The Archive Thief: The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust

Hardcover | June 16, 2015

byLisa Moses Leff

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In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Jewish historian Zosa Szajkowski gathered up tens of thousands of documents from Nazi buildings in Berlin, and later, public archives and private synagogues in France, and moved them all, illicitly, to New York. In The Archive Thief, Lisa Moses Leff reconstructs Szajkowski's story in all its ambiguity. Born into poverty in Russian Poland, Szajkowski first made his name in Paris as a communist journalist. In the late 1930s, as he saw the threats to Jewish safety rising in Europe, he broke with the party andcommitted himself to defending his people in a new way, as a scholar associated with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Following a harrowing 1941 escape from France and U.S. army service, Szajkowski struggled to remake his life as a historian, eking out a living as a YIVO archivist in postwar New York. His scholarly output was tremendous nevertheless; he published scores of studies on French Jewish history thatopened up new ways of thinking about Jewish emancipation, modernization, and the rise of modern antisemitism. But underlying Szajkowski's scholarly accomplishments were the documents he stole, moved, and eventually sold to American and Israeli research libraries, where they remain today. Part detective story, part analysis of the construction of history, The Archive Thief offers a window into the debates over the rightful ownership of contested Jewish archives and the powerful ideological, economic, and psychological forces that have made Jewish scholars care so deeply aboutpreserving the remnants of their past.

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From the Publisher

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Jewish historian Zosa Szajkowski gathered up tens of thousands of documents from Nazi buildings in Berlin, and later, public archives and private synagogues in France, and moved them all, illicitly, to New York. In The Archive Thief, Lisa Moses Leff reconstructs Szajkowski's story in all its ambiguity...

Lisa Moses Leff is an Associate Professor of History at American University in Washington, D.C. She is the author of Sacred Bonds of Solidarity: The Rise of Jewish Internationalism in Nineteenth-Century France.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 9.29 × 6.3 × 0.91 inPublished:June 16, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199380953

ISBN - 13:9780199380954

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Szajkowski's Passion2. A Usable past3. A Salvage Operation4. The Parachutist5. Partisans of the Exodus6. The Fact Collector7. French Losses8. The BuyersConclusionBibliography of works by Z. SzajkowskiGeneral Bibliography

Editorial Reviews

"Why did an accomplished Jewish historian steal tens of thousands of historical documents? In unraveling that mystery, Lisa Moses Leff has created a compelling personal portrait, while at the same time elucidating key issues of Jewish history and historiography in the aftermath of theHolocaust. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, The Archive Thief is more than just a fine work of scholarship; it is also a page-turner." --Aaron Lansky, author of Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books