvelous growth and development was halted by the
brutal onslaught of the German armies on Eastern Europe in
June, 1941. The YIVO treasures were plundered in the first few
months of the occupation. Later the YIVO building became head-
quarters for a staff of Alfred Rosenberg’s office charged with
8
Yedies fun Yidishn V isnshaftlekhn In s t itu t ,
no. 17 (Nov. 5, 1926) .
*
D er Yivo Nokh 13 Yor A rb e t ,
Vilna, 1938.