An aspirant (research fellow) at work in the ethnography section at YIVO, Vilna, 1930s. (YIVO)
In 1925, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research was founded in Vilna (Wilno, Poland; now Vilnius, Lithuania), by key European intellectuals, including Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, to record the history and pioneer in the critical study of the language, literature and culture of the Jews of Eastern Europe. From its inception, YIVO was deeply concerned that the language and culture of East European Jewry were undergoing radical change in a rapidly modernizing world. YIVO's founders were tireless in collecting the documents and archival records of Jewish communities across Eastern Europe, years before anyone could have predicted the devastation that would befall them. In 1940, YIVO moved its permanent headquarters to New York City, becoming the only pre-Holocaust institution to transfer its mission to the United States from Europe.
During World War II, several of YIVO's leading scholars managed to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe and continue their work in the United States. After the war, through the efforts of survivors, the United States Army and others, a significant part of YIVO's collections were reclaimed and brought to the New York headquarters.
Today the YIVO Library holds over 385,000 books and periodicals in twelve major languages. This includes the unique Vilna Collection of 40,000 volumes with 25,000 rabbinical works from as early as the 16th century. The Library holdings are particularly strong in documentation of Jewish history, culture, and religion in Eastern Europe; the Holocaust period; the experience of immigration to the United States; anti-Semitism; and the continuing influence of Ashkenazic Jewish culture today.
The YIVO Archives holds over 24 million documents, photographs, recordings, posters, films, videotapes, and items of ephemera. These include the world's largest collection of East European Jewish sound recordings; over 200,000 photographs; 400+ videos and films; and 50,000 posters documenting Jewish life from the 1900s to the present. YIVO also has thousands of handwritten eyewitness accounts by Holocaust survivors and displaced persons; community records and documents from the Warsaw, Lodz and Vilna ghettos; over 750 memorial books from Jewish communities in Poland and neighboring countries; records of early immigrant relief and rescue organizations; autobiographies of hundreds of American Jewish immigrants; the Bund Archives and Library that traces the Jewish Labor Movement from its inception in Vilna in 1897; and the world's most extensive Yiddish music and theater collection.
YIVO staff members examining crates of items looted by the Nazis in Vilna and recovered with the help of the U.S. Army, New York, 1947. Photograph by Alexander Archer. (YIVO)
YIVO offers public lectures, Yiddish language instruction, publications, research fellowships, and graduate seminars through the Max Weinreich Center for Advanced Jewish Studies. YIVO is in the forefront of preserving Yiddish language and literature, and in advancing scholarship in the fields of East European Jewish Studies and the American Jewish immigrant experience.
Each year, more than 4,000 scholars, students, museum curators, writers, filmmakers, artists, performers, historians, and family history researchers visit the YIVO Library and Archives, the world's largest collection of Yiddish books, documents, and other artifacts related to the history of East European Jewry.
YIVO is located at The Center for Jewish History, at 15 West 16th Street in New York City. Information number: (212) 246-6080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for YIVO's business hours.